Cool Companies 2013

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A midtown couple carves out a unique niche in adhesive wood panels and lands a contract with a national design retailer. It may be time to think of your walls as a plank canvas.

Stikwood adds a warm touch to the walls of the Franklin Pictures production company’s office in midtown. (Courtesy of Franklin Pictures)

Master carpenter Jerry McCall remembers the exact moment he first set foot on the path that would lead him to found Stikwood. He was standing in former Disney chief Michael Ovitz’s bedroom in Los Angeles, having just placed $60,000 worth of Ming Dynasty-style end tables he had built for the Hollywood mogul. “It really bothered me that this guy could buy a thousand of me,” McCall remembers, “and I decided I didn’t want to do it anymore.”

Flash forward to present-day Sacramento, where McCall’s hot start-up Stikwood crafts do-it-yourself peel-and-stick wooden wall treatments using chic materials like reclaimed wine barrel staves, slivered fencing and distressed oak. Sought after online among homeowners, Stikwood has also just been picked for bricks-and-mortar distribution by the home design giant West Elm, a subsidiary of Williams-Sonoma. Other national retailers like Anthropologie, Tommy Bahama and Cost Plus World Market have used their products, as have local restaurants like LowBrau, the new Cafe Bernardo in the Pavilions, and Hock Farm Craft & Provisions, enchanted that they can install Stikwood walls overnight.

The seed of the idea came in 2008, when McCall took a job in Sacramento managing a company that made wooden floorboards. He soon started a side project to provide finishing services, but later found inspiration on an anniversary trip that McCall and his wife Laura took up the Pacific Coast. Visiting customers along the way, the McCalls began getting more and more requests for products other than flooring.

By the time they arrived in Vancouver, the idea for Stikwood had been born, based in part on another of Jerry’s past projects: building luxe interiors for private jets using ultralight panels and innovative adhesives. Since launching at the 2012 Dwell on Design show in Los Angeles, Stikwood has exploded in popularity, experiencing growth of 400 percent in its first year. “I feel lucky,” Jerry says. “This is not typical. I’ve come up with a lot of products, and this is the first time something has gone [big].”

Stikwood’s Jerry and Laura McCall flank Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston at the Dwell on Design expo in June 2012. (Courtesy of Stikwood)Stikwood is a family affair: Laura handles sales and customer service, and all three of the McCalls’ adult children are working for the company—as are two of their spouses. None of the kids came to the business with any carpentry-related skill set, but 29-year-old Justin has turned into a fine operations manager, 27-year-old Michael does much of the tech work, like building the company’s website, and 25-year-old Ashley works with Laura in customer service. The whole family came up with the Stikwood name in an office brainstorming session.

Jerry attributes the success of Stikwood to how accessible it makes a challenging material like wood. As decorative treatments go, Stikwood is moderately priced at about $8 to $12.50 per square foot. But a wall of Stikwood looks like something conceived by an architectural firm and executed by a master carpenter with some serious engineering chops. The product arrives by mail in a neat 5-inch-by-4-foot box, and one pair of hands can install it in a single day without any unique skills beyond the ability to peel backing off of tape strips. Stikwood may be simple, but it’s also substantial: The planking is milled to 1/8 of an inch, and the adhesive is permanent. (The company is developing a removable version for renters and others in search of a temporary cosmetic solution.)

“When I see the weathered wood, I think, ‘How many people have touched this? How many who are no longer here, even?’ ” Laura says. This poetic aspect of Stikwood means the wine barrel staves carry the rich, warm tones of merlots past, and if you’re lucky, your reclaimed fencing might include a panel where lovers years ago carved their initials.

Jerry says he sees an intimate family business with a global following like Stikwood’s as something that could only have come about in the Internet age, merging the best of design innovation, personal craftsmanship, manufacturing technology and global distribution. “We [had] a customer in Denmark putting it into a shop, sending us pictures, really excited,” he says, referring to design firm Kompleet using Stikwood in a WHSmith bookstore at the Copenhagen airport. “And we get the satisfaction of hearing about it firsthand.”

Through that connectivity, the team envisions a future of ambitious new applications for their vintage wooden wares. “Come up with something we can make, and we’ll make it. I’d love to get to a point where [we] can showcase designers and their products and have [them] be part of our full-circle thing,” Jerry says, referring to Stikwood’s mission to use and spread the use of reclaimed wood. “That’s the emotional driver behind what we do.” —Hillary Louise Johnson