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“Think global, act local” is a popular saying these days, but Allan Palecek has been operating his business in that manner since he founded it more than 35 years ago, and has found much success as a result. Palecek was in the Air Force during the Vietnam War and stationed in the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and Japan for about five years. This allowed him to become familiar with the people and cultures of Asia, and with Filipino basketry in particular, an interest that formed the foundation of his business.

“In one of my last trips there, I was introduced to someone who explained Filipino basketry to me and the techniques used,” he explains. “I became fascinated in the artistry and beauty of it. I became really interested in the local cultures and how they do the techniques differently.

“I saw a market for that and started to travel the world looking for unique techniques and handcrafted products,” he adds. “We source from 22 countries so far, sharing techniques, ideas and always improving.”

As a result, the Palecek operation has a reputation for high-end products and craftsmanship. Based in Northern California, the company produces furniture, lighting and design accessories, most of which feature the operation’s signature rattan and wicker craftsmanship, although it also offers collections made of hardwood, seagrass and abaca weaves. Palecek explains the company prides itself on its ability to mix and weave natural fibers into unique statement pieces serving the consumer and hospitality markets.

“With the basketry techniques we’ve learned, we used them to create light furniture,” he says. “We focus on producing pieces that are more functional versus just decorative. I start with the design and then some of the pieces are produced overseas to my specifications – certain dimensions, colors, etc. We also do most of our own upholstery work. We finish most all the furniture at our facility here to ensure each piece has the sophistication we have become known for.”

Handcrafted Value

Palecek prefers to use natural materials and Asian weaving techniques in its designs, but that does not mean the company ignores trends and the evolutions of the marketplace. Colors, specifically, Palecek says, are chosen based on feedback from customers or information gained from its sales representatives.

“A few years ago, everyone wanted the Pottery Barn style of square legs, which are easier and cheaper to produce, of course,” he explains. “But now, ovals, rectangles and round shapes are much more popular. People want designs that are more of a retro style, designs that are similar to what was popular in the 1950s and ’60s. Our materials and craftsmanship remain consistent, but we keep our designs fresh and new with simple changes.”

Designs may change; however, he stresses that the company’s quality remains consistent. When Palecek’s furniture is produced overseas, every piece is inspected when it arrives at the company’s site in California – for any damage or mistake – and then it undergoes finishing and upholstery. Most of the product that comes to Palecek’s site is unfinished: it is mostly furniture components that are produced overseas. Palecek explains that the items that do come finished are upholstered by its in-house craftsmen.

“Our upholstery is usually on exposed wood frames, which allows the wood and natural material to show,” he says. “I’m very proud of what we’re able to do here. Our designs are very unique in the United States. We add value to our designs with unique techniques and craftsmanship that other people simply don’t do.”

He adds that he’s also proud of the quality the company is known for, and that it has found a way to maintain this quality while keeping its prices in check. “When everything is done by hand, it’s hard to speed up the process without sacrificing quality,” he says. “But we haven’t raised our prices much in five years because we’ve found ways to work more efficiently and do price engineering. In furniture, often it’s hard to see where the costs are hidden – the craftsmanship, the extra finishes, the quality of the upholstery and how much time it all takes.

“The marketplace has been brainwashed into wanting cheaper prices for everything, and that results in a lower focus on quality,” he continues. “The only way to really make furniture cheaper is to take the people out. But our craftsmanship is key to our quality.”

In fact, its quality and craftsmanship are well-recognized in the industry. Palecek received a Lifetime Achievement Award this year from Accessories Resource Team (ART) – the association for the home accents and accent furniture market – and the company was nominated in three different product categories for design. For more than a decade, the ARTS Awards and design community have frequently recognized the Palecek brand as fashion forward and promoting quality in the industry.

A Story of Success

Palecek’s use of Asian basketry techniques and craftsmanship is important to its quality aesthetic, but Palecek notes that the company’s workforce also plays a large role in the high-end product it delivers. Its employees originate from Australia, Japan, China, Mexico, Italy, Spain and Cambodia, he says, and this diversity adds to the quality in its furniture.

“Different individuals have certain expertise, and it all works together to benefit the final product,” he says. “It is a constant vigil to ensure our quality is consistent and we partner with people overseas who have the same standards that we do. We have to maintain quality control and get more efficient to be competitive, and if that is the mandate, that becomes the culture.”

He explains he works closely with employees and gets their input on how to work more efficiently and further boost the products’ quality. It is a strong part of the Palecek company culture to use feedback from every department, and he enjoys implementing employees’ ideas.

“We will continue working to improve and elevating our quality even further because we continue to want to bring better quality products to consumers,” Palecek says. “With what we do, we’re bringing quality, handcrafted products to consumers and raise awareness of what it takes to do that. By working together, all of us here at the company will continue to make that our focus.

“The Palecek company has a story, and at the same time, our product has a story,” he adds. “We like to think it’s a story that people want to hear, and we’re very proud of the success in the story.”

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