Author Topic: Bridge City Tools sold to Harvey  (Read 2803 times)

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Offline deepcreek

  • Posts: 801
    • TimberFire Studio
Re: Bridge City Tools sold to Harvey
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2018, 08:21 PM »
The following is reposted from John Economaki's Blog on BCTW.

"Bridge City Tool Works: Chapter Two…
June, 8th, 2018

Drivel Starved Nation!

When you visit our Bridge City office you immediately see a panorama of all the tools we have made over the last 35 years.

Welcome to the Bridge City “Tool Zoo” the sign reads—if only we had one.

When guests arrive, Consuelo presses a secret button under her desk and a live, 220-volt electrode jabs my right thigh indicating that my Zoo Keeper presence is desired. (My concentration skills demand intense diversionary measures….)

When our guests see me crawl out of my man-cave office, they almost universally say:

“WHOA! Do you have a succession plan?”

I used to think it was just the 220-volt zap-to-my-lap that contorted my face, but now I think it is my cadaver-like appearance that prompts this response.

I’m asked the “succession question” frequently and the answer has always been no. My adult kids have their own lives—my daughter is a stay-at-home Mom of two—my son is an expat living in Mexico City, compliments of his employer. I just planned on dying here, probably doing something fun and interesting, like changing the musty filter on the shop vac. That all changed in three consecutive days this past January …

On Monday, January 23rd I arrived at the office with a ridiculously full schedule—my annual work retreat commenced on Friday.

Around 9:30 AM our production coordinator delivered his two-week notice. It’s not something I wanted to learn… in four days I was leaving the office for a month. The notice was certainly bad timing, but not unexpected. (When the unemployment rate in Portland gets below five percent, job hopping reaches its peak.) I told myself that finding a replacement would commence when I returned on March 5th.

The next day, Consuelo, who you all know as my boss, informed me that she is pregnant with baby number 84. I congratulated her (again) and knew immediately she would not be coming back. We have been working together for seven years so this replacement could be a bit problematic, (it’s hard to find employees who agree to be perpetually pregnant) but I have been through key personnel transitions several times before. Change is always good.

However, that evening I realized that after putting myself through college, six years of high school teaching, six years of designing and making furniture, and thirty-five years of running Bridge City, I did not have the energy, or the desire, to replace two key people and maintain my manic pace of designing products for the insatiable appetites of our incredibly wonderful customers … like YOU! I went to bed thinking that it might be time for me to retire and enjoy my two grandsons with a third grandchild on the way this September.

Wednesday morning, Consuelo confirmed that she was going to become a stay-at-home mom. I candidly shared that maybe “my time was up” . Before our conversation was over, we received a call from an interior designer in the Midwest who was designing a new woodshop in a converted barn for one of her best clients.

This designer had given her customer “Quality is Contagious” for a Christmas gift, and his infatuation with our work here was… intense. She had marching orders to acquire “one of everything” in our history and was asking for our help. As you likely know, this is impossible to do in a single purchase. None of my three complete sets of tools are for sale. Consuelo informed her they would need to be purchased on the open market.

After the call, Consuelo stated that maybe this “was meant to be”. We then discussed the merits of selling this gentleman the “Tool Zoo”.

And then it became clearly obvious what I needed to do. After an incredible thirty-five years, I made the decision to wind this place down. I was struck by the irony of knowing it was time but didn’t know when—or how.

The next day, we sold all the tools in the Tool Zoo to one of the most fascinating guys I have ever met.

“Decisions are easy when values are clear.” -Unknown

Briefly, I founded Bridge City Tool Works in 1983. By 1985 I was attending 37 trade shows a year (where I likely met some of you). I would leave on Thursday mornings and return on Sunday evenings and run Bridge City Monday through Wednesday during the day. My evenings were spent doing spreadsheet work and catalog analysis. This went on for 15 straight years—no “Dad of the Year” awards for me.

When I am asked to speak about the history of Bridge City, my talk is titled; “Too Stupid to Quit”. All I blab about are the epic mistakes I made along the way. Isn’t this the hallmark of a brilliant business mind? And get this, people come up to me afterwards inspired! That is pure nonsense. The truth is, there is nothing I enjoy about running a business. For me, BCTW has always been a vehicle to passionately express new ideas and concepts—that nobody wants to buy—using tools as a canvas. Unfortunately, I had to run this business to live my dream.

