A Chat with John Economaki, Founder and President, Bridge City Tool Works
Simultaneously, in 1983 they had the first of the consumer woodworking shows in the country. That was in Chicago, which I didn't go to. But the second one was in Pasadena, and I did go to that one. At that time, we were in business for maybe five months. I sat down there at a table and just took orders. I took about $6,000 worth of orders at that first show, and I just decided at the time, this was a great business and I needed to focus all my energy on it. My wife worked at the time, and I wasn't taking any money out, and we went our first year and made $30,000 worth of sales in 1984. And then we went to $100,000 in 1985, $600,000 in 1986, $1.2 million in 1987, $3.2 million in 1988. We just kept going up and up.
CS: What has been your greatest career challenge, and how did you deal with it?
JE: There have been two, the small business banking issues created by the Savings and Loan debacle of the late 1980s, and the economy post-9/11.
In 1991, I had a $600,000 line of credit at the bank, and they called me in to talk about the line of credit, so I went in. And they said, we'd like you to pay it back tomorrow. I laughed. I just laughed. Because it was right after we had mailed our catalog. I said, "You've got to be kidding me." So they started putting the screws to me, and I had never had any experience like that. As you might imagine, we have a really high-end expensive product, and so we have a lot of high-profile customers, or we did at the time. And I just said that we weren't going to pay it back. And that got me into a situation where I wasn't able to mail a followup catalog.