It is not mere nostalgia to suppose that the Mullany family and Wiffle Ball Inc. reflect what many think is best about the plastics industry in general and American business in particular. The Shelton, Conn., company — profiled last issue — produces a low-cost, quality product of ingenious familial design, the Wiffle ball, and plastic practice golf balls. It makes them in Connecticut, where nearly 50 years ago the late David N. Mullany experienced the epiphany of the American dream — he designed a simple item the public loves in the form of a perforated plastic ball.
It assured several generations of the family work, a good income and Connecticut a tax-producing business and employer of solid character.
The Mullanys have not opted to move offshore for cheap labor, lower taxes or to escape world-class environmental regulation. They have, in the nature of self-sufficient, unpretentious and realistic New Englanders, determined that their needs and the requirements of their business are met quite well in the industrially historic northeastern United States.
The company's 20 employees (give or take a few, depending on the season), produce the Wiffle ball product on two Impco injection molding machines that are among the industry's village elders. The bats are precision molded at nearby Hartford Plastics Inc. of Windsor, Conn. The ball-and-bat combo retails for just $3, according to reporter Bill Bregar, who visited the Mullanys and found their company unburdened by business school jargon or New Age thinking.
Once, years ago, the family expanded into custom molding.
``But,'' said David N. Mullany's grandson, David J., ``at some point my dad and my grandfather said, `Let's keep it simple and do what we do best.' ''
What Wiffle Ball Inc. does best is to produce a quality product that meets and often exceeds the expectations of its customers. The Mullanys don't waste time, as another New Englander, Ralph Waldo Emerson once observed, ``weaving sand.''
Nothing astonishes people so much as common sense.