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The Fall Guys

Cashing in on an accident-without litigation

This story appears in the April 2000 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

A crisp December morning in 1994 found brothers Chuck and BobMellon, 40 and 42, respectively, on their usual dirt-bike routenorth of their hometown of Fresno, . It started as atypical journey until Chuck rounded a corner, skidded on some iceand crashed his bike. Chuck rose from the wreck unscathed-his onlymar was a few holes in the sleeve of his sweatshirt-but when hedonned the shirt later, his thumb poked through one of the holes.The result? Pure bliss. He could move his fingers while keeping hispalms nice and toasty.

Within two months, the siblings had crafted a prototype; withinfour, they had a on their hands. Manufacturing men's,women's and children's sweatshirts with their specialpatented feature-cuffs which extend into fingerless gloves-Bob andChuck launched Handcuffs, selling 1,000 shirts from a rented kioskthat Christmas and opening a retail store the following November.In 1997, they struck a deal with JC Penney and continued expansionin 1999 with the addition of five more retail stores and amail-order catalog. That and a number of corporate uniform deals inthe works have led to projected 2000 of more than $10million.

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