Banking on the ‘Bucket Bracket’

Local man’s organizational device vies for Wal-Mart prize

By: Cortney Casey | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published March 28, 2012

 Clinton Township resident Chris Mazzola shows off his invention, the Bucket Bracket, which helps hold pails aloft for organization. As part of Wal-Mart’s Get on the Shelf contest, Mazzola is hoping for public support for his product. A chance to get it sold in Wal-Mart stores and online is at stake.

Clinton Township resident Chris Mazzola shows off his invention, the Bucket Bracket, which helps hold pails aloft for organization. As part of Wal-Mart’s Get on the Shelf contest, Mazzola is hoping for public support for his product. A chance to get it sold in Wal-Mart stores and online is at stake.

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Necessity, the adage declares, is the mother of invention.

Surveying his cluttered garage years ago, then-Sterling Heights resident Chris Mazzola certainly recognized the necessity, and the invention followed: the Bucket Bracket, a device that fastens to the wall to suspend 5-gallon pails at an angle for simple storage.

“I had junk in my garage — it drove me nuts,” said Mazzola, a carpenter of 25 years who relied on pails to hold virtually everything. “You couldn’t see in the buckets. I was stacking them on top of each other.”

Now, Mazzola is vying for a chance to get his patented product stocked in stores and widely advertised through Wal-Mart’s Get on the Shelf contest.

“It’s a matter of exposure,” he said. “People are going to see it.”

He said he hasn’t had much time lately to focus on getting the bracket manufactured and distributed on a wide scale — he teaches at local high schools and is himself a student, enrolled in seven courses at Ferris State University — but “when this competition came up, I said, ‘We have to make the time,’” he said.

The Bucket Bracket has been about a decade in the making. He whipped up the contraption for his personal use, and it proved effective in his work trailer and garage.

Then his friends began requesting them, and “I said, ‘I’m going to patent this thing, because it could go somewhere someday,’” he recalled.

He went through six or seven prototypes, aided by a friend with a die for punching out the steel, before settling on a final design that could be easily assembled and installed. He applied for a patent in 2005, but the process wasn’t final until 2009, he said.

Along the way, Mazzola picked up a partner, Rob Millsap, who believed in the product and offered some financial backing. It was Millsap’s mother who spotted the Wal-Mart contest and suggested entering the Bucket Bracket, said Mazzola.

The device now appears on Wal-Mart’s Get on the Shelf website alongside approximately 4,000 other inventions, which run the gamut from home appliances, food and toys to office supplies, games and apparel.

Public voting will determine which three products will be sold on www.walmart.com, with the grand prize winner’s item also securing space on shelves at physical Wal-Mart stores across the country and receiving prominent promotion on Wal-Mart’s home page.

“For a long time, the ability to get a product into a retail store was at the sole discretion of the store buyer,” said Venky Harinarayan, senior vice president of Wal-Mart Global e-commerce and co-head of @WalmartLabs, in a prepared statement. “Today, we are removing these barriers by giving anyone a chance to launch their product at Wal-Mart and reach millions of shoppers nationwide.”

The company accepted video entries through Feb. 22 and posted those deemed appropriate on getontheshelf.com. The first round of voting, which narrows the field to 10 contestants, concludes April 4. A second round extends April 11-24.

Mazzola — who moved to Clinton Township two years ago, taught building trades in Warren Consolidated Schools for six years and now teaches building renovation at Lake Shore High School — is hoping to secure some Macomb County support for his invention.

His video to promote the Bucket Bracket, shot in his garage, shows pails containing gardening tools, rock salt, pet food, car washing supplies and more, all lining the wall in neat, elevated rows.

So long as they’re fastened into a stud, the brackets are capable of holding up to 80 pounds, said Mazzola. He estimates they would retail at $10-$15 apiece.

The light-hearted video, also posted on YouTube, is complete with his daughters crooning in old-timey jingle style.

Dale Swalya, Mazzola’s friend and former co-worker at WCS, filmed the piece and assisted with its infomercial-esque gimmicks, dramatically tossing pails to Mazzola from off-screen while he extolled the bracket’s virtues.

“He is always dedicated to his work, but is just as focused on seeing problems and envisioning solutions,” Swalya said of Mazzola. “It was no surprise when he told me about why and how he invented the Bucket Bracket. Anyone can immediately see both the practicality and simplicity of the design. However, simplicity is only as good as the durability, and it has that, too.”

To vote in the contest, visit geton theshelf.com. To view Mazzola’s YouTube video, search for “The Bucket Bracket,” posted by user MrDklaas.

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