Rocking and Rolling
By Meda Kessler
Photos by Ron Jenkins
With new headquarters in Justin and a new line, Southlake’s Alex Smith grows his Rockerman of Texas business as the demand for outdoor furniture continues
The Rockerman of Texas headquarters in Justin is Alex Smith’s happy place.
Thanks to a short drive from his Southlake home, Smith is at work very early most days. He has a small office, but he’s most likely to be found where the action is: the sawdust-filled woodshop where the Rockerman chairs are handcrafted by Smith and a part-time crew.
With three people working, they can turn out four chairs a day from start to finish (including staining).
Eight years ago, Smith sat in his first oversize cedar rocking chair at Rough Creek Lodge & Resort in Glen Rose. He researched the maker — a husband-and-wife team working out of a cozy rock building in Cresson just outside of Granbury — and eventually bought the company. Smith’s career has taken him from baseball diamonds (he played in the Texas Rangers’ minor league system) to retail and manufacturing (he was an executive with Williamson-Dickie in Fort Worth), and he was jazzed to switch directions yet again.
He has embraced his full-time Rockerman role wholeheartedly, even with a few curve balls thrown at him due to the pandemic. “Access to wood was a challenge. We get our cedar from Oregon — our mill is in California — and are fortunate that our source sets wood aside for us. Trucking costs have gone up, too.”
Despite some delays, orders typically are fulfilled within six weeks. Smith has expanded the line, but the workmanship hasn’t changed much: All pieces are individually cut and put together by hand using wood dowels. The Rockerman slatted seat is wide and contoured for comfort; armrests are substantial. Laser engraving — at one time it was done by an old-school wood-burning tool — adds a personal touch. Smith offers a choice of five stains and has expanded the product line, which now includes tables, bench rockers, chairs, Adirondack chairs, swings and a stationary bench in addition to the classic rocker. Kid-size versions also are available. Smith says they can barely keep up with the demand; they now deliver to 23 states.
Earlier this year, he launched another outdoor furniture line, simply called Rockerman, inspired by the handmade originals. “It took two years of research, design, development, manufacturing and logistical coordination with a factory in Vietnam to bring the new line to the market,” says Smith. The collection includes a single rocker, rocking bench, stationary bench, porch swing and two side tables, round and square, all available in four stains. Each one is shipped in five pieces for light assembly.
The new line already has customers in 45 states and Canada. Prices run about $100 to $200 less than the handmade line. Standard orders ship within
48 hours; branded or personalized pieces go out in 5 to 7 days.
Want to check out samples and purchase in person? There’s now a showroom for the Rockerman line in North Richland Hills. And the shop in Justin is expanding, too. Or shop Rockerman offerings online at Etsy, Wayfair and Amazon websites.
Of the changes, Smith says, “The handmade pieces are still a labor of love, and the new line is a great option. I’m proud of both.”