The Eagle Flies Again: Resurrecting a 1940s-era Bottle Opener
Like many innovations in this column, this month’s feature started with an email. But unlike any other, what followed was a year-long correspondence providing insight into the exciting yet frustrating process of bringing a product from concept to reality.
It started in the fall of 2015, when Michael Grace shared his plan to bring a vintage, American-manufactured bottle opener from the 1940s back to life. After Grace first used the device, a handsome and sturdy reciprocating plunger-type opener known as the Cap-Off, he scoured eBay to purchase one as a gift for his friend and fellow beer nerd Matt McGarrity.
“There were not a whole lot of them available and some were in really rough shape,” remembers Grace. “I finally found an old Cap-Off with the original box, and man was it awesome! The way it removed the caps was so effortless, and the beer just seemed to taste better when I used it.”
So Grace and McGarrity researched the product’s history, including why it never saw significant or long-term commercial success. Craft brewing’s popularity combined with the product’s American origin and a great comeback story convinced the duo to reintroduce it to the market after 70 years. So they co-founded Eagle Lock Company LLC two years ago, and embarked on a project that Grace admits was “a lot more involved than we first thought.”
On Halloween 2015, Grace emailed with important news: his first child, Phoebe, had been born that morning, and he had mailed a vintage Cap-Off for my review. A photo of Grace’s newborn baby, dressed in a hand-crocheted pumpkin outfit, accompanied the message.
The bottle opener looked great and worked well, lifting caps off and leaving them crimp-free—a bonus for crafters and collectors. The next several months of updates included photos of prototypes and a successful Kickstarter campaign, which raised over $54,600 that December.
Delays happen, though, and the anticipated June 2016 release got pushed back. “We set out to make a highly detailed bar tool in small quantities, which doesn’t always resonate with vendors,” Grace explains. “We did not want to accept anything but the best in terms of quality, materials, or craftsmanship, which made our job even more complicated.” The team set their sights on a late summer debut.
August faded into September and then October. Grace celebrated his baby’s first birthday. And yet, the Eagle Cap-Off continued to see delays. Then, some good news in November: “We expect to start shipping the first Kickstarter orders on November 21,” Grace wrote.
A few days later, the Eagle Cap-Off arrived. A dutiful and respectful reproduction of the original, even down to the little touches, it feels solid in the hand, moves smoothly and works like a charm.
The Eagle Cap-Off sells for $58 on eaglecapoff.com. ■