Laura McCall and her husband, Jerry McCall, often had batted around quite a few product ideas over the years, but on a drive down Route 1 to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary, they began discussing how to offer do-it-yourselfers an easy way to create a wooden accent wall or ceiling.
Back at home, Jerry McCall started playing around with ideas. He attached a piece of wood to a wall, and when his wife walked in, she saw it and thought, “Hey, that looks really good. I think I could sell that.”
She asked her husband to create thin strips of wood that people could attach to walls. The idea sounded simple enough, Laura McCall said, but her husband had 25-plus years of experience with wood and he knew that it would expand or contract depending on the humidity and the temperature surrounding it.
“People that have a lot of experience with wood know about the movement and the different problems you can have with it,” Laura McCall said, “but see, me as an artist, not understanding any of that, I figured he could make it work and I went and sold it.”
They began the spade work for their new product and business, known as Stikwood, in 2010, but sales didn’t really take off until 2012 when they launched their website. The McCalls introduced it in 2013 at the three-day Dwell on Design showcase, billed as America’s largest design event, and Dwell magazine editors selected it as the No. 1 standout product among the 2,000-plus products featured at the show. Sales of Stikwood took off.
“I would go to Jerry and say, ‘I think there’s something here,’ ” said Laura McCall, who runs Stikwood’s day-to-day operations. “And he would say, ‘OK, when you get to $30,000 a month in sales, then we know we’ve done it.’ I hit $30,000, and he said, ‘OK, when you get to $50,000.’ It kept going and going and going.”
The McCalls ship their product to thousands of designers, architects, general contractors and do-it-yourselfers around the world from an industrial park not far from the former Sacramento Army Depot. Every piece of Stikwood is manufactured at their headquarters. Most sales are made at www.stikwood.com, but Stikwood also sells at the upscale West Elm retail stores.
The McCalls have invested in machinery that thinly slices layers from reclaimed wood, and Jerry McCall developed an effective adhesive and determined the best place to put it on the back of each panel. The couple have developed uses for every part of the reclaimed lumber they source. Contractors bring them old barn wood, gym floors, oak staves and the like.
The exterior faces of the boards often have a weathered-look that is highly prized, Laura McCall said, so they may leave the natural color or add a slight tint to them. They have begun printing patterns on the core of many boards. If they’re left with thin strips of wood only a few inches wide, they combine them into square or rectangular pieces of wall art that can be hung in a room. Any waste goes over to a biomass facility right around the corner from the Stikwood factory.
Indeed, the couple are a little obsessed about eliminating waste. Jerry McCall started out working on building sites as a young man, he said, and it would drive him crazy to see all the waste.
“We would just cut and pile garbage and haul it off,” he said. “I was just like, ‘Why can’t I just buy the wood exactly the size I need it? Why do I have to buy a 10-foot piece?’ If you bought a dishwasher (the way they construct buildings), you’d order three dishwashers and get them all delivered to your house. You’d take one and toss it in the Dumpster out front. ... You’d take another one, you’d build it in and cover it up because you’re never going to use it, but it’s there, and you’d install one and use it.”
The McCalls, both in their early 50s, used every penny of their retirement savings to launch the business, Laura McCall said, and for several years, they poured whatever profit they made back into it. Today, Stikwood employs 50 people, including two of the couple’s three children.
“I worked 20 hours a day for years, literally cutting wood, answering the phone, doing customer service,” Laura McCall said. “You don’t get paid first. You get paid last, if there’s money left.”
McCall said she’s received pressure to move production overseas and reduce costs, but she doesn’t feel she could provide the same level of customer service or quality control if she did. The customer service, she said, often is just as rewarding for her and her employees as it is for the customer.
“People call and ask us, ‘What color do you think I should use here?’ ” she said. “Then they send us pictures. We really feel like we were part of their project.”
Look closely when you visit Sacramento businesses, and you’re bound to spot a little Stikwood. Fleet Feet franchisee Will Roxburgh is using the product on columns at the store he opened in Folsom on Nov. 15.
Eric Knopf, co-founder of Sacramento’s Webconnex, was one of the early Stikwood adopters. He and an employee created a wood accent wall at their office in 455 Capitol Mall back in 2012. Visitors comment on it all the time, he said, and they often go and touch it and then express surprise that the wood is real.
Stacy Paragary, a partner in the Paragary Restaurant Group, has integrated Stikwood into three of that company’s Sacramento restaurants: Hock Farm at 1415 L St., Café Bernardo at 515 Pavilions Lane and most recently at Paragary’s at 1401 28th St.
“In the first two, I used their peel and stick wood products for walls,” Paragary said. “At Pavilions I also had them do custom box beams, the solid oak bar top and oak table tops. At Paragary’s, they provided the wood bar top – a solid piece of Claro walnut.”
Businesses really like the fact that this product allows them to remodel quickly, Laura McCall said.
“The first hotel we did, they were able to finish three rooms overnight,” McCall said. “If you’re a commercial restaurant or a store or something, you can actually shut down in the evening, remodel and open back up in the morning and not have any down time.”