Alexandria man unveils new way to roast marshmallows
Jeff Roste has 35,000 Marshmallow Mitts in a warehouse, and 35,000 Hot Dog Mitts coming in July.
ALEXANDRIA — It's taken about 12 years — and more than 1,200 files on his computer — but Jeff Roste's idea has come to fruition.
It all started when he was roasting marshmallows around a campfire with his family, and one of his son's marshmallows kept falling into the fire.
"My son goes, 'Dad, you've got to come up with a better way to roast a marshmallow,'" Roste said. "That's kind of how it started."
Roste, who owns an advertising agency, worked on the idea off and on for a few years, but things really picked up steam around 2018 once his kids were all at college.
A friend helped with the computer-aided design drawings after Roste sketched out what he wanted, and once they were complete, he got it sent off to find out what the costs would be.
It was put on hold again because of COVID-19, but then Roste started working on it again about a year ago.
"I got some local investors, put in an order, and here we are," he said.
Today, Roste has 35,000 Marshmallow Mitts in a warehouse, and 35,000 Hot Dog Mitts coming in July.
"Initially it was because my kid's marshmallow dropped in the fire, but then it became much more than that," Roste said. "It became safety. It's safe for kids because you don't have that sharp stick that you give your kid. …
"I thought, 'Let's make it safe for kids, not just convenient for people not losing their marshmallows,'" he said.
The Marshmallow Mitt and the Hot Dog Mitt are made of high temperature food-safe silicone, with a telescoping rod that extends 40 inches, providing a safe roasting distance from the campfire.
The Marshmallow Mitt works by using a five-finger mitt design at its tip which holds the marshmallow in place and prevents it from dropping into the fire. A device called the EZ Server helps to remove the marshmallow from the mitt.
"(That) was kind of an afterthought after COVID," Roste said. "When COVID hit and everybody was worried about germs and touching stuff, I thought, 'Why not make it an easy way for them to get the marshmallow out versus having to (use) their fingers, or tip it upside down and have it fall out.' This made it a lot easier to remove it."
The Hot Dog Mitt uses a finger clasp design to hold the hot dog at both ends.
Waiting to finish work on his invention actually paid off in terms of the high temperature silicone, Roste said.
"That technology really didn't exist 10 years ago when my kid dropped his marshmallow in the fire," he said.
While the silicone does get hot in the fire, it does not get hot enough to burn, he said.
"It's not going to singe your fingers like a hot metal poker stick," Roste said. "As time goes on, silicone dissipates heat faster than metal does. So after 30 seconds, it's not as hot as when you got it out of the fire."
The Marshmallow Mitt is Roste's first invention.
"A lot of people have great ideas, but taking a great idea, finding money to make it happen, and then having the resources to get it produced and back, it takes more work than most people think, and that's probably why a lot of them don't make it," he said. "You've got a great idea, but a lot of people get a prototype, and then they're done.
"Being in the graphics world, it was a lot easier because I could create the graphics, the advertisements, the promotional materials, the logos — all the stuff that goes with creating a product. That was kind of nice to have that ability to do that," he said.
Now Roste is working on marketing his devices, primarily through his website, but also through direct mailings to campgrounds, lake property owners and grandparents.
"You've got to remember, it's seasonal for us here," he said. "When we're roasting marshmallows, it's too hot in Arizona, but when it's freezing cold here, Arizona's roasting marshmallows. So, somewhere in the United States there's a temperature zone that's always roasting marshmallows. You've just got to know where those zones are to be able to know where you should be pushing the marketing at that time."
Roste said the response has been positive so far.
"I have not talked to one person that said they would not want one, just because it's something new, it's never been seen before, it's safe for kids and kids love something fun and new," he said. "I haven't gotten any negative feedback at all. I've had a lot of excitement and enthusiasm about the product."
The Marshmallow Mitt is currently for sale at Elden's Fresh Foods and Ace Hardware in Alexandria and MECO7 and Tom's Food Market in Glenwood.
It is also available at Roste's website, www.marshmallowmitt.com .
Hot Dog Mitts will be available in July.