THE FIRST 46 YEARS...
Idaho Wood grew out of the burgeoning Pacific Northwest of the 1970s. At the time, Leon Lewis of Sandpoint, Idaho was working for the Pack River Company, a lumber company with extensive land holdings.
In 1973, Leon led Pack River’s development of a 200-acre golf and tennis community, called Twin Lakes Village, in Idaho. As the finishing touches of fixtures and bath accessories were installed on some of the new residences, it became apparent the metal finishes were not the right touch for the mountain aesthetic.
Being self-starters and somewhat particular about design, Leon and his colleagues appropriated an old house on the site and set out designing and building their own fixtures. The experiment turned out well and they made arrangements to exhibit at the National Association of Home Builders show in January 1975 at the Astrodome in Houston.
Their light fixtures were an immediate success from an interest standpoint. While crudely done, the designs and the use of western red cedar had great appeal.
Thus, by the summer of 1975, Leon Lewis, along with JM Brown, Jr., formed Idaho Wood Industries, Inc., doing business simply as Idaho Wood. Leon captures the rest of the story best in his own words, “I left a secure, high paying job and with no money I set about to deal with a young company, with a good product and an unknown future.
We found space in an abandoned wood manufacturing plant and set up to begin production. Basically, it was still a garage business. We made large runs of barely improved finished products, but we learned fast.
By 1985 I had learned that business partners are hard to keep on an even keel. At this point I made all the partners happy and my family assumed full ownership. We had to assume responsibility of running a company with large short-term debt and a need for room to keep expanding.
We immediately went into more debt, fortunately long term, to build the perfect facility to be capable of our expected growth for twenty years. Thirty-five years later we were still there with a lot of economic roiling waters between 1986 and 2021.During this period our products became quite refined. The credit goes to our customers, the employees and good intentions and actions on our part.
The largest bump in the path was the period of the 2007 - 2010 housing bubble. Our volume dropped more than 60%. In the end this was a blessing. We became a true family operation that preferred to not grow, have happy clients and make great products. We created a family-oriented culture with our clients and us.
...AND THE YEARS TO COME
In the second half of 2021, Leon transitioned Idaho Wood from the Lewis family to LPV, a long-term holding company managed by JT Vaughn. Subsequently, in mid-2022, Idaho Wood acquired the specialty timber division of Southern Woodcraft and Design, a wood products business established by Mike and Dana Drew and known for excellence in craftsmanship and service. Now based out of the former Southern Woodcraft production facilities in Oxford, North Carolina, Idaho Wood is positioned to grow both its lighting line and specialty timber business.
Like the Lewis' and Drews before us, our continued focus will be exceptional product design, quality craftsmanship, on time delivery and a family-oriented culture that extends to our customers and partners.
We will also evolve and adapt our product offerings to the changing tastes of the marketplace. On both the lighting and timber fronts, we plan to experiment with new products and designs while also preserving old favorites.
In the process, we intend to operate the company in a way that is as peculiar and uncommon as our products are well designed and manufactured. This requires embodying the values identified below while seeking to serve others; care for and develop the people involved; and steward the environmental, economic and social resources entrusted to us. Our mission is not growth. It is to build an abundantly living community that manifests light.“
We seek not to conform to the patterns of this world, but to transform it by living these values day in and day out: at home, in the workshop and in our communities.
While not perfect, we do not allow the fear of failure to impede our becoming more so.“
Building up others.
Sacrificial, selfless service.
Bold, enduring action.
Teach: we are all becoming, whatever our role within and outside the company may be. Within the company, we will teach and model values through word and deed while acknowledging and continuously improving upon our shortcomings. Further, team members will be trained in their respective areas of expertise and contribution within the company.
Develop: in pursuit of continuous improvement both individually and corporately, we will work to ensure team members fully develop their gifts and attain the status of “skilled master craftsman/woman” in their area of expertise and contribution.
Entrust: we will seek opportunities to build up team members by bestowing on them additional responsibility within and outside the company. The more mature one is, the more opportunities he/she will have to serve and to thereby participate in caring for others and stewarding resources.
If something cannot go on forever, it will stop. -- Economist Herbert Stein
Manufacturers turn raw materials into finished products. As a small batch manufacturer, one of our goals is to use primarily renewable, bio-degradable raw materials while minimizing the use of non-renewable raw materials. Wood, of which the bulk of our products consist, is one such material, especially when sourced from sustainably managed forests. Minor components of our fixtures, however, such as interior steel frameworks and electrical components, as well as the acrylic we use in our lenses, are obviously not made of renewable raw materials. To the extent possible, we will design out the need for such materials or reduce the amount of such materials included in our products.
The wood we use is sourced from sustainably managed forests. Our western red cedar comes from British Columbia, where the Canadian government does a superb job of sustainably managing one of its most valuable natural resources. For more information on Canada’s forest management, visit:The State of Canada’s Forests Annual Report (nrcan.gc.ca). Ultimately, we hope to be more directly involved in the sustainable management of western red cedar in particular, especially to ensure mature, old growth trees continue to thrive at a sustainable level. This requires attentive stewardship, and a long-term mindset, but it can be done.
We seek to effectively and consistently deploy capital in people, raw materials, plant and equipment. Capital is not for storing up—it has little fundamental value itself. Accordingly, we will deploy capital with courage and confidence but in a disciplined, thoughtful manner. As we mature, we will seek to continually maintain sufficient cash reserves to cover operations and to service debt even in prolonged market downturns—such as those experienced in 2007 to 2010. The economy is cyclical, but that does not mean our operating budget should be. Long term, this means we will not grow as fast as we could, but hopefully it also means we will not be forced to contract our team simply in response to market conditions.