An updated version of the famous (or infamous) Rochester invention, the Hillary Clinton Nutcracker, is hitting the streets this week as the presidential campaign heats up.
The 9-inch-high nutcracker with "stainless steel thighs" originally was created and patented by Frank Freeman in the basement of his Rochester home in 2008. He sold the functional device in his Little Bear Trading Post store in the Apache Mall as well as nationally.
While Freeman's company, Damn Handy Products, now is based in Arizona, he still distributes his products from Minnesota. He also is considering opening another store in the Apache Mall, if he can work out a "new concept."
"It'll be phenomenal," said Freeman of how he anticipates the nutcracker will sell with Clinton walking away with the Democrat nomination. "Last time, we sold well over a quarter of million units and she wasn't nearly as popular."
In 2008, it sold for $19.95. Now the tag is $29.95.
This version of the nutcracker features Clinton wearing a pink blazer with a campaign button that reads "Hillary 2016 -- It's Crunch Time." It's already on sale at hillarynutcracker.com. The first shipments from China arrived in Minnesota this week to the company's fulfillment center. Freeman says they already have shipped out about 70 dozen orders to five stores and it will be featured on the cover of at least two national specialty catalogs.
Of course, many people find the product distasteful and insulting. When Urban Outfitters started selling the last of the 2008 nutcrackers for $60, it spurred many media sources like the New York Post and Huffington Post to decry the site for selling a "sexist" product. Vox.com posted a story that said the $60 price tag “seems like $54.05 too much for something you might find in a very, very sexist Happy Meal.”
Freeman and his partner, Gibson Carothers, say the nutcracker is not meant to be mean-spirited.
"It's up to you decide whether that is good or bad. The headline on the box is simply"It's Crunch Time, America!" We think it's all in good fun," said Carothers. "Of course, we expect cries of sexism from some feminists. But we expect, and are already starting to feel, a more balanced reaction this time around."
The pair say that women's opinions about the original nutcracker changed over time. In the end, they estimate that one-third of buyers were Hillary Clinton backers. They hope that sentiment will continue to grow this time around.
"They started to see that a nutcracker could be seen as a tough, fearless leader. Realistically,
is the country going to elect a woman not perceived as tough?" said Carothers.
"I think a lot of people feel that it is pro-Hillary. The humor on the box is slightly more pro-Hillary this time," said Freeman.
Political feelings aside, they say the bottom line is the nutcracker is supposed to be funny. It's in the same spirit as their Smash Mute TV remote product, which features a giant button that can be pounded to mute "politicians, talking heads and erectile dysfunction commercials."