Cheesehead haters score with graters made by Boise men

Some Boise men turn their Chicago Bears fandom into a business that is riding high after Monday Night Football.

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comNovember 6, 2013 

Bears Packers Football

Bears fan Dean Donlon, one of three Graterhead LLC owners, sports one before the Monday Night Football game in Green Bay.

MIKE ROEMER — The Associated Press

Jeran Dahlquist's love of the Chicago Bears — and his dislike of their NFL rivals, the Green Bay Packers — sparked an idea many years ago.

On Monday night, at the Packers' hallowed Lambeau Field and in front of a national ESPN audience, Dahlquist's creation became an instant sensation.

Online sales of the Graterhead — foam headware that looks like a giant cheese grater, meant to mock the Packers' famous Cheesehead — took off during the game and remained strong Tuesday, buoyed by media appearances and social media mentions.

"Most people would classify me as a dreamer," said Dahlquist, a 40-year-old Boise resident. "I don't think of things as a dream. It's just stuff I haven't done yet. If I put my mind to something, I don't ever consider it being anything less than a possibility. It's just about finding out how to get from one point to another."

The Chicago Bears shuffled their way into Dahlquist's heart in 1985, their 15-1, Super Bowl-winning season. Growing up in the Treasure Valley, the 12-year-old loved the team's offbeat style — its quirky quarterback, Jim McMahon; its prank-pulling, record-setting running back, Walter Payton; its enormous defensive tackle-turned-touchdown scorer, William "The Fridge" Perry.

He's been a fan ever since.

GRATERHEAD BIRTH

About 15 years ago, Dahlquist thought it would be cool (and yes, a bit snarky) to mock the Packers' ubiquitous headgear.

"It was fueled by my disdain for the Packers. It struck me as funny," he said. "I suppose a lot of people get those ideas that stick with them their entire lives."

It wasn't until 2011 that Dahlquist finally put his thoughts into action. The Bears and Packers met in the NFC title game that January, and Dahlquist made his first Graterhead — an art project, really — and wore it to watch the game in Boise. (Chicago lost, and Green Bay went on to win the Super Bowl.)

"It looked really cool. He got really good response from it," said Seth Neal, a 38-year-old Boise real estate agent, a Bears fan and one of three owners of Graterhead LLC.

Said Dahlquist: "I thought it was the bomb. My friends did, too. If you look at it compared to what we've got now, it's pretty rough. But this is where it started. It was enough to get the wheels turning. We got good reaction, enough that we knew we had something on our hands."

Still, it took awhile for Dahlquist, Neal and fellow owner Dean Donlon, a former Boise resident who lives in Las Vegas, to get everything in order for a business — patents, design, manufacturing, financing.

Dahlquist originally attempted a plastic version, but it needed to be produced in different sizes for different customers. He settled on one-size-fits-all foam, like the Cheesheads.

The men started their company in January, had their product manufactured in the Midwest and started planning a launch date. Though their website has been active for a few weeks, the trio wanted to make a large marketing splash - and see a Bears game.

MONEY WELL SPENT

They bought expensive tickets on the 50-yard line at Lambeau Field. Fans mobbed them for pictures in the parking lot, and they sold as many Graterheads as they could carry from their van to the stadium. Once inside, the TV cameras found them.

"Sometime in the fourth quarter, my phone was getting clogged up. My wife was like, 'You guys are all over TV and (Monday Night Football analyst) Jon Gruden is talking about you,' " Neal said. "It was pretty fun."

The fun and sales continued Tuesday. A Chicago TV station asked them to appear, so they canceled their flights home and drove to Chicago from Green Bay, stopping at their wide-eyed manufacturer en route.

Orders of the $40 Graterhead hit more than 500 on Tuesday. Cellphones dinged each time a sale was processed. So many orders came in that the website crashed.

Until Tuesday, it had been just a labor of love for Dahlquist.

"It is feeling a little bit more like work today," he said. "But it's the good kind."

Brian Murphy: 377-6444,Twitter: @MurphsTurph

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