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Friday, July 23, 2010

Why Didn't I Think of That? The Wine Rack, Already a Breast-Seller

This summer's must-have accessory? The Wine Rack, a bra that holds an entire bottle of wine. Guys, don't worry -- there's a version for you too.

Thirsty? The Wine Rack bra stores 25 ounces of your favorite beverage.
The latest heatwave has helped sales of all things summer -- electric fans, air conditioners, flip flops and more. Add to that list the Wine Rack, which has been selling briskly among college students as the temperatures climb.

The Wine Rack isn't quite what it sounds like. It's a bra -- a bra that can hold an entire bottle of wine or 25 ounces of your beverage of choice.

The booze bra comes with a straw for sipping, and thanks to the watertight tubing, it can inflate a woman's chest by two sizes. Take that, Wonderbra.

"It's an idea whose time had come," says Paul Krasulja, general manager of Paterson, N.J.-based online site, which specializes in selling off-beat gifts. "It had been coming for a long time."

No kidding. The Wine Rack has been on the market for at least three years, but thanks to us poor saps in the media who just love writing about it, business remains brisk. It's a great strategy for small companies with catchy products and slim advertising budgets.

"That's pretty much exactly how it happens," Krasulja says. "Everybody picks it up, writes about it, it boosts the sales of the item, and then after a month or two, it all dies down."

But it's easy to see why the public is fascinated with it. The Wine Rack dovetails with the American male's interest in alcohol and women. As it turns out, the idea for the Wine Rack was actually inspired by a guy's version -- the Beerbelly, which holds 80 ounces of beer.

The Beerbelly and Wine Rack were both created by serial entrepreneur Brooks Lambert, a 50-year-old Californian who came up with the idea when he and a pal were hanging out in his backyard, remembering how they used to sneak beer into ball games and movies. Suddenly, he had an idea.

Brooks ultimately sold the manufacturing rights to Aaron Knirr, 31, and his business partner, Chris Pounds, 34, who co-own Cooler Fun, based in Ellisville, Mo.

"This is awesome, let's jump on it," recalls Knirr, who ordered a few prototypes. In 2008, they made an offer to purchase Lambert's equipment and assets, so they could become the main distributor and manufacturer of both the Beerbelly and Wine Rack.

Knirr won't say how many Beerbelly and Wine Racks have been sold, but he says "sales are decent." After several years of being mostly an Internet sales phenomenon, the products are now appearing in a few scattered liquor stores and other small retailers across the country, with the possibility of rolling out to larger chains in the future. The publicity -- the Wine Rack has been featured on the Today show, and by countless other media outlets -- has definitely helped sales, along with word of mouth, Knirr says.

Knirr cites one of his favorite testimonials, where one guy wrote in to rave, "The Beerbelly is quite possibly the best product ever invented in the world ever -- as good as, if not better than the wheel, the light bulb, sliced bread and the Internet."

Some people clearly love their beer.

Meanwhile, Krasulja says the customers he has talked to over the phone mostly seem to be getting the Wine Rack and Beerbelly for sporting events, although he recently had a female customer who said she was using the Wine Rack when attending PTA meetings.

As for sipping beer out of a bra or a belly harness during those sporting events, "When you're spending $11 on a beer at Yankee Stadium, it's easy to see why they want it," Krasulja says. "I went to the stadium last year and spent $290 on beer. It's an amazing, beautiful stadium, but [the beer is] overpriced."

Geoff Williams is a regular contributor to AOL Small Business. He is also the co-author of the book Living Well with Bad Credit.