While on my recent work retreat, an incredible peace was coursing through my existence. I realized I needed to connect the loose ends, so I made the decision to contact a business broker friend. I also reached out to two DSN members who have a wealth of business experience. Neil Clemmons and Fred Hayden were terrific sounding boards and great listeners, I am very grateful for their wisdom and advice. I liked that it was free too!

I also reached out to my good friend, Jack Xu, at Harvey Industries (we have an international licensing agreement with Harvey, they also make the Chopstick Master and the amazing Gyro Air Dust Collector) to inform him that I was to either going to sell—or shut down—Bridge City so I could spend the rest of my life enjoying my grandchildren. Maybe do some weeding and reading. Exercise wouldn’t hurt either…

Jack asked me to hold off on the business broker for a couple of days. I am pleased to share that after months of discussion, we recently struck a deal to sell BCTW lock, stock, and barrel to Harvey Industries. I did it because you would think I was an idiot if I turned down billions of dollars for this place…. FYI, I have already contacted a real estate agent to start price negotiations for Greenland. Stay tuned!"
Joe Adams
TimberFire Studio
Houston, Texas

Offline live4ever

  • Posts: 801
Re: Bridge City Tools sold to Harvey
« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2018, 08:31 PM »
There goes my dream of owning a JMP.  Or wanting one, for that
Current systainer to productivity ratio:  very high

Offline ChuckM

  • Posts: 1018
Re: Bridge City Tools sold to Harvey
« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2018, 08:41 PM »
The "original" BCT products will get more pricey in the second-hand market (EBay for instance)!
« Last Edit: June 13, 2018, 08:43 PM by ChuckM »

Offline ishmerc

  • Posts: 103
Re: Bridge City Tools sold to Harvey
« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2018, 11:26 PM »
The "original" BCT products will get more pricey in the second-hand market (EBay for instance)!
I sure hope you’re right .If that’s the case ,I’m sitting on a gold mines.

Offline HarveyWildes

  • Posts: 821
Re: Bridge City Tools sold to Harvey
« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2018, 12:09 PM »
Dang - too bad he didn't sell it to HarveyWildes! No relation to Jack Xu. ☺

Offline WillAdams

  • Posts: 31
Re: Bridge City Tools sold to Harvey
« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2018, 12:32 PM »
Bought a v2 Chopstick Master and have been quite pleased with it --- suspect the quality isn't quite up to the U.S. for the plane, but haven't been able to justify buying a U.S. replacement, but maybe I will now.

I hope things work out well here --- I still want a Jointmaker Pro, and I need to find a suitable post drill (and wish someone would make one new).

Offline tony_sheehan

  • Posts: 117
Re: Bridge City Tools sold to Harvey
« Reply #7 on: June 15, 2018, 03:00 AM »
Only a couple of days ago, I came upon a podcast interview with John Economaki; he came across as a highly intelligent and extremely erudite man. If the sale of BCW means that he'll be retiring from public life it will, I think,  be a great loss.

Offline neilc

  • Posts: 2639
Re: Bridge City Tools sold to Harvey
« Reply #8 on: June 15, 2018, 09:30 AM »
I’ve known John personally for over 30 years.  High integrity, great person, incredible designer.  Originally from Iowa.  Moved to Portland to design furniture and teach high school shop to make ends meet.  Studied under Sam Maloof.  Became allergic to wood dust and had to change his path.  Decided to take a square he would use in his classes and make them to sell. 

The financial crisis years ago led to him changing his business model and moving to on-demand versus build and inventory.   He’s pretty darn smart in business to survive 35years with a challenging market of selling high end tools.

A great book on John and BCTW is here -

His tools will inspire you to do great work. 

This is a great deal for John and his customers.  Harvey already makes and sells several of his tools including the JMP outside the US.  I think it will survive just fine. 

I met Jack at John’s 30th anniversary party in Portland a few years back.  He’s a great guy and will be a strong steward of the brand.

Offline ChuckM

  • Posts: 1018
Re: Bridge City Tools sold to Harvey
« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2018, 10:47 AM »
I once dropped by the BCT place with a few others when we were in Portland for business. John, who happened to be in the office, came out to meet us. He did a demo on the fly with the JMP. I left with a cut-off from that very demo of his. I never heard of BCT before that visit as hand tools (not counting hammers and screwdrivers) were practically non-existent in my shop in those days.