CalCedar has a multi-generational family history in the pencil industry as a technical leader and market innnovator
California Cedar Products Company has a rich history now in our third & fourth generations of family ownership and stewardship. With roots dating back to 19th century Bavarian pencil makers, the Berolzheimer family has now been involved in the production of pencils or pencil slats for seven generations. In 1855, Daniel Berolzheimer and his partner Leopold Illfelder founded Berolzheimer und Illfelder Steam Pencil factory in Fürth, Germany. After producing pencils for just a few years, Heinrich Berolzheimer succeeded his father Daniel in 1859 upon his unexpected death. Heinrich soon established a factory in New York to pursue the growing U.S. market while production in Germany eventually was ceased. In 1882 Heinrich acquired his partners interests and the business was renamed Eagle Pencil Company. Thereafter Heinrich’s sons, Emil and Philip, emigrated to the U.S. and built Eagle Pencil into one of the leading US producers under the watchful eyes of Heinrich who remained in Germany until his death in 1906.
During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s the primary pencil wood in the United States was Eastern Red Cedar, which grows throughout the southeastern U.S. Given the critical importance of wood supply to the company, Eagle established several mills in the region to provide pencil slats for the New York factory. Indeed in time several pencil manufacturers also relocated their finished pencil production, settling primarily in Tennessee which became an important center of pencil production in the U.S. through the balance of the 20th century.
During this period, the Berolzheimer Family acquired Little St. Simons Island. This barrier island off the coast of Georgia was used briefly for its supply of Red Cedar and then was converted to a family retreat. Operated today as a unique Eco-travel resort, the amazing natural beauty of the Lodge on Little St. Simons lures visitors from around the world and still has close connections to the decendants of Philip Berolzheimer.
By 1910 Eagle Pencil’s subsidiary, Hudson Lumber Company, had established the industry’s first sawmill and slat factory in San Leandro, California to produce slats from Incense-cedar. Incense-cedar, which grows abundantly in California and Oregon forests, was an ideal substitute for Eastern Red Cedar as a pencil wood due to the ease of machining, sharpening, lacquering and imprinting.
In the mid 1920s, the Berolzheimer family pursued separate paths as the next generation of family members began entering the business following Emil’s death in 1922. Emil’s children retained ownership of Eagle Pencil Company which eventually was renamed as Berol Corporation. They remained in the industry until 1985 when Berol was sold to Empire Pencil Company at a time of increasing industry mergers and acquisitions. (Today the Eagle and Berol brands and thier well known Mirado and Prismacolor pencils are part of Newell Rubbermaid Corporation) Meanwhile, Philip sold his interest in Eagle to his nephews, retired from active business life and paved the way for his son Charles to continue the family tradition of heading west to pursue new pencil industry opportunities, serving as advisor and coach until his death in 1942.
In 1927, at the age of 25, CalCedar patriarch Charles Berolzheimer moved from New York to California, purchasing California Cedar Products Company which had been founded in 1917, as an independent pencil slat supplier. Charles dedicated the rest of his professional life to developing Incense-cedar slat products and manufacturing processes and to establishing CalCedar’s slats as the premier wood-casings used in the pencil industry.
A modern day Renaissance Man, Charles spoke seven languages, had a keen interest in people and traveled extensively throughout the world establishing lasting relationships with pencil manufacturers. Today the vast majority of Cal Cedar slat sales are outside of the United States, reflecting the globalized nature of the industry. One of Charles Berolzheimer’s greatest interests was in the area of research and development. He made many important contributions to the technology of pencil slat manufacturing, including the development of our uniquely efficient saws and sawing system and advancements in pressurized emulsion treatment of slats, adding wax and stain for uniform coloration and improved wood machining during pencil production and sharpening of finished pencils. His technical and values based leadership of the company continued into his early 90’s until his death in 1995 contributing greatly to CalCedar’s culture of quality and innovation and the establishment of the company as the world’s leading slat producer and of Incense-cedar as the preferred specie for pencil manufacturing.
