One visit to the Southeast furniture showroom it calls home might convince you that Overkill Design is a slick outfit. There are neatly arrayed business cards in the reception area. There are floor models. There's an astonishing lack of sawdust.
But that's only if you don't pay any attention to the men behind the curtain. Back there, you'll find a drum kit, an orphaned taxicab door, and the means to make a million guitar-shaped coffee tables.
"I wanted to design something tangible," says Jason Krzmarzick, Overkill's 31-year-old CEO and lead designer. To do that, Krzmarzick, while toiling away as a graphic designer for local media/design firm CMD, approached co-worker Matt Souther, 32, about busting out a prototype for a table.
But Souther wasn't just any cubicle crony. He was also Krzmarzick's Baseboard Heaters bandmate [Editor's note: Check out the Heaters' liquor-and-cigarettes, born-in-the-USA sound Saturday night at Berbati's for MusicfestNW, although Krzmarzick no longer smacks the drums for them]. And with the help of Matt's dad, a custom hot rod guru who lent them space to tinker with a slab of MDF (medium-density fiberboard) and some exhaust pipe, Overkill's first creation rolled off the dock.
It's been almost two years since Overkill's first whine of the belt sander. Stretching itself into a 2,500-square-foot shop next door to Southeast's raging underage nightclub Meow Meow , Overkill boasts a self-contained shaping tent (hence no sawdust) and the biggest damn table saw you ever, um, saw. Much of their current business is custom projects for corporate work environments. Without the high overhead of fancy furniture vendors, they are almost always able to undercut their competitors' prices. And it's custom work--in other words, not IKEA. Overkill also has a product line of sorts--notably a tomato-hued MDF modular desk they call "The Red Swinger." The furniture has an informal, retro-industrial feel--primary-color surfaces, steel tubing that forms table legs and the backbone of a leaning shelving unit stabilized by T-shaped pins.
"Yes, that's our 'patented' T-Pin design," jokes Jason. But Overkill is also serious business. Most ambitious is a recent merchandising deal with Fender (you know, the guitar people). Because it takes more than moxie for two rock-'n'-roll desk jockeys to swap Powerbooks for power tools--it takes marketing.
You can design a table based on Fender's trademark headstock shape, but Fender doesn't have to like it. And that's where another friend/co-worker comes in, marketing guy John Gross. Overkill built a prototype and transported it to the Seattle studio of rock veteran and sometime Baseboard Heaters producer Pete Droge. They posed the table like a Playboy bunny among Droge's collection of Fender guitars. Fender was suitably wooed by the image, so Gross, Krzmarzick and Souther packed the table to Los Angeles and waited for the news.
And then things got very quiet.
"Our contact at Fender loved the idea, but he got axed," explains Gross, 32. "I learned that the box with the table in it had been sitting unopened on their dock for months," said Gross. His marketing chops riled, Gross applied pressure over the next eight months. They were able to resurrect the deal two months later, and things have begun to taste like gravy at Overkill.
"This is a dream for all of us, to be doing this on our own," says Jason. In other words, pushing product is great, but Overkill's principals are mostly pleased as punch to be working their own angle--even if it looks like a Stratocaster.
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