CHIPPEWA FALLS, WI — It’s Father’s Day, 2010. I’m sitting in Connell’s Orchard shop chatting with 9-year-old Sydney Claxton, his father Jeremy, and baker Ralph Couey. The topic is inventions, specifically Sydney’s entry for his third grade invention fair: the curvy brat bun.
Unlike the other inventions, gadgets that stop pencils from rolling off your desk or that pre-crush gumballs so you don’t choke on them, Sydney’s invention has had a lifespan beyond school. It’s actually being sold, with his share of the proceeds going to his college fund.
“I might be able to pay for college when I am 12,” Sydney pipes up optimistically.
The buns sell for $2.50 for a pack of five at Connell’s Orchard shop in Chippewa Falls, WI. It was Sydney’s idea to package the buns in sets of five because he noticed that curved brats in the area are sold five to a pack. Making these sorts of simple observations prompted his invention in the first place.
“He said to me, ‘Daddy, how come brats are curved, but the buns are straight?’”Jeremy Claxton recalls.
“I remember I was going around a slight corner of the road and I had to wait for the corner to end to turn around and say, ‘Dude, I don’t have an answer for you.’”
When the invention fair came around, the father-son team revisited the question. They searched for curvy brat buns on the Internet, but each search they tried showed “no results found.”
Armed with what they thought was a solid idea, they then had to turn another corner, so to speak – how to actually make the buns?
“We attempted it at home…” says Jeremy Claxton. “And it didn’t work,” says Sydney. “It didn’t work out at all,” says Claxton. “They turned out like rocks.”
The setbacks in the kitchen didn’t stop Claxton from trying to help his son present well at the fair. He went searching for a baker, contacting 12 of them before he found someone who agreed to help: baker Ralph Couey of Connell’s Orchard.
From there, it was trial and error.
“I had dough to feed the ducks for a while,” says Claxton.
The buns have a pleasing slightly malty flavor and a two-part texture. The inside is soft, but the outside is a few notches harder than a hot dog bun.
Couey says he tried to create a bun whose flavor paired well with meat, but whose texture could hold up to juicy brats and loads of condiments.
“I don’t think if it was a softer bread, even if it was curved, I don’t know if it would hold up as nice,” says Couey.
Claxton is now working with a Minneapolis law firm to secure a patent, trademark, and license for the product. While Sydney isn’t quite sure what to make of the hoopla surrounding his invention (he’s been away at camp since school ended, so he’s just now getting back to business), his dad seems pleased with the interest his son’s idea has prompted.
“It’s kind of neat and exciting that I can tell my 9-year-old son, “Go on the Internet and type in your own name and see what happens. Look at all the articles and people talking about you.” (The last time they checked, there were 180,000 hits.)
Looking at his son, Jeremy Claxton says, “if everything goes well, he may have patent by the time he turns 10.”
What they were eating (when developing Sydney’s curvy brat buns):
Sydney Claxton: brat, ketchup, and relish (his ideal meal would also include potato salad and baked beans)
Jeremy Claxton: brat covered in a healthy portion of mustard, relish, and onion
Ralph Couey: Honeycrisp apple brat, 7-year-old aged cheddar