A 78-year-old firm with fresh ideas

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Two of Kenyon Custom's OEM cooktop products were cited for innovation at METS and IBEX

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How often does a marine appliance find a niche in the general marketplace? At Kenyon Custom, the Clinton, Conn., cooktop manufacturer, that's the core philosophy.

"If you can satisfy someone in the marine market, you can easily satisfy someone in the residential market - and that's what we do," says Phil Williams, a partner in the privately owned 78-year-old company.

That philosophy has served Kenyon well. Williams estimates the OEM-

focused company has earned 75 to 85 percent of the marine market with its Caribbean and Mediterranean lines, including Grady-White, Four Winns and Brunswick Corp. The company focuses exclusively on the powerboat market. The lion's share of Kenyon's business, however, remains the hotel and RV industries, as well as military and residential markets.

Kenyon won an honorable mention at IBEX 2008 for PUPS, its Pop-Up Potholder System for ceramic cooktops. PUPS are spring-loaded posts topped with soft, malleable bumpers that retract into modules in the cooktop. Press the bumper, and the post pops out of the cooktop to 15 millimeters. Four PUPS hold a pot in place. After use, depress the PUPS, and they lock in the down position inside their modules.

Williams says the system opens valuable countertop space when the stove is not in use and eliminates expensive cooktop recesses for pots and clumsy rails or fiddles, alternative systems for holding pots in place while under way.

"It was very well received, and we had huge expectations - and then the economy went south," Williams says.

Undeterred, Kenyon has put more resources into new-product development in the last two years than at any time in company history, Williams says. "We continually bring out new products, which has allowed us to capture market share that, when the economy finally turns around, will position us well," he says.

Kenyon's next move is the introduction this spring of an induction cooktop. With induction, heat is generated from a high-frequency electromagnet that directly heats the pot or pan but leaves the cooktop surface cool. Given the complex web of electronics beneath the cooktop, Kenyon cannot incorporate its PUPS, so the units will feature a non-slip silicone pad that Williams says can hold a pan in place at up to a 35-degree angle.

The SilKEN line won Most Innovative Product last November at the Marine Equipment Trade Show in Amsterdam. For information, visit www.kenyonappliances.com.

This article originally appeared in the February 2010 issue.

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