Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Practicing Compassionate Capitalism

January 26, 2011

This is old news, but I thought I would put it up on my Blog anyway.  When the Dalai Lama spoke in Hailey, ID, in 2005, I took over a truck and trailer load of Buddhas from our warehouse in Boise and set up on the side of the highway to sell them. It was a great experience! This is the week I coined the phrase, “compassionate capitalism.” My truck and trailer sales area was ‘the’ gathering place for all media and everyone visiting from out of town because, when the Dalai Lama wasn’t speaking, he was behind closed doors in private meetings and there was nothing else to do. Below are links to the AP and Tibetan News articles. I was also interviewed by TV and radio and made it on to the infamous, “Bob and Tom” show saying I was “practicing compassionate capitalism.”

Dalai Lama attracts a diverse crowd to mountain resort –

Here is a link to an Associated Press (AP) article at saying telling the same story. The Sun Valley area had RECORD hotel bookings. In fact, hotels were full in Idaho Falls (115 miles away), Pocatello (104 miles away), Twin Falls (58 miles away) and some people came every day from Boise (96 miles away) to see the Dalai Lama. Or, was it to buy hand carved stone Buddhas from me? Hmmmm……

Here’s another link to the Canada Tibet committee.

Here’s another link to the website of the International Cultic Studies with the headline, “It Was A Buddhist Woodstock.” Interestingly, this headline really sums up the weekend.

And, last but not least, this was the shortened version of the AP article most newspapers printed. I ran into an aquiantance in Indonesia 3 years after this event who read the AP article in his newspaper in Honolulu. My, how news spreads…….


Making A 3,000lb Onyx Vanity / Sink & Suspending It From A Ceiling

January 4, 2011

In the spring of 2010, the owners of Barbacoa Restaurant in Boise, Idaho, came to Impact Imports to help them decorate their new restaurant with unique pieces. One of the most unique pieces is the men’s room vanity / sink. It is made from a single piece of onyx stone and has 2 sinks and a tissue holder hand cut into the surface. The goal was to install this sink suspended from the ceiling on heavy anchor chains. As you can see from the pictures, this feat was accomplished. Here is how we did it:

On a trip to Indonesia in April of 2010, I began to hunt down and find all the pieces requested by Barbacoa. The most difficult piece was the men’s room vanity / sink combination. However, we knew the perfect supplier to make this piece. So it was only a matter of getting there, finding the stone and then begin the sometimes-difficult task of explaining how we wanted it. The travel time involved to get to this supplier in East Java, Indonesia, was approximately 36 combined hours from Boise. But, it was well worth the trip.

Upon arrival, I hooked up with a friend and began the search for the perfect piece. It had to be no more than 6 feet long and the depth would eventually be cut to 24-28 inches. The first picture in the series below shows the piece I found as it sits upside down on a pile of onyx stones. My friend is negotiating the price with the owner of the stone, and she was a tough one to bargain with! I chose this piece because it was exactly 6 ft long, and the angle on the bottom of the piece made it ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Compliant, saving a tremendous amount of manufacturing time. After about 3 hours, the stone was delivered to the supplier for cutting.

The supplier has these huge wet saws that cut through this material like butter! Most of the main cuts were simply "eyeballed," as I was kind of creating this piece on the fly. I think we pushed this through the big blades about 6 or 7 times to fine tune everything. Next came the layout of the sinks, the tissue box, the cavities behind the sink to hide the plumbing, the holes for the drains and, most difficult of all, the holes for hanging the sink from the ceiling. To find the center of balance (so the sink would hang relatively flat before we tied it to the wall with bolts) I had the supplier turn the sink upside down and balance it on pieces of bamboo! Highly scientific approach!

The end result is one of the coolest vanity / sink combinations you will ever see! We hope you enjoy it! Thanks, Barbacoa! Searching, cutting, hand crafting & installing the coolest vanity / sink combo ever!  

