Have you ever wondered where those brightly colored pool colors came from? Have you ever wondered who invented such a silly but useful thing? Well, you don’t have to wonder anymore because we will introduce you to the man who made it!
He’s the president of Industrial Thermal Polymers and the CEO as well; however, Steve Hartman is also known as the man who first discerned that colorful foam tubes are amazing pool toys, which made him garner another claim to fame.
The pool noodle was invented three decades ago, in Toronto, Canada, when Hartman first went into business with his dad.
“We’re going to make backer rod,” his dad said. Steve’s follow-up question, What’s a backer rod? Steve’s dad explained that backer rods are utilized in anything with expansion joints—roads, ramps, runways, high-rises—you peel away the tar or caulk, and you’ll find a foam rod in there to seal it. These foam rods were made by the Hartmans.
Hartman says, “We always had these foam rods (lying around). They were gray and 9-footers, and it seemed like every time we jumped in the pool, we were playing with these things.”
So an idea came to Hartman’s mind. He then mixed up a batch of them with color and attempted to sell them to a couple of the local supply store for pool. But there was a dilemma: the item basically lacked some purpose.
Hartman says, “We said, ‘Well, you float around with them, you hit your brother with them.’ It was a tough sell.”
Hartman peddled for his noodles, but for over a year, no one was still buying it. He decided, why patent the item if it’s not making sales?
But something unexpectedly amazing happened. A company that sells a variety of items bought a batch of the noodles and lowered the price, just affordable enough to attract people. It was a company called Canadian Tire.
Hartman conveys, “People would walk by them and see these bright-colored foam rods, and they weren’t sure what to do with them. But the price was right, so they would grab a couple and try them out.”
Nowadays, the noodle is a staple of beaches, docks, and pools everywhere. But after Canadian Tire began to sell them, it took off slowly for a while. His company sells between 6 and 8 million of them a year, according to Hartman. Hartman estimates that Industrial Thermal Polymers produces around 50 percent of North America’s noodle supply, though he admits that it’s impossible to ward off imitators.
Since there are already a lot of other places to find out what’s the use of the noodle, Hartman doesn’t have to explain and to tell people anymore what his own version of noodles does.