— Some people golf. Some collect stamps. George Weiss tinkers.
For the past 50 years, Weiss, 84, has spent much of his free time dreaming up new inventions and building them.
“I was a wallpaper hanger until I retired nine years ago, but my hobby was tinkering in the basement,” he says. “And one tinker leads to another tinker, you know?”
Half a century of tinkering has produced more than 80 inventions, many of which are piled up in the basement of the Brooklyn, N.Y., home in which Weiss has lived for the last 45 years. Among his favorites are the car-key buckle, the “Do It Your Shelf” storage system and a Christmas ornament that opens to form a cross.
His products have won rave reviews from his friends and family, yet he was unable to get companies to invest in them. “Everywhere I’d go I’d get rejected,” he told TODAY.com. “They have form letters at all the companies. I just couldn’t get a foot in the door.”
But all that changed when a small company named Ideas Never Implemented agreed to invest in a word game Weiss came up with. Fittingly, its name is a synonym for "tinker”: “Dabble.”
Dabble is now sold in 50 stores nationwide. And recently it won the 2011 Game of the Year Award from Creative Child Magazine.
20 tiles, 15 minutes
Weiss came up with the idea for Dabble three years ago and made the prototype in his basement, cutting plastic tiles and building a five-tiered wooden rack by hand. As with all his brainchildren, Weiss says the concept was an inspiration.
“I don’t sit down and think ‘What should I invent?’ ” he told TODAY.com. “It just comes to me out of thin air.”
To win a game of Dabble, a player must use 20 tiles to create five words consisting of two, three, four, five and six letters. “If you can spell, you can play,” Weiss said. He says part of the beauty of the game is that it typically lasts only about 15 minutes.
“I fell in love with the game the first time I played it,” says Jay Vohra, president of Ideas Never Implemented, which brought Dabble out of Weiss’ basement and on to the market just three weeks ago. “It’s also a great time for it, since word games are very popular right now.” The company is scheduled to launch a Dabble app on July 1.
Dabble is especially meaningful to Weiss because he played the game with Faye, his wife of 61 years, who has Alzheimer’s disease.
“Faye saw the beginning stages of the game, but she’s been sick for a year,” Weiss said. His wife now lives in a nearby care facility.
If Dabble makes his fortune, Weiss insists that it won’t change his life. “I don’t need a bigger house,” he said. “My wife is close by and I can see her every day. I’m happy here.”
His advice to other dabblers with big dreams? Don’t create a product just because you think it will make you rich.
“Work on something that’s meaningful to you,” Weiss advised. “If you do that, you’re more likely to find success.”