The History of Rollerblades
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Roller skating is said to have been born during the summer months when ice was not available. The first documented inventor of roller skates was John Joseph Merlin who was born September 17, 1735, in the city of Huys, Belgium. Merlin was well known for his abilities for making musical instruments and other interesting mechanical gadgets. Through various incarnations, roller skates strove to replicate the streamlined speed and maneuverability of ice skates, but without ball bearings or shock-absorbent wheels it would take 200 years before that dream was achieved. Even as late as 1960, the Chicago Skate Company attempted to market an inline skate that looked much like todays skate, but it did not offer sufficient comfort, stability or a reliable brake (Zaidman 1). Although the Chicago Skate Companys attempt of the inline skate was not successful, it did play a pivotal role in the molding of what is now known as inline skating.
In 1980, two hockey-playing Minnesota Olson brothers discovered the in-line skate that the Chicago Skate Company had manufactured while rummaging through a sporting goods store and decided that this design would make an ideal off-season hockey-training tool. They refined the skate and began assembling the first Rollerblade skates in the basement of their parents Minneapolis home. Working in their garage, they modified the design to add plastic wheels, a molded boot shell, and a tow brake. The Olsen brothers sold their product, which they dubbed “Rollerblade Skate,” out of the back of their truck to off-season hockey player and skiers (Kerin 5). It was that same year, when they founded the company that would become Rollerblade® (Rollerblade.com). In 1984, Minneapolis businessman Bob Naegele, Jr. purchased Olsons fledgling company, which eventually became Rollerblade, Inc. Though not the first company to manufacture inline skates, Rollerblade, by offering a comfortable skate with a reliable and easy-to-implement brake, took inline skating out of the exclusive domain of hockey players and introduced millions to the sport that now has the whole world on a roll (Zaidman 1). In the mid 1980s, Rollerblade marketing executive Mary Horwath had to figure out how to market its in-line skates to a broader range of customers.
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