The Enrico Products collection began with a decades old hard cheese grater design borrowed from Enrico Ratti, the grandfather of co-founder Jim Ratti and has naturally been extended to other types of home décor and kitchenware. Enrico’s first cheese grater creation was truly a labor of love. Just before the turn of the century, Enrico Ratti worked as a carpenter for a wealthy family near Castagnetto, Italy, and fell in love with their daughter, Luisa. The family would not give their blessing for Luisa to wed the orphan Enrico, so they eloped to America, bringing with them their love of the dishes of the Italian countryside. Alas, America lacked the tools of a traditional Italian kitchen, so Enrico fashioned by hand the predecessor of today’s Enrico Grater for the rich hard cheeses they so cherished. Many of the sturdy graters Enrico created are still being used by the Ratti family today.
Jim Ratti, an accomplished woodworker himself, used one of his grandfather’s graters as a model to create the modern version of the Enrico Cheese Grater we have been selling for half a decade. “The classic beauty and functionality of my grandfather’s grater design inspired me to create a modern version,” says Ratti. “My initial box graters were made using exotic woods like Rosewood and Bubinga, but once the company decided to market the product on a larger scale, we decided to use bamboo because it’s an environmentally friendly material. That decision really drove the future direction of the company toward eco-friendly, sustainable materials.” Our grater retains the design features of Enrico’s original version including the drawer for collecting the grated cheese and the front foot that rests against the front of the counter to provide stability while grating, but a few things have been changed. The grater blades are made from long lasting stainless steel and are removable for cleaning in the dishwasher. One creates powdered gratings from hard cheeses such as parmigiana reggiano and the other shreds hard or soft cheeses into strips suitable for tacos or salads. Enrico Products has continued to build on Enrico’s legacy by developing new products that feature the same beauty and functionality as his works from the past.
After a few iterations of the cheese grater Jim and Chad Richardson, his business partner in an overseas sourcing consultancy business, joined with Dave Hoots, who at the time owned a custom furniture company, to refine the grater and began to talk about and work on other ideas. Eventually the three decided to formalize their affiliation and formed Enrico Products in February of 2005.
Following a warm welcome in 2005 by both kitchen and gift retailers, Enrico has not slowed its pace in creating new items to add to its product mix. As with most products in the Enrico line, new ideas are prototyped by hand in the Enrico workshops, tested in real world situations, and refined to meet the demands of discriminating retailers and their clientele, before even being sent to their factories for sampling. This process is time-consuming but critical to the goal of Enrico’s principals to continually challenge the status quo and give savvy retailers something new and exciting to put in front of their customers.
“We lay up our own turning blanks and turn new bowl ideas, or draw up a new board, fabricate it, and take it to the kitchen to see how it works. We don’t just look at factory catalogs and pick out items to put our name on,” says co-owner Dave Hoots. “We’re a hands-on company, not just an importer. That’s how we’ve done things since the beginning and it’s a big part of what we all love about this business.”
Enrico’s RootWorks collection, handcrafted deep in the countryside of central China, is a very different side of the operation from the bamboo and wooden tabletop collection, and has become a major force for this young company. After logging operations the stumps from Chinese fir trees are removed to make way for replanting. Those stumps are cleaned, carved into bowls and platters or turned into urns and vases, kiln dried, and finished with a durable lacquer. The RootWorks items are each one-of-a-kind works of art whose appeal is a marriage of the incredible natural beauty of the fir stumps and the talent of the carvers who carve them.
Dave says, “People just plain react to RootWorks: they see the products, stop in their tracks, then have to get them in their hands. They’ve got visual and tactile appeal, with a wide variety of wood grain, burl and birdseye figure, knots, bumps, veins, branches, fissures, sometimes all in one piece. That’s what happened to us when we found them in China – our jaws dropped and we said ‘Wow, we’ve got to bring these to our customers’. Now we see that same reaction in everyone who looks at our RootWorks displays.”
Enrico Products’ line has continued to expand over the years, adding new collections and a number of new and interesting materials to their already fascinating lineup of tabletop, gourmet, gift and décor items. All their offerings continue to use reclaimed or renewable raw materials and fit naturally into the eco-friendly and sustainable categories popular with so many retailers and consumers. Enrico prides itself on their extensive direct experience with overseas suppliers, working in person to streamline production practices like kiln drying and wood storage, helping introduce more environmentally friendly water-based finishes, using recyclable packing products, and reducing packaging volumes to better utilize container space. They also make it a priority to tell the real stories of their supply chain, the production processes, the wonderful talents of their overseas partners, and the efforts to reduce impact on the environment and the waste stream.
Later additions to the Enrico line take their cues from the bamboo and fir product attributes: sustainable, reclaimed, environmentally friendly, and “eco-intelligent”, an Enrico-coined term for products that incorporate conscientiously sourced materials in inventive ways to create truly unique products. Many of the designs from the bamboo collection have been reproduced in fast-growing acacia; bamboo root items and hand-collected hardwood root products have been added in recent years; a whole range of products made from highly sustainable mango wood is a current favorite, and there are more reclaimed goods in the works. Enrico continues to seek out these treasure troves of natural wonder, to specify new products blending the artistic with the utilitarian from their great array of materials, and to bring them to market in cost-effective ways.