Don Fisch Jr. is a Scranton native who works as a digital solutions leader at Friedman Electric and recently launched DF Custom Concepts, through which he builds wooden stools with personalized or custom silhouettes carved into them. A graduate of Scranton High School, he earned degrees in culinary arts and hotel restaurant management from the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, New York. Fisch loves spending time with his family and extended family. He and his wife, Abby, live in Scranton with their children, Andrew 3, and Ellie, 5 months.
Meet Don Fisch Jr. …
Tell me a little about yourself.
I’m 36; I’ve been married six years. I’m from Scranton and went to middle school and high school with my wife. I went to college to be a chef and went to culinary school for four years. I moved home about 10 years ago to be closer to family and decided to change careers. The (Buy Local Marketplace at Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple) was the first show I was publicly at (as DF Custom Concepts). My father was a carpenter, so I learned a lot of good traits from my dad. We formalized DF Custom Concepts very recently.
How did a culinary career lead you to electrical sales and then the launch of a business?
I call it the triple play. Culinary school was my passion at the time. It was the business I grew up in, and I really enjoyed it. I didn’t work around here. I worked in Hershey, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., as a chef, which is a very different type of atmosphere in the restaurant world than it is in Northeast PA. When I decided to come home 10 years ago, my intention was to just come home for a brief period and then conquer another city. I quickly realized two things: One, I didn’t want to move away (I had started dating my wife), and two, the type of restaurant industry experience that I was into was certainly not around here. It wasn’t for me as a profession, so I made a big, drastic move to completely change careers. All the while, woodworking has always been part of my life and a hobby.
What do you do at Friedman Electric?
My business card says “digital solutions leader.” I work with customers and our associates essentially to make people’s lives easier through a digital channel. I meet with companies or our customers and try to streamline and digitize their buying process. I work with their software and figure out what kind of tasks we can do mutually with a partnership to make our customer more effective and inevitably make us more effective and profitable.
What is the process of making stools like?
For the silhouette stool, we can make up to four images on them. The first step is Abby and I brainstorming what sets of images go together and are marketable. We make a template then transfer the image to raw stock, cut it out, paint it, then begin to assemble it. For customers who are looking for something unique, it’s the same concept. We have a conversation about the interests of the individual who it’s for and what can we do logistically or technically from a cutout perspective, because not everything can be done in a silhouette. There’s a technical thought that goes into it, and is it realistic?
What challenges or obstacles have you had to overcome through launching the business?
I never really thought about having to market something, because I was always building to custom requests. It’s a different philosophy now with what will sell. What can I be profitable with, and what can I make and produce in a manner that’s consistent and technically possible? That was a challenge, because it was new to me. Also, trying to judge the market of where can I sell the product based on my time and my cost of material and still be happy with what comes back. Being new to the market, the last thing I want is to be written off as too expensive. I’m trying to find that happy medium where I’m happy with the profitability and the customer doesn’t feel like they’re being taken for a ride.
What are your hobbies outside of woodworking?
Cooking is a hobby. For a period it was my profession; now it’s a hobby again. I like anything outdoors. We go for hikes and bike rides. I also spend a lot of time maintaining our aquarium and with the kids. We love to travel. We don’t do nearly as much now that we used to, but anytime we can get a day trip (in), we try to.
Have you had a defining personal moment?
There is certainly something that made me think about life differently. When my son was born, leading up, it was all remodeling the room, and we had checklists of things we had to do, and it was a rigid process. We had to do so many tasks before we got to the hospital. Oddly enough, the night before Andrew was born, my wife checked the last thing off her list. Andrew was born the next day; there were all these emotions and hype. The day we went home, we walked out of the hospital, and we had Andrew in hand. The doors shut, and we got in the car. I looked at Abby and said, “We came as two, and we’re leaving as a family.” It was this overwhelming moment and realizing we were responsible for a child. I’ll never forget the moment we pulled out of the parking lot and left the hospital plus one.
Abby and I started going to school together in seventh grade. In high school, both of us were involved with the plays. We dated for a week during one of the plays. I (sarcastically) say that she’s been chasing me ever since. We went separate ways and didn’t reconnect until we moved home. When we went on our first date, I told her the two things I remembered from dating her were the pancakes she made with her grandma and her favorite ice cream. To this day, 10 years into our relationship, we make those pancakes every weekend and have ice cream almost every night.
The final word is yours…
If there’s any takeaway, my family is by far the most important thing in my life. Both (Abby and I) come from fairly sizable families and are very close to our families. That’s why we moved home. I left what was a great career, and Abby was a scuba-diving instructor in Hawaii and Jamaica, and we came back to NEPA. We both left good careers and completely started over. We have a handful of friends who we regularly see; I think it’s the NEPA-ian way. As far as the business end of things, it’s new, so I want to make a name for what it is and I want it to remain fun in two respects: one, it doesn’t get overwhelming and (I) let it evolve into whatever it’s going to be; and two, that it remains fresh and there are new things and customers driving me to be better at the craft.
For more information about DF Custom Concepts visit Don’s website: facebook.com/DFCustomConcepts/