Pekota – Those who dine together, design together

By David MacDonald

pekotapic1Google ?Marco Pecota’ right now. If you only scanned that Toronto Star article and you simply glanced at that Globe and Mail piece and took a quick peek at the IMDb page, I’ll save you the trouble of asking and just give you a simple answer: Yes, that’s all about the same Marco Pecota. Marco is a man inspired. He’ll be the first to tell you that he has no formal education as an industrial designer, but there he is featured in the Life section of Canada’s largest online news feed as well as in the Home and Garden section of Canada’s most read newspaper. He’s also not a film school graduate, but he was nominated for a Genie Award – which recognize the best of Canadian Cinema and Television. Marco prescribes to, in his words, “the old adage that if you bake bread and everyone buys your bread, you’re a baker.”

Pecota, founder and CEO of Pekota – and yes, the difference in spelling will be addressed in this article – wasn’t done with the from the oven metaphors. From his workshop and office on Dufferin Street in Toronto, Canada, the “furniture and architectural elements” designer known for his style of “Industrial Elegance” explained to me, with a directorial conviction in his voice, that “The breaking of bread is a big part of any family. When we have lunch together at Pekota our team feels more close-knit. I want to maintain our family feel no matter how big Pekota gets.”

Knowing no bounds Pekota’s expansion is not at all surprising. He’s a regularly featured exhibitor at High Point Market, “the largest furnishings industry trade show in the world,” according to highpointmarket.org. His chairs have been shipped internationally – most recently to a competitive restaurant on the renowned Italian cuisine scene in Santiago, Chile.

Pecota modestly passes off his growing global reputation to “the wonders of the internet.”

pekotapic2Ever since its inception four years ago, Pekota has been in a growth spurt. “Every year Pekota doubles in size. The employees prove it. We went from one to two to four, and now we’re up to seven,” Pecota explains. “I’m the type of guy who reinvests in his business to establish a steady cash flow now in order to make big profits down the road. The business needs all the money it makes to fuel its expansion.”

He knows a thing or two about putting his dollar to good use. Pecota is also the financial controller of Rue Morgue Magazine – “The world’s premiere horror in culture and entertainment magazine” – and the producer of the feature film The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh, “a kind of a Hitchcock thriller,” he says. At the 29th Genie Awards in 2008, Pecota and his film crew were nominated in the Best Animated Short category for The Facts in the Case of Mister Hollow, a feat he attributes to the intimacy of the creative process. “When you produce large-scale artistic acts, involving so many people, it becomes a family act. If you’ve been lucky enough to take part in a project like this, you can attest to this: You experience a kind of withdrawal when it’s all said and done. You’ve just been through a month or two month process with people who become family and who fuel your inspiration and then it’s over. “What’s great about Pekota is that it allows the artistic part of me to collaborate and thrive.”

His will to work together is what makes Pekota products so relevant. While Pecota owes much of his design templates to the movements of Art Deco, Art Nouveau, and Mid-Century Modern, he is also a man who looks ahead more than he looks back. “There’s a contemporary push fueled by young people that emphasizes a more hands-on, creative product. These are pieces and products that are expanding boundaries and they’re finding their way out on the market,” he explains. “It’s basically young people doing cooler stuff. These kids are educated and the shame is no one is hiring them, so they find ways to make small scale, hands-on business models work. It’s a movement that’s growing and evolving and it’s fascinating and exciting to be a part of it.”

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The Pekota team is highly representative of the underappreciated college graduate. They’re young – Pecota is definitely the oldest, by far (his words) – and they begin their tenure at Pekota as interns. “They’re from Humber College, Emily Carr and the Ontario College of Art and Design. I was looking for fresh minds; basically people who weren’t indoctrinated by a specific way of doing things. My aesthetics and my manufacturing process – like my thought pattern – are outside the realm of tradition. I just don’t do things the way people normally do in this industry. I need people who are willing to do something different without worrying about the consequences.”

When Pecota shared with me that his 27-year-old son runs the Pekota Shop on Pacific Avenue in Toronto’s furniture and design savvy neighbourhood, The Junction, it was clear to me that Pecota truly believes in family. It is his innate loyalty and pride that put the ?k’ in Pekota. Pecota explains.

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“My father of Dalmatian descent, was born in a town close to Zadar, Croatia (former Yugoslavia). His last name was Pekota with a ?k’ but there is no ?k’ in their alphabet so it was changed to a “c.” He emigrated to Canada in the early 1950s, where he was registered as Pecota with a ?c’ and it stuck. When it came to naming my design studio I felt that it was a meaningful way of honouring my family and our past.”

The genuine touch is seldom lost on scrupulous shoppers. Pekota’s retail customers are often, new homeowners and professionals,” he explains. “They’re moving homes and they’re looking for something a little more aesthetically pleasing and built to last. This fits our philosophy of creating products with care that stand the test of time.

pekotapic5Pekota designs are also becoming a presence in the hospitality and commercial markets. “Year after year, our sales prove that businesses really love the look that we create; it is unique and when it comes to restaurants, for instance, they want to differentiate themselves from the restaurant down the street. What’s proven to be an advantage to me is that I’m not so big that my product is fresh. If a restaurant in Austin is using our Mark 1 chairs, they’re the only one in town. It’s now a unique ambiance. Pekota furniture is customizable; and it is very easy for us to tweak designs, if a client wants chairs with branding, no problem. We can do signage in interesting and unique ways and do it quickly. It brings something special.”

For Pecota, the “something special” is the future of not only industrial design, but of retail itself. The spread of mass customization, “a marketing and manufacturing technique that combines the flexibility and personalization of custom-made products with the low unit costs associated with mass production,” according to Investopedia.com, brings with it endless opportunities for creative engines like Pekota. “The ability to create affordable products on demand for your customers is the next big thing. The first example of its unquestionable potential and success is pizza. The customer can ultimately create the pizza that best suits the, inexpensively and delivered in 30 minutes. Now we see big companies achieving success with the pizza model. We’re in this game now with our line of Switch Style stools,” Pecota stresses.

“Ultimately, we can customize anything. The limit is really what the customer is willing to spend – that’s not to say we don’t do a lot of cool stuff at a modest price. But say someone wants a circular couch, four feet deep, 80 feet in diameter with upholstery that climbs the wall and then turns into a canopy with lighting; we could do it – over time,” he laughs. “We can take on pretty much anything. We love taking on jobs that are heavy on architectural elements. If a customer wants their place to look like the inside of a ship, well, we can do that. Complexity adds to the fun and that means we’ll do almost anything.”

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Pekota products are sourced from environmentally friendly materials and are shipped in KD (Knock Down) formats.