An inventor who rakes in ideas

Julie Onufrak

Many people dream of being inventors, of creating something new that hasn’t been done before. Bob Monahan of Norwell is one of the few who follow through on those dreams.

Monahan created the EZ Leaf Hauler, a rectangular tarp with three sides designed to make moving large piles of leaves easier. Leaves can be raked into the hauler – which has the proportions of a large dustpan – and then the device can be dragged to where the leaves need to be dumped.

Like many New Englanders, Monahan, 43, started out as a frustrated leaf-raker. “I always used to use a wheelbarrow, but you could never put enough in,” he said. “I looked to buy something and there was nothing out there to buy. And then I just thought, well, how hard can it be?”

Monahan had a background in product development, having worked for Ford, Reebok and Safety 1st, a children’s products company that was acquired by Dorel Industries in 2000. He used his experience and his connections with designers, manufacturers and patent lawyers to begin developing the EZ Leaf Hauler in fall 2005.

Monahan settled on a design that included tent-style rods to hold the sides up and large pegs to push into the ground on windy days. He ordered a few to sell in fall 2006, but the product had its big break when it was featured in Good Housekeeping last year, as “research institute-tested.” The few thousand that Monahan had ordered sold out.

He said 8,000 have been sold so far this year, including sales through a Plow & Hearth catalog and a test run in Home Depot stores in Maine and New Hampshire. Customers can also order the leaf hauler from Monahan Products, Monahan’s Rockland firm, which has six employees.

The EZ Leaf Hauler doesn’t pay Monahan’s bills just yet; luckily, he has other products to fall back on. His main business is the UPPAbaby stroller line, which includes strollers designed to be both functional and stylish.

Monahan said his next step with the EZ Leaf Hauler is to create something that helps people bag leaves more easily. And in the meantime, he is waiting for the patent for the leaf hauler to come through.

“This was always something that I wanted to do,” he said. “If I didn’t do it, somebody else was going to do it.”

The Patriot Ledger