- Associated Press - Saturday, April 29, 2017

LONG BRANCH, N.J. (AP) - On their routine summertime strolls along the boardwalk, Nathan Zaccaria could see his wife, Fran, squint as she tried to read the text on her iPhone, so he stood in front of her, arms raised to block out the sun, and he wondered if there was a better solution.

He searched the marketplace and found nothing. He gave himself a pep talk. And he went to work, drawing a diagram, transferring it to cloth, building a prototype, and then getting it ready for mass production, step by painstaking step.

“I said, ‘OK, Nat, you’re on,’ ” Zaccaria told the Asbury Park Press (https://on.app.com/2qf1Su8). “Like Tom Edison said many years ago, if you want to become famous, find a need and fill it, which made a lot of sense. And he certainly did. He found a need and filled it. So this is basically what I tried to do. I found a need, and I tried to fill it to the best of my ability.”

Zaccaria has introduced Shady Smart, a case that fits over smartphones and keeps out the glare so that consumers can see the screens outdoors.

At 87, he decided to take advantage of a program from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to get his patent approved quickly. And he has jumped into the growing accessory market for devices. Carry cases and screen protectors alone accounted for $25 billion in sales worldwide last year, said David McQueen, research director for ABI Research in London, a technology consulting firm.

Zaccaria might finally strike it rich. He just missed on some of his ideas, kicking himself over lost opportunities like the skateboard, the tandem stroller and the children’s car seat. He has three other patents that he’s sure would have changed the lives of art students and protected hospitals from fires. If only.

But at this point, there is more at stake.

“He wants to leave some success and prosperity to the family,” his son, Jack Zaccaria, 53, of Howell said. “But not just money, really. It’s to show everybody don’t ever give up.”

THE NEXT BIG THING

Shady Smart sells online at shadysmart.com . It fits the 10 most popular handheld devices. And it comes in two sizes; the smaller costs $24.99, and the bigger, $27.99.

The Zaccarias live in Pier Village. They have four children and 10 grandchildren.

The family has chipped in along the way, coming up with the name, designing the logo, even driving Nathan to the Passaic factory that built the prototype. His neighbors lounging by the pool served as test cases. And Nathan estimated that there hasn’t been a day in the past two-and-a-half years that he hasn’t devoted at least some time to Shady Smart.

The Zaccarias spent about $60,000 out of their own pockets - on the patent, materials, lawyers, the internet site - to bring Shady Smart to market, said Fran, 80, but they think the investment will pay off.

Apple’s Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone 10 years ago, and it was a revolutionary idea. Today, 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone and 69 percent use social media sites, according to a Pew Research Center Report.

The devices are time consuming. Alison DeZaio, 23, of Ocean Township, estimated that she spends six to eight hours a day on her smartphone, texting, checking Instagram, doing school work. She admitted that the glare from the sun forces her to shield the screen with her hand when she uses it outdoors.

Zaccaria showed her his invention and won her endorsement.

Would she spend $25 on it?

“That’s not bad at all,” DeZaio said.

THE ONES THAT GOT AWAY

Time is ticking, and Zaccaria seems to know it. He wrote a poem to his family not long ago, thanking them for helping him accomplish his dream. But the dream seems less about an invention than it is about leaving his mark.

Not that he hasn’t tried. Zaccaria was born during the Great Depression, and he was raised as part of a pre-technology generation that tested his imagination - and stamina. As a teenager in Hudson County in the mid-1940s, he built his family’s summer home in Keansburg. He no longer owns it, but the home still stands.

Zaccaria enlisted in the Air Force during the Korean War and specialized in air traffic control. When he returned to New Jersey, he worked as a home builder, in finance and then, for 30 years, as a hospital administrator. And he met and married Fran, herself a businesswoman who owned an executive search firm for retailers.

The ideas came to him throughout his life. As a boy, he made a scooter out of steel wheels from roller skates and an orange crate, a precursor to the much more lucrative skateboard. As a young father of three toddlers, he attached two strollers together and placed a seat on the handles between them. A few years later, he designed a car seat so his children could look out the window.

“He’s always tinkered,” Fran said. “He’s always done things, constantly.”

The inventions have led to four patents, including a safety door that can protect hospitals in case fires break out in their linen chutes.

“It didn’t go anywhere either because there wasn’t much of a demand,” Zaccaria said wistfully.

THE DIGITAL AGE

Maybe Shady Smart is the one. Walk down the boardwalk and you can’t miss visitors, heads buried in their smartphones looking at a weather forecast, a text, a Facebook post or the location of their Lyft driver.

Jack Zaccaria and his wife, Terese, own Jersey Kitchen, a Brick catering business that they had to rebuild after its location in Manasquan was flooded by superstorm Sandy.

Taking over Shady Smart would be a dream come true, they said, but if the accessory doesn’t make it, that’s OK, too; they are simply happy to see Nathan energized by trying to find a solution to another need, this one created by the digital age.

“The funny thing is he has always wanted to leave a legacy behind, but he doesn’t realize he’s left a legacy behind,” Jack said. “Which is being a great father and grandfather.”

Does he realize it?

Zaccaria walked along the Long Branch boardwalk at a brisk pace one recent day, demonstrating Shady Smart to a new generation seemingly born with smartphones in their hands. The entire week had been cloudy, but the sun was finally shining. Another summer is on the way.

“I’m satisfied with myself,” Zaccaria said. “I’d be more satisfied now if this thing starts selling and I can say, ‘OK kids, I left you something besides a name.’ “

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Online:

https://on.app.com/2qf1Su8

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Information from: Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, https://www.app.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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