Barbacoa Restaurant in Boise Opening Today, December 30, 2010

December 29, 2010

After the original building burned down in a dramatic fire on January 1st, it has been a long year of rebuilding the Barbacoa Restaurant in Boise, Idaho. But, the project is complete! Barbacoa Restaurant opens today, December 30, 2010, with a VIP Dinner for family, suppliers and contractors. Owners Robert and Martine Castoro deserve the best of luck with their new place, and they should be very proud of their new design and overall efforts to meet their schedule, as the construction of this building was quite a feat!

Impact Imports is proud to have been chosen as a supplier for some of the very unique, custom pieces that were created and installed for their customer’s enjoyment. Here are pictures of the pieces we helped design / create as they were found, created or being manufactured by some of our best suppliers in Indonesia. you will have to go to Barbacoa soon to see them in their new home!

When you go to Barbacoa, look for the following pieces from Impact Imports:

* Men’s Room Vanity / Sinks: Cut from a single piece of gray / brown onyx we discovered in east Java, you will find this piece hanging from the ceiling on beefy anchor chains!
* Pink Onyx Tile: All the walls in the women’s room are covered with this tile from floor to ceiling! Very dramatic!
* Round Settee: While waiting for your table to become available for dinner, you will enjoy people watching while sitting on the custom manufactured woven cow hide settee made in Bantul, Java, Indonesia! It looks like a computer ‘pixilated’ it!
* Tree Trunk Hostess Stands: Made from a single tree trunk we found in Bali, these three very organic looking pieces will greet you when you check in for a table with your friends!
* Resin Filled Teak Root Balls: Fun and interesting 2 foot diameter stools you can rest upon in the lobby and the VIP room, these are large teak root balls filled with broken glass and resin.
* Skulls & Glass: Created by a very talented supplier in Bali, these cow skulls have hand blown glass horns. You will find these in the men’s room.
* Glowing Onyx: The front of the new Barbacoa Bar is surfaced with honey onyx from East Java Island and back lit for dramatic effect.
* Teak Aqueducts & Crystal: The light above the bar was created using long, antique teak aqueducts found in Central Java Island. Barbacoa employees added crystals, giving the illusion of water dripping from the old water distribution system.
* Stone Plates: Order a terrific steak from the kitchen, and it will be delivered on a polished granite stone from East Java.
* Hand Made Giant Pots: The mission: "Find us the largest pots you can!" Mission accomplished! See them at the entry. Hand made in Bali by very talented artisans!
* Fire Pit Tables: Hand cut from large river boulders, these three fire pits will be the destination for outdoor dining in Boise when the weather allows. All the other table on the patio are also made from natural stone from East Java.
* Cypress Tree Root Room Divider: You’ll have a hard time resisting touching this beautiful piece as you walk by it! But, go ahead……
* Cow Horn Sculpture: Real cow horns from Madura Island, Indonesia, wrapped in barbed wire sit atop the woven cow hide settee in the lobby. After all, Barbacoa is a great place for steaks……
* Glowing Tree Bark: When you’re in the Taco Bar area of Barbacoa, look up! The light shades are made from tree bark from Central Java Island, Indonesia.
* Sea Coral Pot: Found on Madura Island, Indonesia, this 1 million (+/-) year old limestone pot was an underwater volcanic vent. Sea coral lines the inside of this pot which was extracted from the ground on the property of one of our suppliers about 150 foot in elevation above sea level. This piece adds dramatic effect to Barbacoa’s exterior landscape!

Enjoy your visits to Barbacoa! Impact Imports Items Installed at Barbacoa Restaurant  

Rustic Pedestal Sink & Antique Window

December 6, 2010

People who know Impact Imports know we do rustic, and we do it well! On my trip to Java Island in Indonesia in April 2010, I found a terrific pedestal sink made from a single piece of andesite stone. This piece was hand cut and shaped to be a beautiful addition to any cabin or lodge, or as the powder room sink in a modern house (for great contrast!). I love the natural reddish color on the outside of this stone sink!

The mirror behind this sink is made from a reclaimed antique teak window frame from a Javanese home. The shutters were removed and a mirror added. The teak is hand carved. Andesite Pedestal Sink & Antique Window Frame Mirror  




Great, organic art pieces

November 29, 2010

On my trip to Indonesia in April this year, I stopped by to visit a supplier in Bali that I had not seen for 2 or 3 years. I have always enjoyed visiting with this supplier because he has great design sense and good product ingenuity. His name is Herry, and he is a young guy on the cutting edge of organic design, using reclaimed teak and recycled, hand blown glass, among other things.

