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Meet Josh Jackson of Arbor Exchange in Pasadena

Today we’d like to introduce you to Josh Jackson.

Josh, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Founding Arbor Exchange and building furniture was something I eased into as a career.

Between 2005 and 2010, I was flipping Apple computers between Craigslist and eBay and also had a small company that rented production gear to production companies in LA. It wasn’t very fulfilling work, but it did scratch the entrepreneurial itch, and it allowed me a lot of flexibility to travel with my wife during those years. (In 2007, we sold all of our possessions and spent nine months traveling around the world).

In 2010, I read Shop Class As Soul Craft, and that really changed my perspective on manual work and gave me the push to start working with my hands. All I knew at the time was what I learned growing up, and that was making things out of wood with my Grandfather.

Building things out of reclaimed wood were pretty popular at the time, so I decided to make some furniture for my home out of old pallets and reclaimed Douglas Fir from old buildings in LA. I talked my best friend into partnering with me, and we started posting custom furniture ads on CraigsList in late 2010.

From there, our business slowly grew a little every year. He was pursuing a Law degree while we launched Arbor, so he was part-time as well. We were having children during these years, so I was working around 15-20 hours a week on Arbor and 10-15 hours a week on computers.

By 2014, my partner had finished Law School and taken a big law job. It was around this same time when I stopped working with computers and decided it was time to take Arbor to the next level. I’ve been at it full time since January 2014.

We have had many ups and downs over the years, and the business has evolved in form and aesthetic since our inception. We now focus on designing and building fine furniture from domestic hardwoods and live edge slabs.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The main struggles I have dealt with in owning and running Arbor Exchange has been the delicate balance of wearing all of the hats.

I’m the primary builder and designer and take on the responsibility of marketing, advertising, social media, website, accountant, business manager, and client meetings.

The give and pull, and the constant tension of competing priorities is often my greatest struggle.

Arbor Exchange – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
First and foremost, we are a design and build furniture company. We sell pieces from our Minimal Collection as well as custom pieces for residential and commercial clients. We pride ourselves on making aesthetically beautiful furniture that is also functional and practical for everyday use. We work with locally salvaged wood from around Los Angeles, domestic hardwoods and live edge slabs from California and beyond.

We also have a small boutique store where we sell our pieces as well as a collection of pieces from other makers around the Los Angeles area. I am most proud of the intimate connection and collaboration we have with our clients. The process of building a custom piece of furniture often involves several client meetings in the home or business as well as dozens of emails and going back and forth on designs.

By the time we are ready to begin building a piece, there is a level of intimacy and comfortability we have with each one of our clients because of the way we collaborate together in the days leading up to the build. This is my favorite part of the process and what I believe separates our business from others like us in the industry.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
The proudest moments of my career are no doubt getting to build dining tables for families with children. There is no greater satisfaction in my job than building a dining table for a family who will enjoy it for decades to come.

I imagine them sitting around the table for meals and homework and late night glasses of wine and all of the conversations that will take place. The dining table is the centerpiece of the home, where most action seems to take place, and it’s a real privilege to be a part of a families story.

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