You know the old saying about selling snow to an Eskimo?
Well, that's one way to explain the Flat Win Co., the business/art project of David Scherer Water of Olympia.
Although he hasn't yet sold rain to Western Washington, Scherer Water does sell, among other things, dirt, rocks, gravel and - perhaps most impressive - nothing.
Scherer Water demonstrates the virtues of these products at Olympia's twice-yearly Arts Walk and the annual Lakefair.
In the four and a half years since he started the company, he has sold, he says, more than 5,000 products - including combs, flattened beer cans, twigs and, of course, nothing.
He says this, though, in character.
Yes, there are two David Scherer Waters. One is the salesman who'll say anything to make a buck. Literally, since that's how much the products cost. I'll call him Flat Scherer Water.
The other is the real Scherer Water, a comedian whose motto, hanging on the wall of a room behind Batdorf & Bronson Coffeehouse (516 Capitol Way, Olympia) that serves as the "headquarters" of Flat Win, is: "It's funny if it's hard to tell it's a joke."
And when he's not packaging and selling the such dubious consumer goods as burnt toast, Scherer Water works for a holding company called Deskoba, manages the Martin apartments and produces "The 10-Minute Show," a radio (11:23 p.m. Thursday on KAOS) and Web (tenminuteshow.com) program. On New Year's Eve, he hosted a ball drop and Snow Rave, complete with manufactured snow, outside the Martin.
So is Flat Win just a joke?
Yes, Scherer Water says. "This is not a real company."
Flat Win headquarters isn't a real headquarters, although Scherer Water does hang out there (or at least he did this interview there), and the company phone number, said to be a 24-hour customer service line, leads only to an answering machine. Voice mails are sometimes listened to but never returned.
But then again, no. The items are jokes, but they are jokes that can be purchased at actual stores and on the Internet at buyolympia.com. And they do, it seems, generate some small amount of money.
Not that Scherer Water knows how much that is. Flat Scherer Water happily tells me how many items he's sold, but out of character, Scherer Water readily admits he doesn't keep records.
There is some real work involved. Scherer Water has cards printed, uses a hot-glue gun to affix object to card and places the whole thing in a plastic bag. And Flat Scherer Water does product demonstrations at Arts Walk and Lakefair and for passersbys who find him at headquarters.
But the products are not, for the most part, produced. "I never have products that are anything but part of the waste stream," he says.
Take the toast. Scherer Water picks up too-stale-to-sell bread from Franz Bakery Outlet Store and burns it himself.
And the combs, the product that started it all, were, he says, left at his doorstep by a retired school photographer. The story sounds true, and yet it suspiciously also appears in The Flat Win Catalog, a mostly fictional booklet describing the company's real - and yet Flat - offerings and such fake ones as Chain-Saw-in-a-Can.
The catalog's author is David Goldberg - which is, Scherer Water says, an alias. An alias, apparently, for Flat Scherer Water, since Goldberg is also the president and founder of the Flat Win Co.
The Flat Win Co.
Products are available at Archibald Sisters, 406 Capitol Way, Olympia, and online at buyolympia.com.
"The 10-Minute Show" looks at a new Flat Win product: vimeo.com/34945272