“First, let me just say, I am a big fan of waffles,” says Chris Dimino, inventor of the keyboard waffle iron. “I’ll always order them over pancakes. Not that I’m anti-pancake or anything, I’m just very pro-waffles. So there’s that.”
Yes, you read that right. The keyboard waffle iron. “I’m aware that this is not a product for everyone,” says Dimino, “but for people like me, who just love the idea of it, well, we just love it! Every time I make a keyboard waffle I’m excited and happy about it.” Haters gonna hate.
The road to the keyboard waffle iron began 12 years ago, when Dimino, then a design student at the School of Visual Arts, began a project to reimagine an old typewriter. Though entirely theoretical at that stage, his vision of a Smith Corona waffle iron stuck with him.
As graphics art director on The Late Show, life was busy, “though I’d flirt with the idea of making it,” says Dimino. “When we got word that the show was coming to an end, I knew that this would be the right time to really make it happen.”
“I was lucky because my friend Mike Frank had recently gone through the process of making a product, so he had some ideas about where to start, and the confidence that it was possible.
“Together, we planned to work off an existing nonproprietary waffle iron and switch out the metal plates. It seemed like the easier way to go. Great. So then we prepared for a Kickstarter campaign … and got rejected.
“We needed to have a working prototype. And that’s when I really stopped to think, is this the way I want to make the waffle iron? It felt like a compromised version. It wasn’t special. So I started over, designing a custom product, exactly the shape and thickness that I wanted.
“I literally Googled metal foundries, and cold called them. It was very awkward, because I didn’t even know what questions to ask, but eventually, I started to work the process out.”
Several redesigns later, the prototype was made, and the Kickstarter began in earnest. “ We raised $66,685,” says Dimino. “We initially sold about 860 units – which all come with recipe books – and I reinvested the rest of the money into buying more product. It’s crazy, because you feel like you just made all this money, but that’s the nature of a startup business. I haven’t made a dime yet!”
Still, Dimino has high hopes for sales, especially as the holidays near. “I’m selling them through Uncommon Goods, and SkyMall, and there are a few more places unofficially that I’m really excited about. It’s interesting to see that transition from Kickstarter to company. I have to remind myself, this is a real thing. I’m dealing with shipping and accounting and all these other things. It’s a learning process but I’m happy to be taking the risk.
“I remember when I got my first keyboard waffle. It was late at night in my kitchen. I had some friends over and we unwrapped the box and took out the iron. I made the first waffle and ate it with maple syrup, and we Instagrammed it, of course. I still get excited to do that. The passion is still there. I guess I just still love waffles!”
Check out the waffle iron on Instagram @keyboardwaffleiron for some waffle inspiration.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 19, 2015