Rick Odea’s Tucson, AZ-based company Ozark West crafts handmade culinary wood products for discerning users.

Rick Odea (right) and his son Joe pose with one of Ozark West’s butcher block tables.

After closing a music store in 2001, Rick Odea was looking for a new venture, something that would allow him to manufacture a product that has mass appeal, allow him to retail or wholesale that product, and to use the Internet to market and sell it. Ozark West fit all these criteria, and he acquired the company in May of 2002.

“For me, the woodworking element was the bonus,” says Odea, a forth-generation woodworker. “The upside was obvious; manufacture a product that you retail on the Internet to quality discriminating end users, all over the world.”

Ozark West manufactures culinary wood products such as butcher block tables, kitchen utensils, and edge grain and end grain cutting boards. Odea says he also enjoys doing custom pieces. All the company’s products are made by Odea himself, though he adds that his oldest son has been an employee in its 1,200-square-foot shop for the past three years.

One of the company’s major customers is the Food Network, who first saw Ozark West’s products through Dean and DeLuca, another Ozark West client. The network currently features Ozark West’s end grain cutting boards in nine of its shows, including Essence of Emeril with Emeril Lagasse, Everyday Italian with Giada De Laurentiis and Ciao America with Mario Batali.

“It’s been a huge success for us in this relationship,” says Odea. “The producers like our product because it’s unobtrusive. It really sets up the food nicely and it holds up under considerable wear and tear.”

According to Odea, the walnut end grain cutting board is probably the company’s most popular item. “It’s popular because it challenges the more traditional maple cutting board,” he says. “Walnut makes the item you’re cutting or chopping look great. People who are really into cooking want to experience the colors, the scents and the complete process. That’s why my boards are so popular for TV. It’s a great background for the cameras and it doesn’t wash out the food product they’re cutting.”

Odea says that, in essence, the method he uses to construct the end grain cutting boards is a two-cut and two-lamination process. “I work with strips of wood in various lengths to get the thickness of the boards,” he explains. “Each board has a unique end grain pattern that never gets duplicated. This is what gives Ozark West its distinct design look. I use Franklin’s Titebond III glue because it is waterproof and approved for indirect food contact.”

For finishing, Odea uses three coats of #1725 clear urethane from The Lawrence McFadden Co., which he adds, is food safe in a cured state. He says that the boards, with proper care, can last anywhere from 50 to 100 years.

Odea says that his biggest challenge right now is to make the product faster. “Because our product is handmade and the quality is so superior to anything else on the market, it is hard to rush production and its process,” he says.

But overall, the future looks very bright for Ozark West, with a significant amount of current orders, and the holiday season just around the corner. “We have good problems to solve and great challenges to

conquer,” Odea says.

Find out more about Ozark West and its products at www.ozarkwest.com.

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