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Working in a Benicia warehouse, Industrial Chic Designs co-founder Shelly Lucido is surrounded by tables she has created: massive dining tables dubbed “Big Papa” and “Little Mamma,” coffee tables emblazoned with the sports logos of Bay Area teams, rich-colored tables destined for local restaurants and breweries — all made out of recycled industrial spools that her husband and Industrial Chic co-founder, Chris, scours from across Northern California and parts of Nevada.
And despite all odds — a pandemic that has shuttered restaurants and curtailed dinner parties, and an economic downturn that led to Shelly and Chris losing their jobs — business is booming.
For an awestruck Shelly, it’s still hard to believe.
“We’ve been very busy,” she said. “I never would’ve imagined we’d have gotten here. It sounds kind of corny, but we’re just letting the universe kind of lead us.”
The couple’s unexpected success comes in the wake of hardships that predated the pandemic — and a tireless perseverance that helped the Lucidos overcome them. Like many others in 2020, Shelly and Chris found themselves facing an uncertain future. In March, Chris was laid off just four days into his new marketing job — a demoralizing blow after spending the previous year unemployed. A few months later, Shelly lost her job as a franchise sales director.
For the Vallejo couple, it was an all-too-familiar experience.
“This happened to us both a couple of years ago,” said Shelly. “We were both unemployed at the same time, and it was really, really scary. We kind of lost everything and had to start over.”
“We’re both over 50. It’s so hard to find a job, especially a job that pays the bills,” added Chris. “I’ve been in event marketing and promotions for over 15 years. It’s been tougher (to get a job) over the years. Employers were questioning my relatability with younger people, and it’s like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ I just heard excuses after excuses about why they couldn’t hire me.”
Stuck at home, Shelly decided to spend her free time embracing an old hobby — making furniture. Browsing Facebook Marketplace for materials, she came across an industrial wire spool that a local electrician was giving away.
“I thought, wow, it would be really cool to make a table with one of the ends of that spool,” said Shelly, who credits her father — a WWII veteran and a mechanic — for exposing her to woodworking. “He was really kind of a renaissance man. He could do anything. He was always teaching me.”
Turning her backyard into an impromptu workstation, Shelly transformed the recycled material into a coffee table. Out of curiosity, she advertised it on Facebook Marketplace, where it quickly sold. Encouraged, she made more, with her husband promoting the tables on social media. Soon after, the Lucidos received their first bulk order — a request for nine tables from the April Pantry cafe in Petaluma.
“That really catapulted us to the next level,” said Shelly. “I don’t know how many tables I’ve made since then, but I’m sure it’s easily over 100 tables.”
That number is only growing. Along with neighbors and local residents, the Lucidos count a number of eateries as customers, including Slippery Fish Catering & Events in Berkeley and Bay Area chain Super Duper Burgers.
For Chris, the success of Industrial Chic has felt a bit like “destiny.”
“It put all the chips in our corner,” he said. “People have been telling us since Shelly and I got together, ‘You guys should start your own business. Your energy is awesome.’ Now we’ve got customers literally jumping up and down, saying, ‘I’m so excited to get this home.’ I’ve never seen anything like it.”
They’re excited for good reason. Sleek yet homey, Industrial Chic’s tables are a playful take on their blue-collar origins, often incorporating many of a spool’s manufacturing elements into the final design. A hole in the middle of the spool can be fashioned with an umbrella ring. Giant screw holes are refitted with metal or plastic coverings. Inset rings are replaced with a variety of unique epoxied materials: river stones and gemstones, broken pieces of vinyl records, coffee beans, hops and barley, LEGO pieces.
One customer provided seashells and sea glass that she and her family had collected over the years to be epoxied into her table.
“She called me (sometime later) and told me that one night, they were eating dinner on this table, and her eight-year-old said, ‘Remember when we got this shell in Carmel?’” recalled Shelly.
Another customer who lost her home in the North Bay fires this summer “is literally designing her entire house around the table we made for her,” Shelly added. “They’re creating something (with me). We get to know their stories. They’re telling us about their kitchen, their remodeling, their backyard, their homes.”
Shelly’s creations also help customers look forward to a future when we can safely meet up again, she said. “We’re going to get through this pandemic, and we’re going to sit around these tables together. They can imagine themselves having a dinner party at these tables.”
The Lucidos hope to continue building their business, with plans to bring on family members as employees and to advertise their wares and services at restaurant expos “once the pandemic is over.” But they’re satisfied for now with their current success.
“We’re taking all that energy that we have and are pouring it into something that’s ours,” said Shelly. “It’s a bright spot and lifts our spirits, but it also makes us feel like we have a little bit of control. … I’m the happiest I’ve ever been doing this.”
“I feel very blessed that this came along,” said Chris. “Shelly made the right moves. We’re very lucky.”See more of Shelly’s creations on Industrial Chic’s website.