For David Bergmann, Super Saucers Turned Out to Be a Close Encounter of the Lucrative Kind
Indeed, the wondrous Saucer—a foot-long, helium-filled floating pillow—hovers between floor and ceiling, bobs and weaves with air currents, follows bodies and survives up to four weeks, barring an attack from the family cat. Small wonder that its designer, David Bergmann, 29, of St. Paul, has sold 30,000 (at $2.88, plus shipping) since introducing them at the Minnesota State Fair last summer.
A self-styled "kid who never grew up," Bergmann dropped out of the local Concordia College and sold encyclopedias and shoes before going into business for himself in 1973. The firm, called Survive All and co-managed by his wife, Mary Jo, 27, sold food processors, water distillers and juicers while David tinkered, trying to develop a novelty item. When he saw son Jacy, 8, and daughter Becky, 7, go nuts over a silver Mylar helium balloon, Dad set about devising a variation that wouldn't rise to the ceiling and get stuck or run out of gas in two days. Experimenting with beads, wire and even antacid tablets taped to the sphere's bottom, he eventually brought the flotation under control with an adjustable weight system. By substituting a metallized nylon skin for the Mylar, and heat-sealing it in the same manner as packages of dehydrated food, Bergmann also extended the life of the gimmick.
An improved Super Saucer that will remain buoyant up to three months is in the works in his St. Paul storefront HQ (assembly work is farmed out to handicapped employees). But Bergmann doesn't have an immediate answer to his summer mailing woes—above 85°, inflated Saucers swell and later go limp. That, however, may prove a minor headache compared to what can happen in the heat of the night. One owner, startled out of a sound sleep, mistook his Super Saucer for an intruder and shot it. Repentant the following morning, he bought two new ones.
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