Kelly Pitcher hands over a sign displaying an image of her newly patented product, the stainless steel ‘berry bowl’, above a stall at Hyde Park Village’s monthly market. I stretched.
Pitcher, a resident of Barrico, was unsure what the reaction would be.
It was Labor Day weekend and it was still muggy outside. She had already skipped the August market because of the weather and was worried that few shoppers would come. I couldn’t show off my latest invention, a mixing bowl that balances on my stomach.
As Pitcher and her partner Joel Rebel set up the custom-built display shelving in front of the shopping plaza’s iconic fountain, Rebel said:
“But sometimes it’s a surprise,” Pitcher added.
They have sold many times under the name Pitcher Pottery at the local Hyde Park Village Fresh Market. Together, Pitcher and Lebel organize hundreds of pottery, from mugs to food trays, in time for shoppers to arrive for brunch and browse late in the morning.
Over Labor Day weekend, Pitcher made room for a brand new display. He’s a dented mixing bowl with three metal models stacked to show off the 7″, 9″ and 11″ variations found in each set.
The pitcher was prepared for the confused expressions people might have when they came across her lopsided bowl. They were sold in ceramic form.
Most people thought the berry bowl was a potter’s mistake that the pitcher used. But the design was intentional.
The idea came from a friend in his hometown of Poland Springs, Maine. He commissioned a pitcher to create a bowl for him to cook and eat while watching movies at home. As the name suggests, lounging on the couch with a bowl of food pressed to my stomach. While the pitcher was developing it, she said she found other natural uses for it, from mixing it for added support to being able to pour easily for two edges.
As shoppers looked at the bowl curiously, Pitcher said her strategy was to approach them and get it.
“As soon as I put it in my hand or held it in my hand, they were like, ‘Oh, that’s a great idea. Why hasn’t anyone done that before?'” she said.
Pitcher said he didn’t have high hopes for the stainless steel set at this particular Sunday market. Her goal was to raise awareness, especially before the holidays.
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“It doesn’t take long to actually make a bowl,” said the pitcher, throwing fresh clay on the potter’s wheel and beginning to shape the bowl from the stall. After drying for several days, it is fired in a kiln, glazed and fired again. “So the whole process usually takes about a month.”
The pitcher wanted to use a material that wouldn’t take as long to manufacture and wasn’t as fragile and heavy as ceramic. She considered glass at one point, but had similar problems. So she settled on stainless steel.
Pitcher said he might one day expand to selling glass and plastic berry bowls…if the idea takes off.
She has big dreams for her inventions. The pitcher hopes to one day sell her bowls of berries nationwide at kitchen retailers like her Sonoma Williams. But she’s taking it her day at a time.
As a local small business owner, Pitcher said it was “difficult” to come up with a business plan for the product. Before joining Belly Bowls, I didn’t have to work with a lawyer to get a patent or research a factory that could make custom molds.
“When I went to the Entrepreneurship Cooperative Center in the City of Yball, I started asking questions, trying to figure out where to start and what to do,” Pitcher said. “It’s a bit of a problem for people who don’t have tens of thousands of dollars.”
It took her nearly three years to put everything in order. The US Patent and Trademark Office approved her patent in 2020. Then, even though COVID-19 and the woes of her chain of supplies held her back, she found a supplier in China who could make the molds. Pitchers have ordered a minimum of 2,000 sets required by the manufacturer to see how it works.
Her next step, she said, was to spread the word.
“We don’t know how many we’re going to sell,” the pitcher said. “We’re flying in the pants seat.”
She had several friends, family members, and longtime customers buy sets already, costing $130 each, but it was time to try them out in front of strangers. Shoppers began trickling into the market that morning. The pitcher wiped his brow after making sure all the mugs and bowls were lined up neatly.
The family stopped and stared at the bowl and pointed. Minutes into the market, a Tampa woman picked up her bowl of ceramic berries and asked if it could be shipped to Pittsburgh for her sister, who loves to bake bread. I asked
Jenny Friedman, 36, said after handing her credit card to the pitcher, “I’ve never seen anything like this before.
A few minutes later, another customer purchased a berry bowl. This time it’s made of stainless steel.