Brooklyn-born toy inventor George Lerner came up with the idea of inserting small, pronged body and face parts into fruits and vegetables. In 1951, Lerner showed the idea to Henry and Merrill Hassenfeld. Mr. Potato Head became the first successful toy for Hasbro.
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In 1940s, Bond’s Ice Cream of New Jersey invented a new frosty drink. Customers declared it "awful big and awful good." After applying for a trademark, Bond licensed the Awful Awful to Newport Creamery. In the 1970’s Newport Creamery became the holder of the trademark.
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Back in 1835, Rhode Island textile mill owner Zachariah Allen made property improvements to his mill to minimize the chance of fire and increase the mill’s resilience. Zachariah recruited other mill owners and created a mutual property insurance company known as the Factory Mutuals. Today we know the company as FM Global.
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In 1643 Thomas Harris opened a limestone quarry in Lincoln RI. 375 years later, Harris Quarry remains in business as the oldest limestone quarry in America.
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Rhode Island exports approximately 1.5 billion dollars of manufactured goods each year. Over 88% of those goods are the products of small businesses.
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In 1977 Norman Cloutier opened Cornucopia Natural Foods as a small retail store and quickly grew it into the wholesale distribution company, United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI). Today UNFI distributes over 100,000 different products all over the world. In 2017, UNFI ranked #325 on the Forbes 500 list.
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The original goal of American Power Conversion was to create a method of storing solar power. Unable to wait for market conditions to change, the company shifted its focus in 1981 and found a new use for their efficient batteries and innovative switches. The company is now known for its back up power supplies for the computer industry.
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In December 1953, Martin Chase "the father of discounting" opened the first Ann & Hope store in Rhode Island. Martin's retail methods caught the attention of Sam Walton. Walton incorporated many of Martin's innovations into his new upstart - Walmart.
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