While prowling the Internet message boards, I came upon a posting about pink tool belts. I included it in last issue’s WebSurfers’ Review, just in time for Valentine’s Day. It sparked enough interest that I thought I’d delve a bit further and find out what was behind, and in front of, this unlikely offering.
Behind it is a woman named Kellie Reamer, a self-taught contractor who was buying “fixer-upper” homes and restoring them for resale. Frustrated with the tool belts she was forced to work with, she developed her own.
“Men’s tool belts are made bigger,” Kellie said, “and the pockets sit too far forward. I was looking for a smaller, lighter weight tool belt that would fit well on my hips.” The ones she found in women’s sizes and shapes were typically canvas or nylon, not the heavy-duty leather she wanted. She designed a high quality pink tool belt tailored to fit a woman’s profile. With that, GIRLGEAR Industries was born.
“My tool belt has a shorter span from outside pocket to outside pocket, the pockets are smaller, and the whole thing is lighter in weight.” Her web site describes it as a heavy-duty, pink suede leather tool belt with 11 pockets, two hammer loops, and a soft web belt adjustable from 30 to 47 inches.
Naturally, Reamer did not start out with a life goal of creating pink work wear. After high school in California, she backpacked around Europe, Asia, Africa, and the South Pacific for two years before returning to the U.S. After getting a degree in international business at San Diego State University, she started importing and selling jewelry from Indonesia. From there, she went on to become a wine broker — a sort of stock broker for international wine collectors.
Her decision to start investing in fixer-upper properties is what landed her in a tool belt. Before long, she was restoring buildings instead of brokering wine. “Through trial and error, I learned to do just about everything one needs to do to fix up a house: tiling, roofing, plumbing, electrical work, insulation you name it.”
That led her to the quest for the perfect tool belt. An Internet search turned up postings from other women looking for the same thing, but no solutions. “They make pink tools in a pink tool case, pink hard hats, and pink cloth tool belts, but not commercial grade, high quality tool belts in pink.”
She found a manufacturer able to make her design, placed the first order, hired help, and started peddling them directly to local retailers. Outlet Tool Supply, a local store that also sells online, was the first to carry them.
“I walked in wearing the tool belt, went up to the cashier, and said, ‘Hey, what do you think of this?’ The cashier immediately decided she wanted one for herself. That’s a pretty common response, and has made it an easy product to sell.” At present, six retail stores in California carry the line, which also includes logo T-shirts, tank tops and hats. Girlgear Industries also sells direct from their web site.
For now, Reamer’s company is focusing on independent stores, as opposed to large chains. She feels their gear fits in with mom-and-pop type stores, and gives them something unique to sell. While many of the belts are bought by men, presumably as gifts for women, they’ve also been adopted as gardening aprons, as they are more resistant to damage from sharp garden tools.
Look for more pink products in the near future. In the offing are shop aprons, tool pouches and gloves, all in pink leather. “My idea is to make a product that is comfortable, durable, and sturdy, but is also edgy and stylish. Basically, it is all about having fun.”