What inspired Eliot Kohen to create the Sonora Menorah, a plastic menorah that looks like a saguaro cactus?
“The fact is that it just sort of popped into my head,” says the Tucson resident, who retired to the Old Pueblo in 2012. “We were driving around one afternoon, just loving the saguaros, and I looked up and said, ‘Geez. That looks like a menorah.’ ” Having owned an advertising specialty firm that “put logos on everything from coffee mugs and pens to shirts and bank bags and key chains,” he saw sales potential in a saguaro-shaped menorah.
Researching whether any saguaro-shaped menorahs were out there and finding none, he and his wife, Mickii, began creating one. They sketched out a design and hired a computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) contractor in the Valley to translate that design into digital files that a manufacturer could use to produce the item. After some tweaking, they had a 3-D printing contractor print out a prototype.
“In my previous business in New Mexico, I had established a relationship with a manufacturers’ broker in China,” Kohen said, and the broker helped him find a company there to make the menorahs. “We really tried to find an American company to manufacture them. They’re made out of a very, very durable, injected-molded plastic composite, and all of the American sources required huge amounts of money upfront and enormous minimum quantities.”
The Kohens got their first stock from China about a year ago and began selling, but “I was about to throw my hands up in despair, and then all of a sudden the orders started coming in,” he said. “It’s proven to be a very seasonal thing.”
When he got his first prototype, he showed it to a friend while they were at lunch. The restaurant workers were so interested in the saguaro-shaped candelabra that “I decided that, rather than just try to sell it to the Jewish market, that we would use the same product in a different box” for the mainstream market, selling it as “Luces del Desierto (Desert Lights).”
He ships them via the U.S. Postal Service, and expects that orders placed by the end of November should arrive in time for Hanuakkah. They’re available locally at Congregation Beth Israel’s gift shop. For more details, visit sonoramenorah.com.