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Saturday, Dec 2, 2023

Creative Coverage

When it comes to growing a successful business, Aaron Kirsch says the writing’s on the wall. Since 1984, the president and CEO of Astek Wallcovering Inc. has grown the company from a small-time distributor of wholesale wallcoverings to a global provider of specialty wallcovering, custom design and digital printing. From artsy wall murals to faux brick walls and marble accents, the Van Nuys-based company digitally designs and manufactures wallpaper for a wide range of industries including entertainment, retail and hospitality. Astek’s work can most recently be viewed on TV and movie sets such as “True Blood”, “CSI” and “Two Broke Girls”. According to Freedonia Group, an Ohio-based market-research firm, consumer interest is turning to more embellished and non-traditional wallpaper patterns such as three-dimensional wallcoverings. The changing industry, combined with the economic downturn, has caused many interior design firms to fall by the wayside, Kirsch said. Astek, on the other hand, has risen to the challenge of adapting to a digitally-charged world and has seen steady growth as a result, Kirsch said. In the past five years, the company’s workforce grew from 11 employees to 40. In 2010, it brought in revenues of $12 million- a 20 percent increase from its 2009 revenues. Astek also expanded its services by launching a retail website in 2004, which offers wall décor products and allows consumers to design their own patterns. The website has contributed annual revenue of $2 million Kirsch said. To accommodate the boost in business, Astek is expanding its operations to the East Coast, as well as on its home turf. Kirsch plans to open a new office in New York, which will serve as a show room and printing facility. Kirsch is also looking to add additional warehouse space to its current 23,000-square-foot corporate headquarters, which the company has called home for about four years. As the company continues to invest in the newest technologies and equipment, it is also in need of additional space to accommodate this growth, Kirsch said. Small Start Before becoming the custom design company it is today, Astek distributed existing product to companies such as Dunn-Edwards Corporation and Vista Paint Corporation. About 14 years ago Kirsch made the decision to manufacture his own product. Based out of East Los Angeles at the time, Kirsch said the idea of calling his own shots appealed to him. “I like controlling my own destiny,” Kirsch said. “I think that’s important-controlling the design and the ultimate product.” The company’s early product line was a far cry from the “funky” customized patterns it creates today, said Jessica Peres, Astek art director and production manager. “Back then everything we did was stock,” Peres said. “We did a lot of traditional wallcovering like damask.” Since then, the scenery within the company and the wallcovering industry has changed, Peres said. As the digital era made its way into the industry, Kirsch took action and invested in the latest printing equipment and supplies. He also enhanced production, adding an in-house design team to create customized wallpaper patterns that would cater to a variety of industries. To date, original product design accounts for about for about 80 percent of Astek’s total business, Kirsch said. The company’s “one-stop shop” business model is rare among most wallcovering companies and has been a major component in Astek’s success, Peres said. Year Founded: 1984 HEADQUARTERS: Van Nuys CORE OF BUSINESS: Designs and makes specialty wallpaper for a variety of industries NUmber of Employees 2010: 25 NUmber of Employees 2011: 40 Revenues in 2009: $10 million Revenues in 2010: $12 million Fresh New Outlook Kirsch said the key to delivering fresh and edgy designs has been the youthful perspective of his designers. The design team works directly with interior designers and art directors to create the perfect project design. With an average age of 25, most of Astek’s in-house designers are recent graduates from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Josh Evans, 28, an illustrator and designer for Astek’s retail website, designyourwall.com, graduated from the Pasadena art school in 2010 with a degree in editorial illustration. Evans said the innovations in wallcoverings technology allows Astek’s design team to “have fun” with wall paper patterns. “I think the range of options has gotten wider,” Evans said. “We get to execute different ideas and be more creative.” Peres said the young staff has brought unique methods and mentalities to the company’s operations. The team’s fresh perspective will come in handy as the company’s services and offerings change with the new trends and demands. “They each bring something to the table,” Peres said. “They have really helped us diversify. No matter what kind of clients we get, we have a designer that can meet their demands.”

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