Page 10                                                                                     Winter 1984-85

 Pure and (not so) Easy:

Todd Smith Products

by Ro Lutz-Nagey, editor


Scene: Shaker Heights, Ohio.


Shaker Heights is one of Cleveland's upper scale neighborhoods, featuring pockets of artists. Todd Smith Products is within a 60 second walk of the Rapid Transit's Shaker Square station. It's also the home of Todd Smith.


  Suite 7 is actually a ground-level apart­ment in an aging red brick apartment building. The flight and rapid transit ride delivered me about 30 minutes ahead of schedule. My knock on the door was greeted by animated barking. Smith, dressed in his bath towel (it was very early), let me in and left me in the manufacturing room while he finished washing up. Tethered securely to one bed was Sushi, certainly the most disturbed one of a pair of red Dobermans. Glancing at Sushi, Smith warned, "I wouldn't make any sudden moves."  I decided to follow his advice.


The dog, who later proved very friendly, left me alone and shortly Smith joined me for our interview.


The conversation covered a variety of topics: the start and growth of his business, how products are made and where the business is going. Smith is soft-spoken with a gentle sense of humor.


Getting Started

In the fall of 1977 Smith was in his second semester at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, studying economics. Walking through the gymnasium, he saw Allan Jacobs working out. It was the first time Smith had ever seen a juggler.


"Allan took me under his wing," and had Smith working two to three hours daily right from the start. Although he spent a few days with balls, within a week he was passing clubs. After two months, he was working out eight hours daily, while "still pretending to be a student..."

Smith was using European style clubs that Jacobs had made, similar to those made by Jay Green, the leading club maker of the time. Smith bought a set of his own and began performing in the fall of 1978.


He and Jocko McCaine street performed in Cleveland in the summer of 1979, doing juggling, movement and gymnastics. However, by the start of 1981 two things put an end to his performance career: a need to get serious about his "straight" education and a knee operation to repair torn cartilage.


In the semester prior to graduation, Smith began selling props, largely by word-of-mouth. Once out of school, he went full time into the business with help from Tom Bryant, who continues working for him to this day.

Todd Smith factory

Yuppie juggling industrialist?  Todd Smith works hard but makes progress.  The assembly line is no picnic!

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