During the 1960’s, Charles’ sons, Philip and Michael, entered the family business and became deeply committed to continuing its growth and development over the next 30+ years. In 1969, they established P&M Lumber Products Company, later renamed P&M Cedar, to focus on the optimal sourcing and merchandising of Incense-cedar into a variety of products to meet the growing market needs for cedar lumber to produce pencil slats and other building materials. Eventually P&M operated 5 sawmills and related remanufacturing operations throughout California and Oregon. In the early 1980’s P&M’s product ranges expanded to include CedarPro® siding and decking, this innovation introduced a branded marketing approach with premium product quality standards and performance to a market segment traditionally traded as simple commodities under very general industry grade rules.
Also in 1969, CalCedar introduced the California Cedar Firelog to the marketplace. Later renamed as Duraflame®, this first ever wood-wax blend extruded firelog was developed to make the best possible use of cedar waste from slat production thus inventing a whole new category of consumer hearth product. The company’s technical expertise in manufacturing, product formulation and quality supported the continual growth and development of the manufactured firelog category. First under Michael’s, then Philip’s leadership Duraflame® built it’s position as the firelog market and brand leader.
By the mid 1990’s, California Cedar Products Company, P&M and to some extent Duraflame began to face a series of challenges due to changing competitive and regulatory environments. Increased environmental activism and new restrictions on West Coast timber harvesting lead to declining Incense-cedar supplies and higher rates of raw material cost inflation. These forces coupled with increasing global competition in the pencil industry and pencil slat business as new Asian producers introduced cheaper substitute products, often from unsustainably harvested wood species. Meanwhile both the pencil manufacturing customers and retailers of office, school and art supplies experienced an increasing rate of consolidation and concentration. As a result the company’s core wood slat business came under increasing pressure soon after the death of the family and company patriarch, thus setting the stage for important industry and company structural and marketing focus changes over the following decade and beyond.
One important innovation during this period was CalCedar’s introduction of the world’s first FSC Certified pencil slats within our Incense-cedar product line. Given increasing public concerns about global forest management practices and our own commitment to supporting sustainable and environmentally sound forestry of our timber suppliers, the company dedicated itself to offering and promoting an increased adoption of third party forest and supply chain certification within both our company’s product range and within the Pencil Industry as a whole. The company subsequently introduced ForestChoice®, the world’s first brand of Certified Wood pencils, and today offers a broad range and ever increasing proportion of our sales in certified slat products which are actively promoted to the industry, the trade and end consumers.
In 1999 Cal Cedar acquired the slat production assets of a key competitor, Hudson I.C.S. (a former subsidiary of Berol Corporation, the successor to Eagle Pencil company), gaining access to additional market share and use of their EcoSlat® brand of slats made from species other than Incense-cedar. Then in 2000, the P&M sawmill and lumber operations were reintegrated into California Cedar Products Company to further improve cost efficiencies.
At this time members of the 3rd generation of the Berolzheimer family assumed leadership at CalCedar and within just a few years also at Duraflame. These transitions lead to a significant re-evaluation of the various businesses and restructuring of the company’s global supply chain and manufacturing operations over the next several years. Ultimately, the decision to close U.S. based pencil slat manufacturing in Stockton, CA in favor of a new facility located in Tianjin, China. In June 2001, Tianjin Custom Wood Processing, Co. Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of CalCedar (which formerly produced Basswood window slats for P&M), processed its first CalCedar® brand Incense-cedar and EcoSlat® Basswood pencil slats in China. By April 2002 all pencil slat production had been transferred from California to China initiating a new era of global manufacturing strategy for the company.
Subsequently the remaining Stockton, CA firelog manufacturing operations and all remaining administrative and technical support for the firelog business were transferred from CalCedar to the Duraflame organization. This enabled both the slat and firelog business segments to focus independent resources on their respective markets. Ultimately a number of 2nd and 3rd generation ownership succession issues were managed through this period which further aligned family shareholder interests with the strategic development plans of both businesses. Duraflame now operates as a fully independent company within the Berolzheimer family ownership group, and continues to innovate new products including entry into firestarters, charcoal, matches and other heating and cooking fuels and related products. Meanwhile CalCedar’s businesses have continued to evolve over the past 10 years with some of the following key developments
- Acquired Propen, Ltd., a finished pencil manufacturing facility in Thailand, and operated it from 2002 to 2007 to produce a range of semi-finished to finished pencils on an OEM basis for customers in the pencil industry and complementary products businesses looking to purchase rather than manufacture pencils as they adapted to global competitive dynamics . Ultimately, this facility was sold back to a CalCedar slat customer to re-focus core manufacturing efforts on pencil slats and only outsource pencils from various slat customers as needed for pencil sales purposes. This transaction also generated capital necessary to complete final stages of shareholder succession planning.
