PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Ginsu slices, it dices, and it could soon help you get from here to there.
A state lawmaker recently proposed naming a quarter-mile road "Ginsu Way" to honor the Rhode Islanders who slapped a faux-Japanese name onto a cheap serrated knife and used TV infomercials to turn it into a ubiquitous brand parodied by Saturday Night Live.
The infomercials enticed viewers by combining sidewalk-style sales hawking — "But wait, there's more!" "Operators are standing by!" — with visual stunts such as using the knives to chip wood and saw through tin cans and lead pipes.
"The way it was sold really changed the way products are sold all over the world," said Rep. David Caprio, who sponsored the bill. "I thought it deserved recognition."
Caprio proposed the road's name last month after speaking this summer with Ed Valenti, who began marketing Ginsu knives with his partner, Barry Becher, in 1978. Valenti is now the chief operating officer of PriMedia Inc. in Warwick, and the unmarked road that would be christened "Ginsu" runs outside his office.
Valenti and Becher were already using infomercials to sell household goods when they were contacted by the Ohio-based knife maker Douglas Quikut, which wanted to boost sales of its Eversharp kitchen knife.
The Rhode Island marketing duo suggested turning the product into a set of knives, changing the name to the meaningless Japanese-sounding "Ginsu" and selling it on TV.
Their infomercials were the first to take credit card orders and refer buyers to a toll-free telephone number, said Valenti, who recently wrote a business book called "The Wisdom of Ginsu."
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway group bought the parent company of Douglas Quikut, The Scott Fetzer Companies, in 1986. The firm stopped running Ginsu infomercials about a year ago, a company spokeswoman said, although the knife is still on the market.
Mark Zalesky, the editor of Knife World Magazine in Knoxville, Tenn., said the knife isn't high-quality, but its turn on TV made it a success.
"It's the infomercials, and I suppose it's become kind of a pop icon," he said.
Valenti calls the Ginsu his greatest advertising success.
"No matter how you slice it, no pun intended," Valenti said, "it's probably one of the most recognized brand names today."