With the Fuller Brush Man nearly impossible to find these days, and door-to-door encyclopedia salesmen gone forever, Calvin Davis has found himself among a dying breed of men.
But Davis, who's been selling a cleaning solution he invented in high school door-to-door for 16 years, said he's not stopping any time soon.
"I love meeting customers one-on-one and face-to-face," said Davis, 39. "I could never sit behind a desk."
When Davis was 15 and "goofing around in chem class," he invented the product he would come to call "Thriller." At 18, he answered an ad in the newspaper for traveling magazine salesmen, and saw the country.
"It was the best thing to do when I was young," he said. "Some people save up all year to go to Florida, but I was there. And I was learning how to do door-to-door sales really well."
In 1983, Davis returned to Buffalo and decided to start his own business.
After receiving USDA approval of his cleaning product and city permits to sell door-to-door, Davis hooked up with a friend of his parents, a man he refers to only as "Mr. Dixon," who now manufacturers at least 1,200 bottles of the pink "secret formula" a year.
Davis, who hits about 30 houses every day -- summer and winter -- said he averages 5 sales a day. He admits that some customers are weary of door-to-door salesmen, but said that Buffalo and suburban residents tend to be quite open to him and his product.
"I'm a likable guy, people get their product on-the-spot and I always have a permit," Davis said. "People trust me."
Thriller boasts an ability to clean most any surface and remove all stains -- with the exception of red Kool-Aid. Davis said he makes sales because he can show people that his product works on stains in their own home.
"If you sell at a stand at the fair, people will wonder if it really works," he said. "But when they see me get stains up from the carpet in their own living room, or from the shower in their own bathroom, they believe it, and buy it."
Thriller costs $23.95 for a one-quart bottle. It's price lowers as quantity increases. Davis, for example, charges $124.95 for 12 quarts.
Davis said the key to successful door-to-door sales is never to miss a house.
"You go to the biggest house on the street and the smallest," he said. "Even if a recession hits tomorrow, all people, rich or poor, have got to clean their house."
Thriller is going online in November, a move aimed at making ordering easier for repeat customers -- who are the majority of Davis' business now.
But Davis said that no matter how successful the web site is, he'll always walk door-to-door.
"There's still some people without a computer, so I'll have to keep walking until my legs go out," he said. "I know the streets around here better than a cab driver. I'll always be out there."