360 West November 2014 : Page 78
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Made In Texas The New Face Of Rockerman Is Dedicated To Craftsmanship
While there's no shortage of amenities at Rough Creek Lodge in Glen Rose, Alex Smith loves the big rocking chairs.
I take my boys out there," says the Southlake resident, "and one of the things I always enjoy is sitting out on the deck in the rocking chair and looking at the stars. I found out they were made by a guy in Cresson who called his business 'Rockerman'."
Junior Harris ran the business with wife Melanie out of a rock building on U.S. Highway 377. The big rockers and benches were visible to anyone driving to Granbury. Smith wanted to buy some picnic tables for an RV park he owned and went to visit the Harrises, who had been making the wood furniture for some 16 years.
Smith was taken by the business and the commitment to craftsmanship, and, in September, he bought Rockerman.
"I felt it was imperative to learn every step and know how to make every product. Weekends, evenings, I was going to Cresson. I'm grateful to Junior and Melanie for their patience in teaching me the craft," he says.
Smith always loved woodworking, but his path to owning Rockerman involved a different type of lumber: a baseball bat. The Ohio native went to Indiana University on a baseball scholarship and was drafted by the Texas Rangers in 1992. He steadily worked up through the farm season and worked on his MBA in the off-season.
After five years and moving up the minor leagues to Texas' Triple A club in Oklahoma City, Smith accepted an offer to work in the Rangers' front office in player development. "I had the chance to chase my dream, but I was always worried about life after baseball." He left the Rangers but stayed in town to finish his MBA at the University of Texas at Arlington.
He returned to Ohio to work for a leading hospitality supply company and then returned to Fort Worth to work for Williamson-Dickie, where today he's a senior vice president.
Smith saw the opportunity to put his manufacturing and business know-how to use and apply it toward growing Rockerman. " I think it's a world-class product; it's just never been marketed before."
Smith owns property in Weatherford, and he moved the entire operation — and the western red cedar used in the furniture — to Hooves M Wheels RV Park and Horse Motel there. He recently built a two-story "barn" for Rockerman's permanent home.
Smith loves talking shop: "The cedar is shipped in from California; it's a soft, but durable, high-end material. When we stain it, the beauty of the wood comes through. You don't really want to paint them. That would diminish the quality." With proper care, the furniture could last a lifetime.
The inventory includes single rockers, 5- and 4-foot rocking benches, stationary chairs and benches, side tables and dining tables. Smith plans to add porch swings and Adirondack chairs. He looks forward to years of creating heirloom-quality pieces with his team of craftsmen.
"This is unlike anything I've owned. So much pleasure comes from seeing something come together and then the finished product. It's so rewarding."