SODO Stories, Made in SODO Series: O.B. Williams
The SODO Stories, Made in SODO series, is a collection of stories about business owners who create, design and sell products that are made in SODO. The businesses featured in the Made in SODO series are all featured in our Made in SODO video. Each story/business is unique, and they help to create a vibrant community here in SODO. To watch the video, it can be found here: Made in SODO Video
Story: Jillian Celich | Photos: Vertizon Photography
O.B. WILLIAMS IS A LEGACY MANUFACTURING INDUSTRIAL COMPANY THAT HAS DEEP ROOTS & A LONG HISTORY IN SODO.
SODO- Seattleites who were born and raised here know it as South of the [King]Dome, others refer to it as South of Downtown. But, for the O.B. Williams Company SODO is just known as home.
O.B. Williams, a woodworking company that makes custom, high quality pieces has been in Washington since 1889, and in SODO since 1911. In fact, this year they will be celebrating 130 years as a company. In those 130 years, the company has seen three owners beginning with the namesake, O.B. Williams, followed by two employees who worked their way up to ownership. The current owner and President, David Wick, an employee since the 1980’s, has had ownership since 2000. His wife, Terry Wick, also works for the company as the Vice President focusing on the business side of things, while their son works as a Contractor Estimator/Sales Manager. The previous owner, Ray McCoy still has family members involved in the company. Even with three different owners, the company still has strong family ties.
The company has 30 employees, around the same number that O.B. Williams had when he started the company, who specialize in making either molding, cabinets, or doors. In order to create these custom pieces, the employees needed to have studied woodworking as a specialized trade and have a high level of experience in creating pieces with wood. Luckily for the company, there is a woodworking program right in their backyard. Seattle Central College has an impressive Wood Technology program that helps O.B. Williams find their highly skilled employees. Additionally, David Wick continues to invest in advanced training and maintained skill for his employees, which proves to be good for O.B. Williams because each employee averages 14 years with the company. The longevity extends both in its employees, as well as in the company itself.
As you enter the O.B. Williams workroom area, it extends into separate rooms that are split for the specialization of the different custom pieces made. The first room is for employees who specialize in making custom molding. The company makes and grinds their knives in house in order to create the custom molding. Even with over 5,000 options, the company is able to make a different design to fit an architect or customer’s needs. The next rooms allow for employees who make custom cabinets and doors, along with the different machinery required to make these pieces. “Some of these pieces are created for homes in United States, but also for homes internationally,” says Terry. She said that the coolest project O.B. Williams has done is the inside of Benaroya Hall, home to the Seattle Symphony. O.B. Williams created all custom paneling, and the founder’s tier boxes, which has helped the Hall to be acclaimed internationally for its incredible acoustic properties.
Being in SODO for this long, O.B. Williams has seen SODO change. Even within the last ten years, SODO has grown with new restaurants, companies and things to do such as visiting the distilleries and wine cellars around the neighborhood. But even with this change, Terry said, “O.B. Williams enjoys being in SODO, and the company has a name here. Architects and Contractors know we are close to the airport, which helps in our business.” She added, “SODO is a cool place, and if we were to ever move, O.B. Williams would lose its special-ness as people associate the company with SODO.” For the O.B. Williams Company, SODO is more than a neighborhood- it’s the original manufacturing-industrial district, it’s their history, it’s their home. This is why O.B. Williams is Made in SODO.
A special thanks to Seattle’s Office of Economic Development Only in Seattle Program for sponsoring a portion of the Made in SODO project.