Parents eager for the gift of silence, yet repelled by the idea of toting their kids around with inelegant stoppers stuffed in their tiny mouths, may find an oral alternative in the creation of Henry “Chip” Meahan of Atlantic Highlands, N.J., producer of the ultimate sucker. Meahan’s invention, called the Paciface, is a new twist on an old parenting requisite, the pacifier. Pacifaces work like any other pacifier, complete with orthodontic nipples. But the plastic mouth coverings come in three antic styles so far. One version sports a pair of red lips that make even colicky kids look happy. A second comes with a toothy grin. A third flaunts a mustache—perfect for Hallo-weaning. Three new designs, now in the works, will be available by the end of the year.
Meahan, 32, a district manager for the Hoover Company, came up with the idea five years ago when he and his wife, Laura, 31, a buyer for 3M Fiber Optic Products, were strolling in a park and met a friend whose baby was sucking a traditional pacifier. “I thought, ‘Babies are so cute, but then you put those ugly things in their mouths,’ ” he recalls. “Then I thought about those wax lips from Halloween.” Laura liked the idea, and so did her father, Tim Brennan, 58, a semiretired engineering executive who agreed to help Chip work on a prototype. “We had a joke,” Tim says, remembering the trial-and-error process. “I’d say, ‘How’s it going, Chip?’ and he’d say, ‘it sucks.’ ” Now Pacifaces have been ordered by such toy-business titans as F.A.O. Schwarz and Toys “R” Us. Some 100,000 Pacifaces have been wholesaled since the product was introduced last August (suggested retail price: $5). Brennan and Meahan expect to sell a million of the small soothers this year.
Meahan says he is well prepared for the day he may have children of his own: “I have a warehouse full of pacifiers.” He feels most small fry get the joke. “Little kids have a pretty good sense of humor,” he says. “My sister’s 1-year-old thinks he’s a riot.” Confirmation of the hilarity comes from Vero Beach, Fla., customer Heidi Rose, who says that when she took her 7-month-old son, Freddie, to the mall wearing a Paciface, he stole the show. “He enjoyed the attention,” she says, “as much as my husband and I did.”
Nobody, though, is savoring the spotlight as much as Meahan. “It’s not how I planned to make a name for myself,” he says, “but it’s a great way to be remembered.”