McDermott runs the table

McDermott Handcrafted Cues has helped professional pool players, high-ranked amateurs, billiards enthusiasts and ballroom hustlers make game-winning shots for almost 40 years. The Menomonee Falls manufacturer designs and builds handcrafted pool cues that cost between $189 and $4,000, said Nat Rosasco, president and chief executive officer of the company. A $4,000 McDermott cue and one that sells for $189 play virtually the same, Rosasco said. The difference is in the details.

“They’re made exactly the same and play exactly the same,” he said. “It’s the same product. (The difference is) man hours and materials. On a $4,000 cue, we’ve got 170 hand inlays.”

McDermott has 110 different pool cues in its catalog, Rosasco said. As the cues go up in price, the use of high-priced materials increases, as well as the number of inlays. Some of the more expensive models use 24 karat gold, turquoise, ivory and exotic woods, he said.

“We use rosewood from east India and zebra wood from west Africa,” Rosasco said. “The rare wood costs a lot of extra money but it adds collectability.”

All of the hand inlays that McDermott uses on its cues are CNC machined to .001 millimeter, Rosasco said, making the inlays seamless once they’re placed in the cue. Many of those inlays are just a few millimeters across and the crafting and placement of those inlays require many hours and skilled hands.

McDermott’s most expensive cues are in its Prestige line which cost about $4,000 each. The company only makes 100 to 300 of each Prestige model, Rosasco said, to preserve their value and add collectability.

Each of McDermott’s cues is built one at a time, and the Prestige models may have hundreds of man hours invested in them because of the number of inlays and the use of exotic woods, which require extensive preparation.

The different colors, shapes and insignias displayed on McDermott’s cues are a different inlay, Rosasco said. Once all of the inlays are placed in a cue, it receives multiple layers of polyurethane coating, which makes the cue scratch resistant and gives it a shine.

The result often looks like a piece of art.

McDermott’s cues are expensive, but the company has built market share by catering to customers that are looking for high quality, highly detailed items, Rosasco said.

“Our strength is people looking for a hand-crafted pool cue that is made one at a time that is made in the USA,” he said.

McDermott was founded in 1968. The Menomonee Falls company has about 50 employees, Rosasco said, and its cues are sold in 65 countries. Exports account for about 20 percent of McDermott’s sales, Rosasco said.

The company has posted double-digit sales increases over the past three years, Rosasco said. He declined to give more specific sales amounts, but said McDermott’s new designs and aggressive online marketing have helped push the company toward improved revenues.

“Through our very prominent Web presence, we’re exposing more people around the world to McDermott,” Rosasco said.

The McDermott Web site has been operating longer than many other billiard manufacturers’ sites, Rosasco said, and the company’s own employees update and optimize it.

“When you search for pool cues, we come up in the top five,” he said. “And we have a breadth and depth of content. As a result, our brand awareness is very high.”

Earlier this year, McDermott created a section within its Web site where customers can design a customized version of the Genesis cue, the lowest priced McDermott cue, which starts at $189. Through the site, customers can select different stains for the wood on the cue, different cloth and leather wraps, three different stiffness profiles for the cues, and many different decals or designs to be included on the cue.

Customers can also email photos to McDermott, which the company turns into decals that are put on the cue before it is coated with polyurethane, Rosasco said.

McDermott has leveraged its reputation for quality pool cues to launch two lower priced lines of cues, Rosasco said. The company’s Star line retails between $99 and $160, while its Lucky line sells between $59 and $89. The Star brand has been on the market for about six months, and the Lucky brand was introduced in October.

McDermott, Star and Lucky each are owned by the corporate umbrella of Billiard Brands Inc. in Menomonee Falls.

“We need to sell our products to where our market is at,” Rosasco said. “There is a smaller number every year that wants cues for $150 and up. And we’re trying to get a McDermott (cue) into the hands of those that wanted one and couldn’t afford it.”

Star and Lucky cues are built with the same techniques used for McDermott cues, Rosasco said. The two brands have shafts made from North American grade AA and grade A maple, respectively, while McDermott cues use AAA grade maple.

“Even on a $59 Lucky, (the wood) is from the same forest in Michigan that we buy the McDermott wood from,” Rosasco said. “And the same stainless steel pin is in a $59 Lucky as is in a $4,000 McDermott.”

McDermott cues come with a lifetime warranty, which the Star brand also has. Lucky cues have a three-year warranty, Rosacso said.

“We wanted to tell (customers) that even though the prices have come down we’re still willing to stand behind it,” he said. “We want to give them peace of mind. Just because the price is lower doesn’t mean that they won’t be the same quality (our cues) have always been.”

Logic might hold that McDermott would erode its sales and bottom line by offering two new lower-priced lines. But actually the opposite is occurring, Rosasco said.

“The thing that we’ve found intriguing is that as we sell Star and Lucky, we’re selling more McDermott,” he said. “It’s not cutting into our other sales.”

McDermott Handcrafted Cues

Address: W146 N9560 Held Drive, Menomonee Falls
Products: Handcrafted pool cues
Growth: Double-digit in the last three years
Employees: 50
Web site:

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