Architecture & Design, Food Service & Agriculture, and Manufacturing

Studio Wise has sights on national market

Firm, celebrating its 10-year anniversary, has helped local bars and restaurants create custom designs to fit owners’ vision.

April 7, 2017
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Studio Wise
Studio Wise created the custom design for New Holland Brewing’s The Knickerbocker Brewpub & Distillery. Courtesy Studio Wise

As it celebrates its 10-year anniversary, Studio Wise is eyeing the national market for more product rollouts.

Troy Bosworth, Studio Wise founder, launched the business in 2007 with a focus on helping Grand Rapids restaurants and bars attract young adults by creating attractive and unique spaces where they’d want to hang out.

“Grand Rapids was in that weird place in its growth where it didn’t really have an identity as far as places to go for young people like us to hang out,” he said. “It didn’t have cool bars like Chicago or any other major city, so that was one of the major things we went after.”

In its initial years, Studio Wise landed projects with Madcap Coffee, Peppino’s Sports Grille, Brewery Vivant, Green Well, Winchester and Maru, creating custom designs that fit the restaurant and bar owners’ visions.

Studio Wise has gone on to create custom designs for even more Grand Rapids restaurants and bars, including New Holland Brewing’s The Knickerbocker Brewpub & Distillery, where the company created three-story-high “trees” forming a beer garden canopy, built three bars — including a distinctive canopy bar — and designed tables and bases for the bar’s indoor and outdoor spaces.

It also makes products for local offices, education, health care and other industries.

Out of its custom designs, Studio Wise has developed a handful of products for larger-scale production.

Studio Wise went national in 2014 with its FUSE solid butcher-block-style surfaces for tables, counters and bars, and in 2016, the company introduced POP, a powder-coated wood surface with 10 standard colors and infinite customization options. It also introduced a hand-selected, plank-style veneer surface, recently renamed FLYCH, a play on the veneer term “flitch.”

This year, Studio Wise is adding a table-base collection to its national product lineup, as well as additional power options.

The new Studio Wise table-base collection includes Apex, an industrial-modern design with a nod to the shape of the letter A. Geo is another new base option; it’s a refined geometric design. Blox is a progression of the other designs, with a square shape that lends itself well to desking applications. Strut offers a runway flair and feel. Rounding out the new bases for 2017 is Parson, a classic, four-corner-modern base.

The five new bases come in three heights — standard dining height, counter height and bar height — and have benching options.

“With our new base offerings, we’ve moved to offering complete tables with virtually endless surface, base and finish options,” Bosworth said.

Product Designer Brant Raterink said between the tables, bases and finishes, customers have a plethora of options.

“The fun thing about the bases, it’s a pick-and-choose finish selection, so you can take them to different environments by how you apply finishes to them,” he said.

To help sell its products nationally, Eric Lanning, Studio Wise partner, said Studio Wise has been building a network of sales reps across the country.

He said the company has worked to improve its internal processes and to provide sales reps with the support they need to sell the company’s products.

That means not rolling out products too quickly.

“I spent 25 years as a manufacturer’s rep in a different industry, and I know what reps need from a manufacturer to be successful,” Lanning said. “We are making sure we are doing the right things for our reps, in the right order, introducing products in an orderly fashion.”

Ultimately, though, the goal is to increase its national product line.

“Where we are spending most of our energy is on growing our product business,” Lanning said. “We see it as scalable, it’s something we have the processes in place to ramp up, so we are working on increasing our representation around the country.”

Studio Wise has approximately half of the country covered with sales representation, according to Lanning, who said the company plans to increase that coverage.

As it eyes a bigger chunk of the national market, Studio Wise spent the second half of last year evaluating everything it was doing and looking at opportunities for improvement.

“We introduced 5S (a workplace organization method) and invested in an enterprise resource planning system, and that has allowed us to be more efficient on our purchasing and production time, so our process improvement has increased since. Things aren’t in-house as long,” Bosworth said.

Studio Wise also rebuilt its website and developed a system it said now works for the company, its clients and its reps.

That includes simplifying the decision-making process by allowing customers to select a surface, base and finish in a three-step process.

Bosworth said he wants Studio Wise to be able to develop product solutions that can move to market quickly.

“We’ve developed a really nice system for ourselves to go to market fast,” he said.

Raterink said he believes the company is designing the kinds of products customers are looking for right now in terms of trends.

“One of the unique things that sets some of our table tops apart is we have a collection of distressed finishes, but they aren’t reclaimed, they aren’t barn wood; they elevate the idea of distressing to a little bit more of an elegant refined approach. I think that will carry the line forward,” he said.

“And, I think our POP line is something new and innovative, (with) powder-coated wood, there’s a lot of opportunity for color and unique shapes. With that and then with the base line — there’s a full range of color powder coats for our bases as well — so unique combinations.”

Last year was the company’s best year to date, with revenues doubling over the previous year. Studio Wise said it is on track to do the same for 2017.

“We’ve strategically moved from being a company that only did local custom work to being a national product design and development company prepared for major growth,” said John VanZee, Studio Wise partner.

Beyond West Michigan, Studio Wise’s products are at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; Big Sky Resort in Montana; Hyatt Hotels at Los Angeles International Airport and in Cleveland; the Billie Jean King Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York; the Ronald McDonald House in Detroit; and San Diego International Airport.

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