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02/07/2007

In Business

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Wendy Steele and husband Rick Steele found success with their Tape Wrangler invention, a tape dispenser for heavy-duty tapes. The couple have been in business since October under the name Stexley-Brake LLC.

TC man dispenses with new invention

Duct-tape dispenser earns high marks

Special to the Record-Eagle

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The Tape Wrangler is a a heavy-duty tape dispenser manufactured in Grayling. It can dispense duct tape, drywall and packing tapes.

TRAVERSE CITY — Rick Steele has turned a sticky situation into a business opportunity that is garnering national attention.

About a year ago, the Traverse City man was working on a project that involved using a lot of glue and duct tape. He was having trouble using the tape, which was hard to tear cleanly and tended to stick to his fingers.

"What I needed was a duct-tape dispenser,” said Steele. "But I looked all over and couldn't find one anywhere. I talked to my wife, Wendy, and we said maybe we need to work on this.”

Less than a year later, the Steeles' company, Stexley-Brake LLC is marketing the Tape Wrangler, a heavy duty tape dispenser that makes working with duct tape easy.

The Tape Wrangler has only three durable plastic parts and a high-carbon steel blade that enables it to provide straight, even tape cuts. This hefty unit can handle up to a 70-yard roll of two-inch tape, including dry wall tape and packaging tape, in addition to duct tape. It can be mounted on a wall or desk, or used as a hand unit.

While the company's name, Stexley-Brake, may sound like an auto-related firm, the moniker is composed of letters from the names of the couple's five children.

The Tape Wrangler's plastic parts are manufactured by Derwich Industries in Grayling and are shipped twice a week to Traverse City, where the units are assembled. "We're producing 600 units a day now,” said Steele, who unveiled the Tape Wrangler at a hardware show last October in Toronto.

Tape Wrangler is available locally at Maxbauer Ace Hardware and is priced at $19.95.

The durable tape dispenser will be featured in the March issue of Handy Man's Club Magazine, a national publication for do-it-yourselfers. Steele shipped 325 Tape Wranglers to the magazine's product testers across the country and received high marks — 8.2 on a scale of 10 — from the testers.

The Tape Wrangler also has been chosen as the Official Tool for Wyler Racing #60 in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. "NASCAR uses a lot of duct tape,” Steele said.

And the company is working on similar products designed to help people solve everyday problems, said Steele, who worked with Detroit automakers on design and engineering projects before moving to Traverse City three years ago.

"It's pretty exciting,” he said. "We're very proud that this is all coming out of northern Michigan. We've done everything right here.”

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