Industry: Consumer & Lifestyle
Products: Barware and kitchen products
Popular with urbanites and minimalists worldwide, founder and co-owner David Rasmussen's home goods are crafted with principles of contemporary design.
Growing up in New England, Rasmussen was exposed to fine furniture making from a young age, and has always been "driven by artistic design and aesthetic value," he says.
Rasmussen honed his carpentry skills doing something a little unusual: building handicapped-accessible treehouses with Vermont-based Forever Young Treehouses. Eventually, though, he settled in Carbondale, where he opened a custom furniture shop.
A fire destroyed the shop in 2011. "When I rebuilt my shop," says Rasmussen, "I wanted to gear it toward manufacturing."
Co-owner Gabriel Villarreal, came on board to help Rasmussen pursue custom cabinetry, which is still the main focus of David Rasmussen Design.
Rasmussen hadn't really intended to made additional products, including handsome wood wine and martini glasses, along with wood-on-ceramic tumblers and other cocktail hour accouterments. This product line came into being when Rasmussen made plates for a local café. "They kept telling us how much everyone loved them," says Rasmussen.
Demand for more products grew organically from there. "The martini glass is probably what caught everyone's attention," Rasmussen says. He started making those in 2012, and introduced the wine glasses soon after.
Technically, there's no real functional advantage to using wood over glass for the wine and cocktail glasses. "Well," Rasmussen says, "Wood is an insulator, so with the martini glass, there is a slight advantage if you chill the glass in advance."
But the real selling point is the unique look. It's hard to deny that Rasmussen's products are quintessentially cool. Manufacturing gets some of the credit for that.
"We're a craft manufacturer making small batches of products," Rasmussen says, explaining that his products are fabricated in an 8,000-square-foot space in downtown Carbondale with a range of machinery, from wide-belt sanders and CNC machines to clamp racks.
Rasmussen uses black walnut to make most of his products -- a durable and beautiful hardwood -- though a few Chroma plates and boards come in maple, too. Because he can't "get the right size straight from the mill," Rasmussen says he glues three pieces of processed wood together to get the right thickness for his glasses. "We also have a kiln, where we dry the wood, and a finishing room," adds Rasmussen.
There are plenty of hand steps during finishing, including hand sanding, and it's these custom touches that contribute to a truly beautiful aesthetic. During the finishing process, Rasmussen also puts a "special proprietary finish," he says on products, to "completely seal the wood with an FDA-approved finish, making it food-safe."
Wood is sourced from mills in the Midwest, and Rasmussen works with a local ceramics company to acquire the vessels for his tumblers. For the glasses, he incorporates pops of color with powder-coated aluminum rod stems.
Cheeseboards, added to the catalog in 2013, are currently Rasmussen's most popular offering, and butcher blocks are also available, as well as a few tabletop accessories: a soap dish, a picture frame, coasters, and -- Rasmussen's newest concept -- the Lazy Susan.
Rasmussen's product line currently comprises a quarter of his business, and cabinetry is the remainder. But that doesn't mean the product business isn't booming: Demand has increased exponentially over a decade, and has been most prevalent among New Yorkers and urbanites worldwide. "We sell all over the country, and do some international sales as well," Rasmussen elaborates, noting that he does both direct-to-consumer and wholesale sales.
Challenges: "Staying organized!" Rasmussen says. As business grows, it is important to "manage the process flow through the shop," he adds, noting that, with a small manufacturing business, there are always a lot of different balls in the air at once.
Opportunities: There are plenty of opportunities in online sales that Rasmussen hasn't even begun tapping yet -- "just because we've been so busy," he says.
Needs: More space, which isn't the worst problem to have. Rasmussen and Villarreal are looking at potentially purchasing real estate, where they'll set up a new shop.