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Coleman: Plugging Up All The "Leaks"

Monday, 22 Oct 2007 | 9:43 AM ET

"Go ahead, start the water." I say that with confidence. I'm standing in the 'rain room' at the Coleman factory in Wichita, Kansas.

What's a 'rain room'? It's where they go to test for leaks. Think I need an umbrella?

It's 'raining' like Noah was at the controls in here now and the 'prototype' tent that I'm standing in doesn't leak. Score one for the good guys. Score another one for Coleman.

These days Coleman is a division of big board traded Jarden Corporation , based in Rye New York. Jarden has the likes of Croc-Pot and Seal-a-Meal in it's portfolio of niche consumer products. But for me Coleman will always be that cooler of my grandfather's that I havesitting out in the garage right now. I've got the 'jug' to go with it. Is it green? Of course it's green, you mean they make it in another color?

The answer is, they do. In fact they make the cooler and jug and almost everything else, from tents that went Everest to kayaks that you blow up and can make a Class 3 rapids (could be Class 4 or 5 who's counting?) in all the colors of the rainbow. Times they are a changin', even at a company that has been around almost 100 years. It has a 'Kleenex' kind of mystique about it--I don't remember camping and saying I was going to cook on 'the stove'. I always remember cooking on 'the Coleman'.

How then do you translate that into a profitable future? That's the task for Coleman going forward. Make sure the legacy is well known, but make yourself 'relevant'. One thing they're doing is concentrating on those other things people do outdoors these days, besides camping. Tailgating, outdoor living spaces.

It'll be fun to see how they do. It'll also be interesting to see if they can keep as much production in Wichita as possible. About 40 per cent of Coleman's production is domestic, they 'source' the other 60 per cent.

Of course they had a question for me too. That cooler of my grandfathers, suppose I'd every consider buying a new one? What???? It only has a four or five dents in the handle, a scrape or two on the left side, and the jug only needs to be 'fiddled' with a bit to get it to close.

What? Buy a new one? Still no leaks. Whew, now it's time to try the shrimp they've cooked on the new stove.

'MOA' will be all over the Southwest this week, with a quick stop in Napa Valley in California early on. I understand there are some Ferrari GTO's in the neighborhood--wonder if those boys every slept in a tent?

See you along the road.

Questions? Comments? mikeonamerica@nbcuni.com

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