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Home & Real Estate

Blue Sky

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niture online from Indonesia — far more than either needed, but the least expensive way to fill a new house with goods. They figured they’d sell the extras, he said. And so they did — in three weeks. Maybe he could do this as a side business, he said. This time he ordered two containers of furniture and rented an empty warehouse near Fry’s in Palo Alto for three months. “It sold really fast,� he added. But the furniture he was importing wasn’t quite up to the standard he’d like. “I got real serious and went back to Indonesia, hired a CAD (computer-assisted drawing) draftsman and a quality-control person,� he said. Grossman wanted to have them manufactured by a top-tier fabricator, who would use only kiln-dried wood from older trees (like pre-shrunk jeans, he said) and precise machine cuts. He soon learned that he couldn’t order a container with a mix of styles, but was required to order huge quantities — say 100 chairs or dozens of tables — of the same items. Oddly, to have a table made by hand is less expensive in Indonesia, but the wood is not as consistent and the quality is spotty, he said. Some of the smaller fabricators actually stole the wood, he added.

At first, he’d find pictures of furniture that he liked and he’d modify them; he compared it to fashion design where one takes a sleeve from one designer coupled with the hemline of another. A typical chair design has 28 pages of specifications, with a list of components and exact dimensions. “It’s 100 percent machine-made. It’s exactly right,� Grossman said. Today he sells the teak furniture through and

‘We’re a small business and we do it all. Between the two of us we wear many hats.’ — Bob Grossman, owner of BlueSky Outdoor, Palo Alto, as well as his warehouse-like retail space in Palo Alto. Still, the bulk of his customers are in the Bay Area, including commercial clients such as Stanford University, Mountain Winery, local law firms and the Los Altos Hills Country Club. Recently, he designed a chair for the country club and liked it so much he added it to his line of products. Because outdoor furniture is a seasonal business, Grossman decided to

expand to include ski and snowboard apparel in winter, changing the name of The Teak Patio to BlueSky Outdoor. Last season he cleared the front of the store for winter clothing, while keeping the outdoor furniture in the back. In April, he retired the clothing for the summer season. Grossman also sells items he doesn’t manufacture, mainly things that complement what he does, now along with Jessica Tillson, who joined the firm as a designer and assistant manager two years ago. BlueSky carries umbrellas by Treasure Garden as well as the higher-end Tuuci line, which at $1,400 is meant more for restaurants and resorts. He also carries cushions, which are manufactured to fit his chairs, and he distributes Semco, a sealer that he recommends for the teak furniture. Grossman sees his main competitors as Restoration Hardware, which manufactures its own line, and Pool, Patios and Things, which carries national brands. He can keep his quality high and prices affordable by cutting out the middleman, he said. “We’re the Smith and Hawken business model without the real estate (which ultimately did them in),� he added. A typical dining table can run $599 to $1,999, and chairs begin at about $375. As for the product itself, Grossman says that teak furniture can last 50 to 100 years. “They make sailboats out of teak,� he laughed. The high oil content of the wood pushes out the

moisture and repels insects, he added. “If made properly, it’ll last forever.� Not every design is a raging success, he admitted, but a good 85 percent of the line is “stable.� That means he and Tillson design about 15 percent new items each year. He points to his “easy-open system,� a large table with a butterfly-leaf insert; he’s in the process of applying for a patent for that. When asked how his little “side business� compares to working in advertising or high-tech, Grossman said the processes aren’t so very different. “When I worked in high-tech, my job was to manage the development process of engineers, who were very creative� and quite “similar to managing creative people in an ad agency,� he said. But the biggest contrast is, “We’re a small business and we do it all. Between the two of us we wear many hats,� he said, noting that he really likes the design process. “Before I was more developing strategy. Here we do that plus design.� And he gets to go to Indonesia twice a year. N Associate Editor Carol Blitzer can be emailed at cblitzer@paweekly. com.

Mani Razizad

President’s Club Certified Residential Specialist Quality Service Certification


Phone: 650.465.6000 Email: Web: mrazizag

For more Home and Real Estate news, visit



Open House Sunday, June 17, 1:30 to 4:30

1360 Arbor Road

YHalf acre with 190’ frontage YApproximately 3400 sq ft of living space YSpacious living, dining and family rooms

Located on a private half acre, just a quick walk to all that downtown Menlo Park has to offer, 1360 Arbor Road is a one level, mid century Goodwin Steinberg designed home with natural light throughout. The family room, formal dining room and kitchen, overlooking the large deck and gardens beyond, welcome intimate or large group entertainment. The spacious living room, with rose garden views, features a dramatic concrete block ďŹ replace anked by custom cabinetry and shelving. This “signature styleâ€? long and low Goodwin Steinberg home is ready to be lived in, remodeled or rebuilt.


Broker Associates 650.868.6368 ~ 650.465.2427 DRE Lic 00679045 & 00800137

YConvenient galley kitchen, butler sink YGlass surrounded breakfast nook Y4 BR/4 BA including 2 BA master suite YTwo ďŹ replaces, wet bar, built in desks YLaundry/pantry, abundant closets and storage YSought after Menlo Park schools

Offered at $3,800,000

All information based on public records and other information deemed to be reliable but not guaranteed. This is not intended as a solicitation of prospective buyers who already have an exclusive agency agreement with another agent. 510.785.3998


Palo Alto Weekly 06.15.12 - section 2  
Palo Alto Weekly 06.15.12 - section 2  

Section 2 of the June 15, 2012 edition of the Palo Alto Weekly