We had the good fortune of connecting with Molly and Brian Hodo and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Molly and Brian, maybe we can start at the very start – the idea – how did you come up with the idea for your business?
Well, it started in 2015 as a simple plan with two last names coming together to form a company name for their business and acreage in the Cuyamaca Woods area (The San Diego Mountains) of Julian, California. The couple wanted to live more simply and be creative in what they love to do, which is create functional art, handmade by both of them. Molly Hodo is a graphic designer, artist and marketing professional who recently worked in the commercial aerospace manufacturing business as a sales and marketing professional, but wanted to step out of the big corporate world and enjoy being an artist again. Brian Hodo spent a lot of his years wood working just for a hobby and enjoying hours in the wood shop making gifts for family members. He worked for over 14 years in the fire service profession and retired from CalFire as a Fire Captain in San Diego County a few years ago. They created a small business, Merdo Acres Wood Design Studio, which is making waves as a new functional art wood store in the quaint little mountain town of Julian, California. They have opened their first retail store with their handmade wood and epoxy products in the once operated fruit processing plant, Julian Station, which is located in Wynola. (On the outskirts of Julian).
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Woodworking is a craft that is slowly losing its following because of large manufacturers and machines that are doing all of the work, and not actual people. They wanted to create a woodworking retail business to share their love of wood and art with everyone. They knew it wasn’t going to be easy, especially since you can buy most wood products at the big box stores, for a lot less than something that is handmade and not imported from a third world country. That was a hurdle they had to overcome by teaching their customers about the process, the woods used and where they come from, how to maintain and take care of each piece to make it a lasting heirloom for years to come. It was important for Merdo customers to understand their mission to create these handmade pieces and that each one was a snowflake, never to be replicated or duplicated ever again. You can’t say that about any piece of wood you buy at a furniture store, as all of those are mass produced and duplicated over and over again. They purposely make everything by hand, and only by the two of them, which has its own ups and downs. Since everything is handmade, the time it takes to do some of their wood products can take up to 7 days to complete, which is a long time considering there are machines and large companies turning out hundreds of items per minute. They overcome this by batching their boards as much as possible, and finishing a large run of them at once. During the pandemic in 2020, Molly submersed herself into learning a new art form using epoxy resin over different types of mediums (ceramics and wood). Clear bar top epoxy resin, mixed with the right pigments, time and temperature, will create and mimic the ocean waves and water. It was a huge learning curve but it has been the most exciting part of their retail business to date. The large charcuterie boards (for serving meats, cheese, crackers and desserts) have been the most popular products they have made, and when you add the beach resin to it, they turn into a must have to those who entertain. They definitely haven’t seen many people doing what we do by hand, so that in itself makes their art unique! They also do custom orders for caterers, restaurants, tasting rooms, wineries and individual requests such as tables, bars and mantels for businesses around Julian and the county of San Diego. All of the wood items can also be custom laser engraved on the spot in their retail store, or by special request to make them even more special.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The small town of Julian is the perfect place to take friends and family when they arrive in California! Just an hour and a half east of San Diego, you can find the perfect day-trip mountain getaway. Tucked high in the Cuyamaca Mountains is the charming 1800s gold-mining town of Julian, CA. Once a bustling mining town, today Julian is a seasonal tourist destination known for its fresh-baked apple pies. What most visitors don’t know is that this tiny town is packed full of one-of-a-kind things to experience all year long. It’s only a few blocks long, but has kept the old time heritage of their buildings alive and thriving. You can bring the kids and have a great day exploring everything we have to offer! Apple picking at the many apple orchards, panning for gold, visit the California Wolf Center, take a hike on the many hiking trails, eat at one of the many local restaurants, and the adults can even do hard cider and wine tasting all year long! There is even a farm tour at Fort Cross Old Timey Adventures that takes you on a vintage hay ride, petting zoo and ax throwing! Our little retail wood shop is located inside of Julian Station (Wynola area) just on the outskirts of Julian next to Julian Hard Cider and there is an amazing array of small businesses that make their own merchandise to sell, just like Merdo Acres does! Plus you can have an awesome burger, wine & chocolate tasting, tap beer and arcade for the kids. Or enjoy the day relaxing at Cuyamaca Lake where you can hike, sit and enjoy nature, or rent boats / kayaks at the bait shop and take a cruise on the lake. With this many choices, it’s hard not to venture out of the concrete jungle and let the kids enjoy nature for the weekend.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Both of our families were super supportive of us taking our love of art, and making it into our own little business in California. Our parents are our greatest supporters and have showed us that love and passion are the key to a long, healthy, happy life. They taught us if you’re not doing what you love for your full time job, then you are wasting away your talents and not living up to your full potential. They encouraged us to share our gifts with the world and be our own bosses.
Yelp: Merdo Acres Wood Design Studio
Molly Hodo of Merdo Acres Wood Design Studio