Hartland, Vermont - June 30, 2006
Precision is king in Mark Lackley's wood shop, where the craftsman and his assistant prepare abalone inlays for their latest piece of furniture. Lackley says, "You can let your imagination run wild."
The process is exacting. But their hard work will result in someone else's play. Lackley is cashing in on a nationwide poker craze with a line of luxury poker tables. He only had to turn on the TV to see high-stakes games on cable and network channels. Lackley's tables feature exotic wood veneers and small hand-carved ebony clubs, hearts, diamonds, and spades.
The business owner explains, "We wanted to be the best at something and wanted to do something that was popular and would sell."
Lackley's employee Jim Munyon adds, "You look at the detail and how it's made. There's a lot of skill involved."
Lackley's poker tables sell from eight to twenty-five thousand dollars. His high-rolling customers are located mostly in big cities across the country. A major sales center is New York City. Munyon says, "Eventually we'll have people who'll want them (in Vermont). People with second homes who'll want to decorate them up."
Mark Lackley explains, "These people are of one category: they have a lot of money to spend on a game room."
Lackley was a former semi-pro football player and newspaper reporter. But he says he found his true passion in the grain of fine wood. The craftsman equates the Vermont name to a royal flush when it comes to selling furniture. He says, "In many people's minds, there's a mystique about Vermont quality."
While Lackley produces other, more traditional, styles of furniture, his line of felt-topped tables has quickly generated nearly eighty percent of his revenue. The woodworker expects the poker trend to fade out in several years, so he says he'll keep his eyes open for new trends in gaming and home entertainment that could use his high-end touch. For now, Lackley says, "We're happy to be building this niche here."
Lackley admits he plays poker badly, but his Made in Vermont tables prove you don't need to know when to hold them to make money off the game.
Jack Thurston - Channel 3 News
PO Box 4508