Family Affair: Razor SharpAuthor:Lindsey Shook
Chelcea Dressler-Crowley, vice president of Messermeister, shares how she and her sister Kirsten Dressler Wilson is taking her family’s premium knife and cutlery brand in bold new directions
–After being in business since 1981, how have your family values contributed to the success? When your family’s reputation is behind the business, it raises the stakes quite a bit. We believe in honesty, hard work and getting things right; that’s just how our parents raised us. Working with family also forces you to hang in there when facing challenging times together. Everyone is passionate about what they do and sometimes we take things too personally, but at the end of the day, we love one another and know that we have each other’s backs. That gives us strength.
-How has the business changed over the years?
Success used to be about who can make the best knife, but these days, it’s often about who can take the best pictures or who has the biggest marketing budget. As a heritage brand of premium cutlery, we still believe in quality first. Our brand has always been about quality and innovation, but we express our style very differently than our mother and father did 40 years ago. The trick for us is to find the right balance between our German roots and our California style. Forty years down the road, we have some great new technologies and materials available to us, which has opened up previously unattainable design possibilities. We are also more focused on integrating natural or sustainable materials, which sometimes means doing things the hard way.
–Knives are often very visible in kitchens. How does this affect the design philosophy?
It’s true that our knives are typically the centerpiece to every kitchen, and we think about that a lot. For example, we have recently done away with the traditional knife block and now package our sets in more artful countertop storage that really show off the beauty of our products. We are also incredibly excited to have just launched our new Custom line of knives, which allows you to change your handles and hardware to match your kitchen
or express your style. As the only major woman-owned and operated knife company, we have a unique perspective on kitchen decor and we like pretty things.
-How does sustainability play a role in the design and manufacturing?
Growing up in Ojai, we have a deep connection to the outdoors and the environment around us. We love the richness of natural materials—how they look and how they feel. So designing those things into our product comes naturally to us. We also realize that we can use our manufacturing experience to develop sustainable materials that actually outperform plastics and petrochemicals. A great example of this is the handle material for our Custom knife line, which is made from reclaimed wood shavings and natural resins that are biodegradable. This material can survive our toughest wear-testing long after synthetic materials fail.
-What’s next on the horizon? We have been expanding into new categories like knives for cooking outdoors, camping and hiking. We are building our new showroom and Culinary Experience kitchen in Ojai so we can create content as well as live and virtual events and are working to commit to the World Central Kitchen and other organizations dedicated to feeding people who are hungry.
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