These pictures show a variety of items he has created using reclaimed teak or monkeypod wood and hand blown, recycled glass. These are truly one of a kind pieces and simply works of art. You can find these for sale at the Impact Imports website: Hand blown recycled glass on reclaimed teak  







Reclaimed Teak Tree Trunk Furniture

November 24, 2010

Several years ago, we came across a supplier in East Java Island in Indonesia who had a huge warehouse full of reclaimed, old growth teak tree trunk furniture. This furniture is organic and rustic and modern, all at the same time.

This Furniture can be used indoor or out in any weather. Old growth teak performs really good in North America because it contains a lot of oil. Therefore, it is very stable and won’t crack much, if at all. If the furniture is used outdoors, the UV rays from the sun will ‘bleach’ the wood, turning it a nice, driftwood silver color. Each piece is unique and interesting in its own way.

By the way, this supplier pulls these old growth teak tree trunks out of the ground, reclaims the ground and replants the area using the same teak tree species, creating a new, slow growth teak forest. Beautiful business model….

Here are a few pictures of some teak tree trunk chairs.

                      Reclaimed Teak Tree Trunk Chairs  







November 24, 2010

It’s been a long day…..  

Building Houses In China

September 29, 2009

In the late 1990’s, I opened an office in downtown Beijing, China, near the intersection of Second Ring Road and Chang An Lu Boulevard, with a friend of mine from California, Tate Miller, who is currently the Dean of Advising, Careers and Student Services and the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Tate had been living in Beijing for a couple of years and contacted me in 1997 to start a new business representing US building material companies in China. He would run the operation ‘in country,’ while I traveled back and forth between China and the US. Appropriately, we named our company “American Western Homes and Building Materials, Inc.,” and we represented several building material companies, including a family owned business called Precision Panel Structures located in Eagle, Idaho. Precision Panel manufactures Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs).

Although I enjoyed traveling throughout the country, I found China to be a very difficult place to do business, particularly if you are trying to sell and ship product to China. My experiences were parallel to some of the people in the book, “The China Dream,” a tale about Western business woes in China stretching back 700 years. However, after a couple of years of hard work, we finally found a customer who actually conducted business the way we preferred. As a result, we were the first Americans to build houses in China using Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) and all engineered lumber. And, even though the manager of the Chinese port held our shipment for a $10,000USD ‘ransom’ before he would release it, our customer was happy with the end result of the project.

This first project consisted of six homes in the northern part of Beijing in an area called “Fragrant Mountain,” a high end ‘neighborhood’ reserved for the Chinese political elite (The Presidential House is located in this area). Considering most every building in China is built using concrete, this sale was a major accomplishment. I helped build the shell of these six homes made from SIPs and all engineered lumber, mostly from Idaho manufacturers and suppliers. But, the primary construction managers were customers of mine from Idaho who also happened to be ex-Navy Sea Bees; they were used to working in unknown and difficult conditions and were eager to go to Beijing to work on this project. They considered it to be quite an adventure!

Consider this: it normally takes about 4 to 5 months for 25 to 30 guys to build the shell of a 4,000 square foot (approx 400 square meters) Villa out of concrete and bricks in the metro areas of China. We had sold these six homes to our customer telling him we could build all six shells, tight to weather, within 2 months from emptying the shipping containers. Our goal was aggressive, but we knew we could do it. What could go wrong, right? We had drawn and engineered the projects in Idaho, so we knew the houses (each one a different design) were fairly easy to build. All the pre-engineered wood was reliable to work with, and we bought trusses from one of the most experienced truss plants in BC, Canada (the only non-Idaho supplier, by the way). But, the fact there were no ‘formal’ plans for the development sent up the first red flag.
The Master Plan drawn in the mud for reference..... The ‘master plan’ (above) was drawn in the mud for our 2 man crew when they arrived on the site to get concrete slabs ready for the shipment from Idaho. Our guys had to know what they were going to build, right?

