The Hummer of duct tapes has arrived in Cincinnati.

Gorilla Tape is a beefy, black tape with double adhesive, a reinforced web backing and an all-weather shell. It's tough enough to make a Weekend Mr. Fix-it salivate, but surprisingly easy to tear in a nice, straight rip.

It's also the product of Queen City small-business ingenuity.

For the first 95 years, the Ragland family of Cincinnati made tools and hardware, building a reputation"”from Africa to Asia"”as Lutz Tool & File. Then they realized that the handyman does not live by tools alone.

So, in the late 1990s Lutz was among the first American companies to begin offering glue made of polyurethane, which can bind together just about anything"”concrete, stone, wood"”and is waterproof. They dubbed it Gorilla Glue, marketing it as "The Toughest Glue on Planet Earth."

Sales soared. Distribution expanded. The four Ragland brothers built a 40,000-square-foot facility on Red Bank Road in Madisonville to handle this beastly success. They even changed the company name to The Gorilla Glue Co.

But the Raglands realized they couldn't rest on one product, so they created Gorilla Tape.

The company says that compared to professional duct tape, Gorilla Tape has a tensile strength of 58 pounds (versus 40). It adheres to steel twice as well and it sticks to things other tapes don't, such as plaster, brick and stucco.

"It's $10 a roll, but it's worth every penny," says Tim Cable, general manager of three Ace Hardware stores in Greater Cincinnati, who has used it on construction projects. Cable says he hesitated to order Gorilla Tape when it first became available because of the price. Regular duct tape is about $5 a roll.

"I guess you have to understand hardware man mentally," Cable says, with a laugh. "They do no advertising at all. It's selling itself."
At Pilot Lumber Do-It Center in Bellevue, customers started asking for Gorilla Tape, says Dave Palmer, vice president of operations. He ordered 30 rolls in March. Within a month they were gone.

Palmer wonders if Gorilla Tape is riding on the popularity of The Red Green Show, the PBS program in which a wacky fix-it comedian mends everything with duct tape. The show is broadcast locally on WCET-TV.

In fact, Gorilla Glue President Peter Ragland says the company's goal is to cultivate fans who get so excited about the products they tell friends, family and even strangers at the hardware store.

Gorilla Glue is a private company that does not disclose revenue or even employment growth. As a toolmaker, it employed fewer than 50 people.

The firm does has a killer website (www.gorillaglue.com), lauded by web designers for its powerful look and ease of use. The site offers tips for using its products, and "glue finder" and "tape finder" functions that generate a list of nearby retailers offering its products. Gorilla Glue was still negotiating with big-box retailers this spring about stocking Gorilla Tape.

Gorilla Tape caught the eye of Tom Hintz of Concord, N.C., who owns and writes for NewWoodworker.com. He's been using Gorilla Tape instead of clamps when mending tools or gluing wood projects.

Terry Armes, 34, of Independence, wishes he'd had Gorilla Tape on hand for a recent project. Back when he was single, Armes used duct tape to keep the rear tail-light of his Chevy S10 truck in place, and to cover a broken car window. Now married and living in a newly built home, Armes recently pulled out the old standby to patch a broken bar on the kids' swing set.

"Then the wife got on me," Armes recalls. "I thought it was an easy fix." But the ordinary tape gave out after a couple of storms. This job called for the new king of the adhesive jungle.

OTHER FRONTLINES ARTICLES:

Here Comes the Sun

Will We See a Cincinnati Examiner?