In a manufacturing facility a few hundred feet from Stryker Bay in West Duluth, Greg Benson leads a company dedicated to making outdoor furniture “for the modern lollygagger.” Before launching Loll Designs, however, Benson built skateboard ramps. He started out in his neighbor’s garage and eventually worked with municipalities to design and implement custom skate parks. The excess materials turned out to make attractive and durable Adirondack-style chairs, and a new business was born.
“A lot of people assume that I must have been a skater, but really I enjoy hiking, kayaking, camping and being outdoors much more,” Benson says. He and his brother Dave, both University of Minnesota Duluth graduates, along with Tony Ciardelli , founded both Loll and Epicurean, a company that makes cutting boards and other kitchen products. They sold TrueRide in 2008 to a California company and took what they had learned and ran with it.
Loll specializes in all-weather outdoor furniture made from 100 percent recycled plastic – mostly from single-use milk jugs. The company employs 45 people full-time and sells its products both directly to consumers as well as to retailers globally.
What does the St. Louis River mean to Loll? In terms of production and distribution, “nothing,” Benson says. The company’s production facility has been located at 5912 Waseca St. for less than two years of its 10-year history.
“Spiritually and aesthetically the river is a great feature,” he adds. “Lake Superior is a big part of why I’m in Duluth, and that wouldn’t be possible without the river.”
Loll employees also enjoy the aesthetics of the river and appreciate jogging on the Western Waterfront Trail.
Greg’s advice to young entrepreneurial minded people is, “Don’t expect success right away, be prepared to miss paychecks and do everything yourself to succeed.” Good advice, considering not everyone could make the creative connection between skateboarders, furniture connoisseurs and foodies.
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