Despite the difficulties experienced on the job site (language barriers, minimal tools and equipment for building wood framed houses, etc.) in the end we easily met the schedule of erecting the shells of six homes in less than 2 months. We accomplished this goal with 2 Americans on the job site instructing 8 Chinese on how to build with our materials. After the shells were built, the finish materials were purchased ‘in country’ and it took another 3 or 4 months to complete every house to a move-in condition. To make it even more interesting, there were no ‘official’ building permits for this project….. This is a project I will never forget.

Because all of these homes were built using Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) for the shell of the structure, I know these were the most energy efficient modern-day homes built in China. And, quite possibly, they still are.

This is what I do now: Impact Imports

Meeting Zhang Zemin, the President of China

August 23, 2009

In the late 1990s and very early 2000’s, I co-owned and operated a business in Beijing, China with a partner in a company called American Western Homes and Building Materials. Because China had recently “opened up,” there was a huge influx of Western companies trying to capitalize on the (potentially) HUGE market in China. Needless to say, I took every opportunity I could to help get our little company get noticed, and trade missions with representatives of the state of Idaho were one way to accomplish this.

In 2001, I traveled throughout China with Idaho Senator Larry Craig, the Idaho Department of Commerce, Idaho University Presidents, the Idaho Department of Agriculture and other Idaho businesses. Although some trade mission attendees often find these trips to be unfruitful, I have always garnered extra business from them; maybe not immediately, but within 1 or 2 years as is usually the case in any Asian country.

On this particular trip, an opportunity arose giving me a ‘golden ticket,’ so to speak: I met then-President of China, Zhang Zemin in the Great Hall of the People in Tienanmen Square and snapped a hand shake picture with him. You might conclude from the picture that he was ‘camera ready’ while I was stumbling over some Mandarin Chinese…. this would be a correct conclusion. He really knew how to work the cameras and the room to his advantage. All of the trade mission participants then sat in the Great Hall of the People for about 1 1/2 hours discussing our businesses, doing business in China, etc. And, interestingly, there was NO security when we went into the Great Hall of the People. None. However, I quickly surmised that all of my stuff was probably inspected in my room at the Beijing Grand Hotel while I was attending meetings at the US embassy the night before.

This picture opened many doors for me and my business partner in China over the next few years. Keep in mind I am a free market, independent capitalist, so the best part of this meet with President Zhang was strictly for propaganda purposes to promote my business in China. 10 days later, I met the first democratically elected president of Taiwan and that was even more exciting to me.


By the way, this is what I do now: Impact Imports, USA

The First Pellet Burning Stove In Japan

July 28, 2009

During my very first trip to Japan in the mid-1980’s, I installed the first pellet burning stoves the country had ever seen. At the time, I was the Sales and Marketing Manager for a company called Pyro Industries located in Everett, Washington and this was the company that put residential pellet heating on the map with the invention and sales of the Whitfield Pellet Stove. I was also in charge of expanding distribution to Japan, which really excited me. I am mesmerized by the country each time I visit. The Japanese citizenry elegantly control the chaos in their cities, and the people are innately kind and generous to strangers.

The first Pellet Stove installed in the country of Japan was for the Honshu Island distributor of Lindal Cedar Homes. how do I know this? Well….. I installed it. The house was located in beautiful Nagoya, Japan, and it was newly-built perfection. Lots of wood inside and out, and both of the young family’s parents also lived in the house. Situated in the countryside, it was a large house when compared to typical Japanese living standards and very beautiful. I visited the family a couple times over the years, but have forgotten where I keep the pictures (’cause they weren’t digital back then!). But, I do have a little key chain hand made by the young daughter of the couple. These are little wooden sandals she made (with the help of her grandmother) from pieces of bamboo. Cute. I never use them as a key chain because I don’t want to ruin this memory.

A little hand made memento from my first trip to Japan.

A little hand made memento from my first trip to Japan.

Yeah, I know. This post is more about my memories than anything else. But that is what life is about: building memories. This is what I do now: Impact Imports. Come visit me!