Taking a shot
By Kris Leonhardt
NEKOOSA – A leap of faith launched a Nekoosa business on a trajectory that created a niche in a high-end market, while employing two dozen staff members in the city.
Jacoby Custom Cues, Inc. was formed in 1982 as Dave’s Cue Service.
“My dad started in 1983. It started just as a part-time hobby. He was employed at the paper mill here in Nekoosa ; he had a hobby farm at the same time,” explained Dave’s son Brandon.
Dave was buying and selling cues for another business at the time.
“Just as kind of a small hobby,” added Brandon.
“He had contacted my dad about purchasing a small lathe to use for doing cue repairs, so he could do cue repair and even build small cues on it. I think that as fast as he hung up the phone, he ran down (to Madison) and picked it up.”
Dave and his older son, Shane, then began doing cue repair for people in the area and tinkering with building cues.
When a nearby landfill wanted to purchase their hobby farm, the Jacoby family sold and moved into Nekoosa.
“Dad at that point grew the hobby more, so he was doing more cue repair, building more cues; just kind of growing the business in the basement really,” Brandon recalled.
“It kept growing to the point where we built a shop alongside of the house – about 1,100 square-foot at the time. We moved the business from the basement to that shop.”
Brandon, himself, originally had plans to be a police officer, but later came into the business full time.
“I think that once I started to work full time in the business, then it changed the business. I think that when you have someone that is full time in the business all of the things that you wish you could do and aren’t doing, you are able to do because someone is there doing something all of the time,” Brandon said.
“And then, a good friend of mine, Shane Walker, started with me too, so it was just Shane and myself in the shop, and Dad was still at the paper mill.
“The business just kept growing. It started to get to the point where it was borderline that it could become a full-time business if we really wanted to. We started working with a business consultant.
“I give my dad a lot of credit, because he was in the paper mill at the time. At the time he was 55, and he was working in the screens department, which in the mill that is a pretty good job because it is an air-conditioned office and you are watching, monitoring the machines. I think something had busted in the sewer, and he had to go down and shovel. I think at that point he decided ‘I want to try building cues and take a shot; and if I don’t do it, I’ll never do it.’ So, two weeks later he went into the office and quit. Basically, he knew that if he stayed in the mill that he probably would never take the chance.
“Everybody said that he was completely nuts and that it was probably the most foolish thing that he had ever done.”
The business, however, kept growing and the family purchased a building in Nekoosa.
The business eventually grew from a 150-square-foot space to 17,000 square feet.
“At every stage, we always think ‘oh, this is way beyond what we are ever going to need for space.’ But, I’ve learned that when you increase your space you just naturally grow to accommodate that space. You hold off on making decisions based on ‘I can’t because I don’t have the space or I can’t do that.’ But, when you come into a bigger space you just don’t have that excuse anymore, so then it is really easy to keep growing.”
From there, the Jacobys carved out a niche in a very large industry.
“What is interesting, and what people don’t realize, is that some form of a cue sport (everywhere), whether it is playing pool or what we think traditionally is pool, but around the world most people don’t play pool like we play pool. They play three-cushion billiards; they play snooker; they play Chinese eight ball; there is a Russian eight ball game. There are more people that play some form of a cue activity – a cue sport – then most other recreational activities. The global market for pool cues is probably $2 million a month,” Brandon explained.
The Jacoby’s production accounts for a fraction of the market, but they are also doing business on the high end of the cue industry.
The business often finds itself creating cues for professional pool players and celebrities around the world.
Brandon said that their products are unlike others in a few ways.
“It’s unique and there is a story behind it. We really work hard to produce the best product we can and really work hard on our customer service,” he said.
“A lot of them are one-of-a-kind pieces. All of the design in the cues are cut and pieced in together. Most people look at the cues, and they think ‘oh, they’re painted,’ because that is what most people would expect. But, they are not; everything is crafted together in little parts and pieces. So, when you see a colored piece, it is probably a piece of wood that has been inlaid and pieced in. Some of the cues can take hundreds of hours; it just depends on the design and the complexity.”
And, their commitment to quality shows. For the past 14 years, the business has been recognized for their creations by the American Cue Makers Association 13 of those 14 years, taking first or second place.
Jacoby Custom Cues is located at 309 Market Street, in Nekoosa. For more information, visit https://jacobycustomcues.com.