Long Bay and Belmont Hill, Tortola, BVI
In 1983 architects, best friends, and innovators Kevin & James sat on the Caribbean island of Tortola and decided they wanted to do more…they wanted to impact and improve the everyday lives of people. And what better way than to revolutionize a tool used every day by billions – the toothbrush! Archaic and practically unaltered since its initial conception, the toothbrush was ripe for improvement. Hence the first RADIUS toothbrush was born. Aptly named the Original, it is still the #1 best-selling RADIUS adult toothbrush. At the crux of RADIUS’ original design is a Radical, Revolutionary toothbrush that offer Real Results by massaging gums while cleaning teeth and a Refreshing/Rejuvenating experience making users feel as if they have just had a professional cleaning.
At the core of RADIUS’ dogma is a desire to reinvent existing, everyday items by adding benefits through the 4 R’s – Responsible Design, Radical Look, Real Results, and Refreshing Experience. This mission drives RADIUS to provide premium, thoughtful, and unique designer options to consumers around the world while being 100% focused on waste and energy reduction.,
Today RADIUS is proud to be one of the only toothbrush manufacturers still operating in the United States that still manufactures on its own injection molding and bristling machines. RADIUS is a family-owned, women-run and operated company manufacturing in a 20,000 sq. ft. restored feed mill built in the early 1800’s in Pennsylvania Amish country.
RADIUS Original Toothbrush
The Original Toothbrush was designed in early 1982 and was followed by a lengthy gestation period that lasted until late 1983. Kevin & James moved themselves and families from Tortola to Manhattan for final product development.
The final design had 5,500 very thin bristles (about 2/3 the thickness of an Oral B 40 and four times more bristles). It came in right or left handed versions and the body of the toothbrush was made of cellulose, a plant based plastic.
The design was revolutionary - nobody had ever thought of using very fine filaments or of using a large head to lower pressure on the gums. The idea of actually making a handle that responded to the right and left orientation of the world's population was regarded as scandalous. This design did not fit into one of those little slots that toothbrushes were sold from - that had been the main determinant
of the shape of a toothbrush for 50 years.
The head was an organic oval shape - the tufts of bristles arranged so that they did not line up in parallel - this meant that they did not repetitively track along the gum line and cause cervical erosion. In 1982 all other toothbrushes had rectangular heads – but by 1992, all had followed RADIUS into oval heads.
RADIUS was established in a loft building in New York's Flatiron District, with a subcontractor in Leominster, Mass. making the brushes. We began selling to design stores, pharmacies and mail order catalogs.
In early 1984 RADIUS Toothbrush won the "e;Accent on Design"e; award for the most innovative use of design. Sales to specialty stores increased and the company became well established.
A fan club developed, Sting called to find out
where he could pick up a RADIUS on a US tour, Whoopi Goldberg talked about us on TV, Robert Redford wouldn't be without his, Jane Fonda had several in each of her several houses, Cher refused to give up hers to an artist seeking to incorporate it in a painting of her, Steven Tyler reportedly loves the yellow SCUBA, and Miley Cyrus recently posted a photo on Twitter of her using a RADIUS SCUBA.
Independent pharmacies, first in New York, later throughout the country became big customers - giving RADIUS a view of larger markets. Health Food stores became very strong accounts. Brookstone, an upmarket mall retailer, selling elegant tools and appliances, was a major customer through these years. Norm Thompson, the large Oregon based mail order catalog company was a staunch supporter of our company.
Show me the Deep End! - Manufacturing in Kutztown
By 1988, James and Kevin wanted to control their own manufacturing and bought Beck’s Mill in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. The 20,000 square foot mill, built in 1863, was restored into a very beautiful workplace, where all RADIUS toothbrushes are manufactured.
All through the New York years, we had been unhappy about other people making our toothbrush. Eventually this was the principal force that drove us to Kutztown and to manufacture our own products.
Machines were bought, bristling equipment installed, a variety of English and Belgian mechanics were sent over to tune and set up these machines. James became No. 1 manufacturing guru - RADIUS was in the manufacturing business and controlled its own destiny.
This decision was serendipitous – making toothbrushes is very complicated, knowledge of the process, viewed from the design standpoint, helps in creating new and
innovative solutions to the age-old problem of cleaning your teeth. Without this background we would not have been able to develop our adult and children’s line of toothbrushes. The travel cases, a sizeable part of our business, came from the packaging research that we did in our own factory. We have become very energy conscious as a company, decisions on machine type have repercussions on energy use – our most recent machines use one quarter of the energy of the first generation. We have reduced water consumption by a factor of 20 in the last five years.
Beck's Feed Mill, Kutztown, PA (c. 1930)
The SCUBA Toothbrush
The original idea for this product came from fascination with injection molded rubber. This material is flexible and non-slip, two qualities that are perfect for a toothbrush. In 1988 when we
developed the SCUBA, nobody was using rubber in toothbrushes (today 80% of toothbrushes use rubber).
SCUBA has a very flexible neck, it lets you know that you are applying too much pressure when you brush. The non-slip material reduces the
amount of pressure needed to hold the handle and makes it very comfortable to use.
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