Ken Reiker can't stop thinking. Growing up in Cape Girardeau and attending Notre Dame High School, this quirk garnered him a reputation for having his head in the clouds.
"The nuns would say, 'Read the next three pages,' and later all the other kids would laugh at me when the nuns caught me daydreaming and being three pages behind."
A creative mind combined with a common-sense approach to solving problems gave Reiker, 58, of Shalimar, Fla., the imagination to revolutionize the ceiling-fan industry and earn millions.
"My mind never stops," he said. "Other people must have a timer built in their brains."
This weekend, Reiker is showing off his latest accomplishment, the Reiker Room Conditioner, as one of about 120 exhibitors at the 2003 Home and Garden Show at the Show Me Center. The device resembles a ceiling fan, but evenly heats and circulates air throughout a room using less electricity than a hairdryer. It eliminates inefficient ductwork, hot spots,and cold spots while saving money through zone heating. It is currently sold through various lighting dealerships, but Reiker is in discussions with a major home improvement retail chain about selling the device in stores.
His first invention idea occurred while undergoing blood tests in a St. Louis hospital when he was 20 years old. Annoyed with a complicated syringe nurses used to draw blood, he invented the first vacuum syringe that did not use a mechanical draw system.
Reiker attended Southeast Missouri State University for a time and worked several years for Sears and Allstate Insurance before starting his own business with another invention.
More than 15 years ago, he solved a dilemma with ceiling fan installations. Intitially, there was no safe way consumers could install a fan without climbing into a hot, dangerous attic to nail a support board between two joists. Reiker invented a floor-level installation kit, the Super Fan Brace, that became an industry standard.
Since then, Reiker has received more than 50 patents worldwide and has patents pending in several countries. Three years ago, he sold Reiker Enterprises for a seven-figure deal.
Such a lucrative deal would seem to many a great way to cap off a long career as an inventor. But Reiker couldn't stop thinking about one more idea -- the room condiditoner.
"This product was the one that stuck in the back of my head," he said. "I guess I'm motivated by unfinished business."
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