Ron Popeil is sitting at a big desk in his home office in Beverly Hills, California. He welcomes me – one of many visitors – and I sit in a high-backed chair directly facing his charismatic presence. Success is written all over the place, particularly in the many signed celebrity photos on the walls and all over the spacious mansion. It is luxurious but homey, a reflection of his down-to-earth nature. Ron sold his last invention a few years ago for millions and is enjoying a secure, amply-endowed retirement.
Decades ago it all began with the Ginsu knife and a company still known as Ronco. He ran a ubiquitous infomercial, one of the first to be nationally-known that reaped in orders (and dollars) by the thousands each day. It virtually launched an industry and created an empire. Slicers, food dehydrators, pasta machines, rotisseries, and more followed over the years. They all worked well, received amazing reviews from cooking magazines across the nation and cost little. The message is basic is best.
Ron was a marketing genius who coined the phrase, “but there’s more.” He was (and still is) the guru of the kitchen and the mind-behind hawking every kind of small appliance. Unless you are approaching retirement, you won’t remember the great knife that made history, but you have heard these three key words many times for every product imaginable. Their impact has been remarkable even as you laugh with recognition. You want, and listen, for more!
It’s all about slicing and dicing and food prep of all kinds–the everyday sort that every family expects to see happening in the kitchen. In fact, when you see the ads, you feel remiss if you are not making your own pasta or saving every leftover in a hermetically sealed bag. Women aren’t proper housewives without Ron’s wares. The ads make it look simple and fun—a kid could do it! It has become an art to emulate a professional chef in our advancing foodie culture, and you do need the right props on your kitchen counter to look the part. (No matter if they have names like EZ-Store.) They promise healthy delicious food made easy. Eating at home has found new favor with this generation.
Who ever heard about food dehydrators before these infomercials? And who cared? We live in an affluent society where we can afford to toss the remnants of dinner or feed them to the dog. But Ron’s ads were manned by motivational speakers disguised as spokespersons. They urged and encouraged women (and some men) to get with it and learn the art of cuisine as well as the necessity of saving money. With liquid injector sets and a complete line of spices, Ronco keeps you cooking. You are in gadget heaven on the website. The company has kept pace with trends and knows how to lure online shoppers. If you want to peek at the old infomercials, they are all there!
If you can’t resist one purchase, try the cutlery. He started with it and will probably end with it. It has a legacy which may inspire some fancy slicing come dinner time.