- In late 2003 the company’s California Republic Stationers Division was established to pursue selected opportunities for branded pencil sales in new and developing foreign markets where CalCedar slat market share was limited. The Palomino, Golden Bear, Prospector and Spangle pencil brands joined ForestChoice as the CalCedar finished goods product brand family under the California Republic umbrella. All products but the Japanese produced Palomino premium pencil range were manufactured at Propen until 2007.
- In 2004, given declining share of Incense-cedar versus other wood species in the global pencil industry and ongoing supply constraints for efficient singe species specialist sawmill operations, the company closed it’s final US based sawmill facility in McCloud, CA. All Incense-cedar pencil lumber continues to be sourced via other sawmills in California and Oregon with which CalCedar has long standing raw material supply relationsips. The CedarPro® product range for the residential and commercial lumber markets in the US were discontinued and the brand sold to another cedar manufacturer of similar products.
- IN 2005, the company introduced the world’s first FSC Certified Basswood (Linden) pencil slat range to complement our existing Ecoslat® Basswood and CalCedar® FSC Incense-cedar product ranges. This was also one of the very first FSC wood products of any sort produced from Chinese forests managed under the FSC Certification program. About this time the CalCedar® Incense-cedar range was expanded to include participation in the SFI (now PEFC) Certification program. These developments represent the company’s continuing commitment to produce and market increasing proportions of certified wooden slat products and push for adoption within the pencil industry and our raw material supply chain.
- In fall of 2005 e-commerce sales on eBay were initiated for US consumers and in 2008 the old Incense Cedar Institute Pencil pages website established in the mid 1990s was re-launched as Pencils.com Store and online Pencil Community to further expand awareness of wood cased pencils and build a following among pencil enthusiasts appreciating. During this period the Palomino graphite pencil range began to develop a following among fans of the discontinued, but well loved Eberhard-Faber Blackwing 602 pencil.
- Responding to growing interest among enthusiasts in Palomino pencils and repeated requests for a duplication of the Blackwing pencil’s unique eraser and ferrule the Company is able to secure rights to the Blackwing brand name and introduces the Palomino Blackwing in the fall of 2010 with the Palomino Blackwing 602 model in mid 2011 to increasing publicity and positive reviews. Marketing of the product focuses on use of the latest social networking and promotional tools and the broad range of creative users and the unique story of the Blackwing pencil and it’s many famous users.
- During 2011 Pencils.com increases focus on expanding audience reach establishing Studio602, to produce a broad range of creative, entertainment and educational content tied to the creative expression enabled by wood cased pencils. Meanwhile the Pencils.com store has increased emphasis on offering an ever broader range of pencils from Calcedar’s pencil slat customer base to complement the company’s own brands and accomplish the goal of being the world’s leading on-line resource for wood-cased pencils and pencil enthusiasts.
- In Fall 2011 the company introduced a new stylish notebook, sketchbook and journal range within the Palomino, Blackwing and ForestChocie brand ranges as well as taking on North America distribution for the Fabio Ricci notebook brand. In 2012 the company begins implementing it’s brand realignment to drop both the California Republic Stationers and Spangle names and to reposition all our branded pencil and stationery items under the PALOMINO brand umbrella.
- Responding to ongoing pressures on Cedar, Basswood and world wood supplies for other pencil wood species, in Fall 2011, after over a year of development and testing with our supplier and customers, CalCedar introduced the new Ecoslat® Pacific Albus® pencil slat range to growing adoption and interest among customers. This is a 100% FSC certified wood produced from a series of specialized hybrid poplar clones in a short rotation plantation in Oregon. As the worldwide exclusive supplier of Pacific Albus® to the pencil industry CalCedar is collaborating with it’s supply chain partners The Collins Companies and Greenwood Resources to develop and optimize this wood for the pencil industry and expects the Ecoslat® Pacific Albus® product line to play a considerable role in the future of wood supply to our company and the industry.
As California Cedar Products Company approaches its centennial mark in 2019, the company is well positioned for the future with a strengthened competitive slat business, new customers, products and services in the nascent PALOMINO branded products arena and a growing following of online pencil enthusiasts at Pencils.com and Studio602.