The Sharpest Tool in The Shed: Darex CEO Matthew Bernard Discusses the Company’s Cutting Edge
With 100-plus employees, Darex is one of the monster companies in Southern Oregon. Nationally-recognized as a tool sharpening company, they soon as moving into the kitchen with a, well, cutting-edge knife-sharpener. The Messenger sat down with CEO and fourth generation owner of the family business, Matthew Bernard.
Rogue Valley Messenger: Darex started as a drill sharper company in Illinois and moved to Oregon in the late 70s. Why the move?
Matthew Bernard: Dick and Dave Bernard were ready for a change, they had been located near Chicago for their entire lives and wanted something different. The business was still very small and so it felt like the right time. They searched the country; Ashland fit what they were looking for.
RVM: What are the advantages of having a national business in Ashland?
MB: We get all the great things that come with living in a small town; community, access to the outdoors, no traffic, great restaurants, excellent schools, and importantly people who for the most part have chosen to live here rather than somewhere else.
RVM: Are there disadvantages?
MB: Biggest one is that it can be challenging to find the right people to fill open positions and needs at the company. We have always been able to do it, but sometimes a position is vacant for longer than we would like while we find the perfect person.
RVM: Darex has established its reputation for drill and tool sharpener. Is a move into kitchen tools a big or small leap (in terms of production and/or branding)?
MB: Darex is a sharpening company at its core, so while the move to kitchen tools is a new direction and market, we are still focused on what we do best which is sharpening. There are new customers and retailers, so we have learning to do so that we can apply our expertise in a way that resonates with those customers.
RVM: Darex routinely is voted one of the best places to vote in Oregon. What makes it such a great place to work?
MB: There isn’t one big thing, but rather a whole bunch of small things. First and foremost is the fact that Darex values a personality and cultural fit as highly as their technical skills in a job (maybe part of what makes it hard to fill a position sometimes). At Darex, it is each person’s job to “own their experience” and is supported in that; meaning know what is expected of you, and get it done. There’s support, not oversight, collaboration not micro management and flexibility. We embrace and live our core values and regularly talk as a company about how we can improve, then implement changes. No person here is more important than any other, which makes it easy to focus on doing a great job instead of worrying.