NoiseBuster makes for a quieter placeIt's a beautiful...



NoiseBuster makes for a quieter place

It's a beautiful evening, so you and your spouse go out to the porch to enjoy the breezes and some conversation. No sooner do you sit down than a neighbor fires up the Lawnmower from Hell.

Noise Cancellation Technologies, a Stamford, Conn.-based company dedicated to making the world a quieter place, is marketing a new product that is touted as a solution to such auditory assaults.

The NoiseBuster, which was developed at Noise Cancellation's research and development lab in Linthicum, is being billed as the first consumer audio headset that employs "anti-noise" technology to mute obnoxious sounds while allowing the user to hear speech, music or warning signals.

The lightweight device is Noise Cancellation's first foray into the consumer market. Its previous products were restricted to industrial uses because of their high cost -- up to $1,200.

Here's how it works: The headset picks up noise in the range of 30 to 1,500 Hz and feeds it into an electronic device. The device analyzes the noise and generates an equal but opposite sound wave to cancel out 50-95 percent of the offending din.

Company spokesman Rich Schineller says the 30-1,500 Hz range includes such annoying noises as lawn mowers, weed cutters, jets and road sounds. Such sounds as the human voice fall outside that range, he adds.

The NoiseBuster clips to the user's clothing or belt and can be used alone or together with such sound equipment as a Walkman, the company says.

For now, the NoiseBuster is available only through the Herrington catalog or by calling the company at (800) 228-3141, Mr. Schineller says. However, the company is actively seeking retail outlets, he says. The price is $149, but if the NoiseBuster follows the pattern of other consumer electronics innovations, the price will fall as volume builds.

Ex-marketing director ventures into retail

Many people take a gamble on a retail venture, but few do it with the flair, humor and gift for self-promotion of Stacey Fortson.

Ms. Fortson, rebounding from her layoff as director of marketing at Sheppard Pratt Hospital, told her story in her announcement of today's opening of Boomerang Words & Gifts, an eclectic shop in Timonium Crossing, at York and Timonium roads.

"Recovering from spinal surgery and encased in a body cast at the time of her layoff, Ms. Fortson noticed that most employers were not interested in hiring anyone who looked and walked like a two-legged turtle," she wrote.

"Depressed and frustrated with her lifelong career, Ms. Fortson decided to leave the troubled hospital business and try her hand at something that does work, RETAIL."

Veteran retailers might quarrel with that optimistic assessment, but Ms. Fortson, 40, is jumping into her new career with enthusiasm. "To me it's a lot cleaner. People come to a store to buy things. I'm here to sell things. . . I just think it's a lot more honest way to make a living," said Ms. Fortson, a registered nurse with an M.B.A. degree.

She'll be selling books, CDs, tapes, Fairies, dragons, jewelry, stuffed animals, pewter, greeting cards, elves, kites, mermaids, windsocks, meditation supplies, Native American goods, Oriental, American and African crafts, calligraphy and wind chimes. "It is a very strange store," she said.

Landover company to make 'Igdoof' wear

Igdoof might not be a household word now, but Jewel & Co. is betting that someday it be.

The Landover-based sportswear company has just signed a contract with Jeff Kinney, creator of the comic strip "Igdoof," for the rights to print and distribute shirts and other paraphernalia based on what it bills as the "World's Worst Comics."

Never heard of Igdoof? Then you must not be a student at the University of Maryland, Towson State University or Johns Hopkins University and a dozen other East Coast colleges where the strip appears in the campus newspapers.

Igdoof the Maladjusted College Student is only one of the comic creations of Mr. Kinney, a 22-year-old UM senior with a gift for low humor. Other characters, soon to appear on a T-shirt near you, include Ugly Eugene, Manny the Talking Sideburn, Pooshfa the Disgruntled Green Bean and Remedial Ralph.

Mr. Kinney plans to take "Igdoof" into syndication next year, and Jewel obviously recalls that a fellow named Garry Trudeau got his start drawing a college comic strip about a character named "Doonesbury."

Decorating Den has new franchise strategy

Decorating Den Systems Inc., one of the largest and most successful franchise companies based in Maryland, is changing its strategy for reaching $1 billion in sales by 2000.

Earlier plans had called for expanding the van-based decorating service chain from 1,200 franchises to 5,000. But now the company has scrapped that numerical goal to let high-earning ++ owner-operators expand their earnings by taking on staff and running multiple vans.

James Bugg Jr., the company's chief operating officer, says the trial "executive franchise" program would let some franchisees who have topped out at about $200,000 in annual sales to grow to $400,000-$500,000.

"Our target is $1 billion in retail sales and if we can do that with 2,500 franchisees instead of 5,000, everybody wins," Mr. Bugg said. Decorating Den, based in Bethesda, had sales of $60 million last year, he adds.

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