Michael R. Duck is an inventor and entrepreneur living in Nova Scotia. Working out of his basement in 1985, he created a machine that puts a precise amount of cream in a cup of coffee. Today, his company sells his “SureShot” machines throughout the U.S. and Canada; anyone who’s bought coffee at a Starbucks, McDonald’s, or 7-Eleven has probably used his invention.
Michael C. Duck (the one whose byline is on this article) is a writer and editor who lives in Bethlehem, PA. He’s a reporter for a daily newspaper, and he’s been Crunchable’s editor guy for a little over a year.
Michael C. Duck: Have ever spoken with anyone else named “Michael Duck”?
Michael R. Duck: Nope!
MCD: Well, there you go. First time. … What was your reaction when you learned another guy named Michael Duck wanted to interview you?
MRD: Well, y’know, it’s kinda funny, ’cuz I travel a lot, and whenever I travel around, I always look in the phone book to look for other Ducks. And you don’t find many. The only place you find ’em is in Toronto. …
Probably the biggest difference [between us] is that I’m a black Duck. You’re probably a white Duck.
MCD: (laughs) That’s also true! I was gonna get to that. … I’m descended from a man named John Duck who emigrated from Athlone, Ireland, and went to Ohio. Um, is there any chance that we’re related?
MRD: Well, I never really did a whole lot of, uh, genealogy. … But from what I understand, our name came from Wales. And that’s close enough, right?
MCD: That’s pretty close.
MRD: Close enough. It’s hard to say for sure. …
MCD: Tell me about your company and what it does.
MRD: We manufacture portion control dispensing equipment.
MCD: And what does that mean?
MRD: Down your way, if you were to walk into, let’s say, a Dunkin’ Donuts and order a coffee, and if they prepared it for you with cream and sugar in it, they would use my dispenser. Or a Starbucks, McDonald’s, Chick-Fil-A, 7-Eleven, Hess Oil, Tim Hortons … We’re the largest manufacturer of portion control dispensing equipment in the industry.
MCD: And I understand your product is called the “SureShot,” and that you pretty much developed it in your basement?
MRD: Yep! A hundred percent. …
Basically what happened is, I worked my way up to a position called “plant engineer” for a local dairy company. [Every day, I was] picking up coffee a local Tim Hortons shop and complaining about getting too much cream in the coffee. My boss said, “Stop complaining — do something about it!” … So, I made a machine. …
It began as a hobby, for almost five years. … I had a great job at the dairy, making great money, but I was making more money selling my machine. … I decided after five years of doing both, I was holding somebody else back at the dairy, and it was time to give one of ’em up. …
So by then, by 1990, I was still working out of my basement. I had one employee with me, part time. And we were probably doing $400,000 worth of sales out of the basement.
Around late ’96, I started really formalizing the company, bringing in the office workers [and other employees.] By ’97, I was probably up to 11 people working out of the basement of my house, using 30 tons of machinery. We were doing a million dollars worth of sales out of the basement of the house.
MCD: Thirty tons of machinery in the basement of your house?!
MRD: Yeah … I bought a machine one year that cost me a quarter million dollars. It was worth more than the house was. …
(From the eds: Michael R. Duck’s company, A.C. Dispensing Equipment Inc., did eventually move out of his basement. By 2002, it was big enough to buy out another company, and in the following year it moved into a 65,000-square-foot manufacturing plant and offices in Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia.)
MCD: I also understand you do a lot of lectures at business seminars and that sort of thing?
MRD: We do business seminars, speaking with schools and colleges — you know, just out having fun. Trying to encourage people to take a chance.
Too many people end up 65 years old and retired, … saying, “You know, I had that idea once. I should have tried that.” Go out and take on the challenge! and see what difference you can make. …
MCD: How do the audiences react when they hear your name?
MRD: Um … I never thought about that.
MCD: That’s not something I think about, y’know? Hey, it’s me. Y’know, I’m confident. I know who I am — I know my ablilities, I know my weaknesses. And my name is not one of them.
MCD: (laughs) I know what you mean. … For people who know you, do you go by Mike or by Michael?
MRD: I go by anything.
MCD: Yeah, that’s my answer to that question, too.
MRD: I go by anything. You can call me “Ducky,” you can call me whatever you want to call me. … It doesn’t bother me none.
MCD: You just roll with it.
MRD: I’m fun! I’m all about fun. You know, everything I do. …
MCD: As a reporter, I’m also constantly calling people on the phone, and very often, they’re convinced they’ve heard my last name incorrectly. So, for years, I’ve been identifying myself, almost in one breath, as “Michael Duck, like the bird.”
MRD: Yeah, I go, “Michael Duck,” [and then] I normally spell it: “D-U-C-K.” And they still don’t get it, so I’ll go, “You know, ‘quack quack!’ ”
MRD: They always want to misspell it. They want to write “Buck.” They want to write “Tuck” down. Nobody wants to write “Duck” down.
MCD: Right — they always assume they must have heard it wrong.
MRD: Yeah. But, you always joke with people about it, you know. And you always get the jokes.
You know, my father was almost named “Donald.”
MCD: Oh dear …
MRD: But you see, but when he was born, Donald Duck wasn’t even [created yet.] Walt Disney wasn’t even doing nothin’ with Donald Duck then. And I always tell people he was big enough to handle it anyway. …
MCD: So, I want to make sure I have this right: you grew up in New Jersey, and you live now in Nova Scotia?
MRD: Right. … I was 15 years old when I moved here.
MCD: When you were growing up in New Jersey and when you were a teenager in Nova Scotia, what were other kids saying about your name?
MRD: (pause) Nothing.
MCD: Because, see, I always got a lot of [people calling me] “Ducky!” and all sorts of puns based on the last name.
MRD: No, I never did. I mean, y’know, back in Jersey, … I knew people named “Chicken” — he called himself “Chik-EEN” — and friends named “Hogg.” So, you know …
[But] I can remember when we first moved here. One of my father’s friends, we met at beach vacation up here all the time. He invited the whole family over for dinner — seven of us altogether, four boys and one girl and mom and dad. …
See, we were eating this bird, game [he had shot.] And my father asked him what it was. He said it was “black duck.”
My father told him, “Well, this is one 250-pound duck you will never shoot!”
So, you have fun with it. … We were just Ducks. It wasn’t one of those things that I ever questioned. … That’s the name my dad gave me, that’s the name I use.
MCD: (laughs) Well, there you go.
MRD: I’m proud of it. Gotta keep it clean.