He invented on of
life's simple pleasures...
Gene Peet, millions enjoy one of life’s simple pleasures every morning. The
soothing comfort of putting on a fresh, dry pair of shoes or boots is a
nice, satisfying way to start your day. For over 40 years Gene’s footwear
dryers have provided one of life’s simple pleasures to people in all walks
The story of PEET Dryer is an all-American one – an American-born product
originated by American ingenuity. The small town of St. Maries in the
outdoor paradise of northern Idaho was the birthplace of the footwear dryer.
It remains home to this very day.
It all began in the 1960’s with Gene Peet being fed up with putting on soggy
boots. He created a clever device that was surprisingly effective removing
wet and sweat from footwear. In 1968 Gene was granted a patent on his dryer.
Today people everywhere wake up to PEET Dry™ - very special kind of dry that delivers personal comfort and added life to
all types of footwear.
In March, Gene
Peet celebrated his 84th year on Earth. We sat down with “Father Dry” and
asked him to reminisce a bit. The story unfolds...
To start with, to
truly understand something is to experience it for yourself. When Gene
was young he worked summers in logging camps and experienced what loggers
had to endure.
Later in life he worked in the desert heat in Tucson, AZ, and had to deal
with the constant wetness in his boots caused by sweat.
"Having wet boots all the time is
really tough on you and your boots. Back then there just wasn’t a good way
to dry out your boots before you had to put them on again."
Necessity is the mother of invention
Experiencing difficult situations inspires ingenious solutions. In 1961,
Gene began tinkering with a boot drying system...
"Sitting around my kitchen table I
came up with a plan to design my first boot dryer. My intention was to make
a boot dryer purely for my own personal benefit."
Inventing the footwear dryer wasn’t without its struggles, but Gene
"I applied for my first patent in
1963. It took 5 years before I was granted the patent on the Original Peet
shoe dryer. I was sick of the rigmarole and all the regulations of the
patent process. It was no fun and I almost gave up."
Although his dryers worked extremely well, the early going was tough. Gene
maintained his business as an electrical contractor to take care of his
family, so his time was limited in helping grow his dryer business...
"Early going was tough. I
was under-capitalized for many years – probably should have given up on the
idea if I had any brains at all."
But word-of-mouth took hold.
Users were impressed with how effectively they dried, and how effortlessly
it was to use his dryers. Gene and son Blair outgrew the production
line – which was the family kitchen table...
"The loggers were my best
customers! Seemed like every logger in the state wanted one. Then hunters
loved them. Blair was about 10 years old at the time, and him
and I were assembling and packing dryers around our kitchen table. We ran
out of space. In 1978 I gave up my electrical contractor
business to focus on Peet dryers."
What works is what works. No more. No less.
In this age of
gadgetry PEET products are refreshingly simple. In fact most don’t even have
any moving parts, and operate in complete silence...
"The machinery to build our dryers
is far more complicated than the dryer itself. You cannot go out and buy the
equipment needed to make Peet Dryer. I invented the machinery. An example
is our spin-welder. Using friction and high speed, this inserts the
AirChambers into the base of the dryer. It welds using friction and high
speed to set the AirChambers, which is far better than gluing. It is also
faster and a better way to manufacture."
How different was the first dryer you built versus today’s PEET dryers?
"The very first dryers had a wooden
base and steel tubes. I replaced the steel tubes with plastic. Today’s
dryers are made of high quality plastics that are very durable, yet
lightweight. As far as the guts go, we have made small changes maybe a dozen
or so times, but no major changes to the design. It really works good."
Other than effectively removing wetness, what do customers tell you they
like the most about PEET dryers?
"Without a doubt the two most
popular things we hear from customers is how Peet Dry neutralizes odors, and
how long our dryers keep working.
We hear a lot from guys who now are allowed to bring their boots in the
house instead of them being banished by their wives to the garage or back porch
because they stunk so bad.
We hear all the time from customers who are still using our dryers 20, 30
years after they got them. Our warranty is basically a lifetime warranty as
you they just don’t wear out. We have never charged anyone to repair or
replace a dryer.
A few years back there was a guy who wanted me to send him a new one for
free. After I talked to him he admitted he ran it over in his garage by
accident. We had a good laugh and then he bought a replacement."
In an era that has seen America lose significant manufacturing jobs, most
of PEET dryers are still made in St. Maries, Idaho. How come?
"We’re old school. We’re
proud to be made in America. We’ve always done everything possible to
streamline things to keeps costs in line. We also save on having excellent
quality control. There are some items we don’t make here, but many of our
models – including our best selling one – are made right here in St.
Lastly Gene, tell us just why PEET Dryer has endured for over 40 years...
"It’s simple, really. My dryers are
a small price to pay for all the comfort you get from them – both in the
winter and summer – for many years of service. They solve a problem, do what
they say they will, and are made well so they last."