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Solving Dilemma of Flyaway Beach Towels : New Item Not Meant to Take Off

February 15, 1987|MARY ANN GALANTE | Times Staff Writer

A company in Newport Beach is staking its future on products that it hopes won't take off.

Leisure Labz believes that it has solved a problem that co-owner Tom Talmon calls "one of life's little pet peeves that nobody ever does anything about"--flyaway beach towels.

Yup, hard on the heels of such indispensable beach accessories as brightly colored zinc oxide sunscreens, sand-proof portable radios and suntan oil packed in a plastic bracelet so it is always with you, come Wind Weights.

The two-inch-square cloth pillows are stuffed with three ounces of tiny lead pellets, come six to a pack, and work like paperweights for your beach towel. No more rocks, seashells or little piles of sand to keep the corners down on a breezy day.

And because they're detachable, Talmon promises that the weights "won't go klunk in the washing machine."

Talmon, 26, studied mechanical engineering and built ski ramps before joining with partner Marty Esslinger, 29, who has a degree in marketing, to form Leisure Labz.

The two run the company part time and, so far, earn most of their money at other pursuits--Talmon designs swimming pools and Esslinger is assistant manager of a restaurant in Laguna Beach.

Three-month-old Leisure Labz also makes "Force Five" terry-cloth beach towels, bordered with 12 ounces of lead-packed rope and guaranteed to stay put in 20-m.p.h. winds.

The Wind Weights should weigh in at about $9.95 a six-pack, while the towels are expected to retail at a pricey $32.

Talmon said he and his partner came up with the ideas about a year ago while watching beachgoers' towels blowing across the sands of Maui.

So far, a big chunk of their $10,000 investment has gone into research and development--which involved sending friends to the beach with prototypes that included a towel with lead weights sewn into the hem at one-inch intervals--too heavy and too lumpy, said Talmon--and a towel with weights in the corners only--which made irritating noises when washed.

While sales so far haven't exactly soared, Talmon said both products were well received at a trade show earlier this month where retail buyers placed about 50 orders.

"If I have my way, half the people on the beach will have one of our products," Talmon said. "Our slogan is, 'If we can put men on the moon, why can't we keep towels on the ground?' "

And, as often happens with entrepreneurial souls, Talmon isn't resting on his beach towel. He's already busy developing what he says will be another major boon for the surf and sun set: an improved personal face-shading system (translation: a fancy sun visor).

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