AYER -- It's not an Oscar, but it's still a nice consolation prize.
One local company has landed a place in a gift bag worth more than $85,000 that will be given out to the losers of five top categories in the Academy Awards.
R. Murphy Knives received a call from the California-based company Distinctive Assets just last week, offering owners Mark Furman and Mimi Younkins the prospect of placing their product in the hands of A-list celebrities.
The call from California took the husband-and-wife team completely by surprise.
"We weren't sure if it was a scam or not," Furman said. "That was our first reaction because it was so out of the blue."
Anyone from Julia Roberts to Matthew McConaughey could be going home with the knife set, which includes two oyster knives, a clam knife and a crabmeat knife. The bags are given to nonwinners in the categories of best actor and actress, best supporting actor and actress, and director.
Host Ellen DeGeneres will be receiving one, too.
"It would be very exciting if Ellen wore our T-shirt on her show someday, or if we knew that Meryl Streep was opening oysters with our oyster knife," Younkins said.
Distinctive Assets, the company that has put together the "swag bag" for the Oscars for 12 years, looks for products from both small and big companies. This year's bag includes gifts ranging from electrolyte spray supplements for pets to walking tours in Japan.
Tina Ansah, director of entertainment marketing, said she found out about R. Murphy Knives through a posting on the Daily Grommet, a website that highlights unique products.
"They introduce products that I just think are befitting for Hollywood, considering that we have so many of those new dining, cooking, kitchen shows," she said.
Hollywood's best actors will be receiving one of the food industry's best knives from a company that has been around since 1850. The featured New Haven Oyster knife was named best oyster knife in the United States by America's Test Kitchen. Their Narragansset knife included in the set was previously an exclusive only to Hog Island Oyster Farm in California.
For the small company, business has been booming thanks to a flood of recent media. Four years ago, the only people who knew R. Murphy Knives were its industrial customers, Furman said. Since Furman and his wife bought the company in 2009, they've embarked on a re-branding effort.
When chef Rowan Jacobson recommended their Wellfleet oyster knife in a feature on oysters in the Wall Street Journal, demand skyrocketed.
"We had so many orders for our oyster knife after that that we were just amazed," Furman said.
This is not the company's first Hollywood debut -- their Duxbury oyster knife had a starring role in Sandra Bullock's leg in "The Heat." Bullock's character gets stabbed with the knife, which has a few minutes on the big screen.
A lot of effort goes into crafting these tiny blades, a lengthy process that is all done at the small manufacturing building on Groton Harvard Road. The steel is cut with an old machine that has been around since World War II, after which it is given a tiny hole and straightened through a rolling machine that perfectly straightens the metal.
The blades are heated with a scalding salt treatment, undergoing many more perfection processes until they become the chef's perfect companion, the owners note. Even the wooden knife handles -- called "scales" -- are crafted in the building from African Rosewood, Bubinga wood and more.
Younkins said the company had to pay a fee to be included in the "swag bag," but it was less than they have paid for being a sponsor or participant in various trade shows and other events.
The space in the gift bag is just another big step for the small local company.
"It's exciting," she said. "There are a lot of things in that bag, but we're the only knives, they told us."
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