Toolmaker’s lucky charm was a simple square
Many people have an item they believe brings them good luck. For John Economaki, it’s a basic builder’s tool called a square.
The 8-inch square helped Economaki go from ninth-grade shop teacher to president and owner of a mail-order tool business he expects will tally sales of $2.5 million this year. And the company now offers some 14 different handmade woodworking tools designed by Economaki and sold throughout the world. That’s quite a jump from his first-year sales of about $2,500 just seven years ago.
An Iowa native, Economaki and his wife came to Oregon in 1973. Both were teachers, fresh out of college. They had jobs in Portland-area schools waiting for them, but little else, Economaki said. Arriving with only $37 in his pocket, Economaki had to get an advance on his salary to make ends meet.
After a couple years of teaching shop and managing class supplies, Economaki became frustrated because many of the mass-produced squares available were crooked. Because students needed to use squares in the shop class to create true 90-degree angles in building projects, Economaki designed one that the pupils could make in class.