By KEVIN CHIRI
Tammany West news
COVINGTON – The success for businessman/entrepreneur/inventor Todd Tunstall might best be summed up in a remark from his wife, Debbie.
“He is a genius and doesn’t know it,” she said as she smiled at her husband, sitting on their back porch in front of a small lake in their Covington apartment.
Todd Tunstall probably does realize today that he is more than your weekend do-it-yourselfer.
After building a highly successful North Shore electronics business from the 1980s to the mid-2000s, then watching it all go to bankruptcy, Tunstall was never a guy to give up and call it quits.
That’s not what entrepreneurs do.
Today he is managing his new business—the “Cajun Rocket Pot”—that is all his creation after he invented a boiling pot for crawfish and other seafood that reaches a boil in only five minutes—less than half the time of conventional pots.
The Cajun Rocket Pot is selling faster than Tunstall and his production plant in Covington can make them, already expanding to offer up to 45 different pots, and most recently, the Pro Pot—an all-in-one boiling system that includes the burner, pots and more.
Tunstall, now age 56, admits, “I’ve never felt so proud of myself, and the seven great employees we have, for what we have done.”
But the truth is that Tunstall is the inventor behind the Cajun Rocket Pot. The idea for the pot began in 2009 when he was at a crawfish boil—one of his favorite outings—and once again was frustrated with the length of time it took to get the water to boil.
“It always drove me crazy that it took so long to boil,” he said. “I always knew the pot was the problem.”
Tunstall had the knowledge to understand the boiling problem, all derived from his background in electronics, something that began as early as the age of 12 when he hung out with his neighbor across the street–the former owner of Muzak in New Orleans, Macy Teetor.
“He taught me about electronics and how to repair TVs when I was 12,” Tunstall said. “I loved it and went into that for my profession.”
Tunstall got an Associate’s Degree from Delgado, then later got his FCC license and technician’s license. The science behind electronics would allow Tunstall to make a living working for TV repair companies until he moved to the North Shore in 1986, starting North Shore Electronics and watching his own business find great success during the early years of surround sound. His shop handled repairs, but also sold plenty of equipment during the changing TV industry and music time frame.
When he tried to expand to Hammond in 2007 his business went bust when consumers began going in a different direction.
Fast forward to 2009 and Tunstall kept looking at the pot of crawfish that was taking too long to boil.
“My electronics knowledge is what helped me,” he explained. “So I started building new pots that had dozens of aluminum studs on the bottom, allowing for faster heat distribution.”
Tunstall was fighting his failing electronics business during the time he was determined to create a “new and better mousetrap” in the way of a faster boiling pot. His first prototype came out in 2009 when he spent the entire day individually welding the aluminum studs to the bottom of the pot.
“When I saw an 80-quart pot boil in five minutes I knew I had something,” he said.
He faced another challenge in trying to find a manufacturer who would build the pots with their unique aluminum pegs welder all over the bottom. Unable to find one to do it at a reasonable price, Tunstall built the production machines himself and by 2010 formed a new company, raised $80,000 and started making the Cajun Rocket Pot.
“Once people saw them and how well they worked it was an easy sale,” he said.
Acquistapace’s Covington Supermarket was the first store to offer the pots and from the outset the response was overwhelming. He now has them in dozens of locations across five states in the Southeast United States with incredible demand. “We can’t make them fast enough. We are shipping thousands per month now and can barely keep up with the demand,” Tunstall said.
One of his best clients is restaurants where he now offers a 100-gallon unit for commercial use, selling it for $4,000. The faster boiling pot is saving businesses big money on propane.
“That’s what they love,” he said. “They get the crawfish boiled faster and they are saving money boiling it.”
And now the Pro Pot is the newest and hottest item coming out of his two Covington production buildings.
“This complete set with the boiler, the pot, and everything you need for a boil is selling so well it is comprising 50 percent of our business,” Tunstall said. “We can’t make them fast enough either. Our challenge is to produce them faster.”
His son, Patton, one of two children he and Debbie have after being married for 30 years, has been one of his key employees and makes it a family operation.
“He learned so much about electronics watching his dad fix things,” Debbie said about her 27-year-old son. “He used to build Lego toys, and then he learned electronics from his dad. He has been a huge help in the business.”
Tunstall came through a bankruptcy with his first business, and a difficult time in 2008 when his father died, all at the same time he was leading up to his new adventure, resulting in the Cajun Rocket Pot.
Now the sky appears to be the limit for the Covington entrepreneur and inventor.
“Most people don’t get a chance at age 50 to try it again with your business,” he said. “What we have now was worth every minute of the challenges Debbie and I went through. I’m happy it all came out the way it did.”
The pots can be viewed and purchased at cajunrocketpot.com.