Wooden Wonderland

By Jennifer Tormo

Jupiter Magazine

New York and California come to mind when picturing where the richest ideas and inventions are dreamt up. But there’s another region that is diving into the national scene, and it might be closer to home than you think.

Over the last decade, Northern Palm Beach County has become home for several national high-end brands. Some of the most talented , creative people live right here. A photographer who has shot more than 4,000 breathtaking photos for brands like Smirnoff, Nikon and Coca-Cola. A holistic beauty expert whose products and services are revered by celebrities like Alicia Silverstone and Melania Trump. A business executive who has created exquisite beauty in his houseware products.

You don’t always have to dial 212 to find the makers of quality goods – there are three right here in the 561 area code.

The word madeira has three definitions: 1) a translation to the word “wood” in Portuguese, 2) a cluster of islands off of Portugal known for their colorful flowers and red wine, and 3) a new high-end housewares company based in Jupiter.

Jason Norcross, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Madeira, LLC, comes from a family of self-starters. His father invented the Thermo Fork, a meat thermometer for grilling, in 1998. The Norcrosses continued to blaze a trail of success across the country, starting in 2003 what would become the largest bamboo houseware company in the U.S. With more than seven years of experience in the wood and kitchen industry, the younger Norcross set out to start his own endeavor, Madeira, earlier this year.

“My dad brought me up in an environment where anything is possible,” Norcross, 31, says. “I thought, he could do it, why can’t i?”

The idea behind Madeira was to product beautiful, durable cutting boards made out of sustainable woods like eucalyptus, butternut, beetroot and plantation teak. Teak is commonly found in outdoor furniture and spa equipment because of its weather-resistant qualities and can be left outside in the rain without rotting, splitting or cracking. Teak and eucalyptus (a wood known for its disinfecting and healing properties) are farmed using responsible forestry practices, and the teak, butternut and beetroot wood products themselves are crafted using leftover scraps – which would normally be thrown away – from larger furniture items.

The cutting board and houseware items are designed in Jupiter, produced in Brazil (where the wood originates), and then distributed across the counter from Jupiter. The line, which was first conceptualized back in April, is already being sold by Bed Bath & Beyond and HomeGoods stores this month. Crate and Barrel is expected to receive them in the spring of 2011. In the meantime, Norcross spends his days spreading the word about Madeira, planning for trade shows, coordinating laser engravings on products for customers and running reports. He brings home samples of his kitchen products to test before deciding if the model is perfect and ready to be sold.

Madeira is owned by Norcross and two friends he met in high school, Mike Rendina and Joe Sayegh. There are only two employees working on the operation full time, and Norcross is one of them. That will change as the company grows, and Norcross’ confidence leaves no doubt – it will grow.

Norcross didn’t always expect to spend much time thinking about kitchens. His original plan was to be the next Dan Marino. The West Palm Beach native dreamt of being a professional football player, but instead found his dream during the best summer of his life in the Bahamas. A 21-year-old thrill-seeker, he told his father he didn’t want any money to bring on the boat that would be his home for the summer of 2000. He and his boat-roommate, Brad Thornbrough, were determined to find their own means of survival. In between fishing, cliff-diving and surfing, they started their own website, HogfishWorld.com. It was originally intended to be a social network, an outlet for “bragging to [their] friends” about the island adventures in a time before Facebook.

To promote their page, the developed stickers with a graphic of a hogfish, a large, brightly colored fish popular with spearfishers. When they headed back to school at the University of Florida with their hogfish bumper stickers on their cars, the small town’s college students went wild. “Everyone was like, where’d you get that sticker? People would honk at us in our car and ask,” Norcross recalls. The boys headed to the Palm Beach International Boat Show, towing 350 hogfish T-shirts. The show started on a Thursday, and by Saturday, they were out of everything. “We were on cloud nine,” he gushes. “We were 21, 22 years old, and we had $10,000 in our hands. We were like, we’re rich!”

That was when Norcross first experience the thrill of watching people walk away with something that he had made in their hands. “It’s just cool when you can go in someone’s home and can say, Hey, I made that! And physically touch it. That’s my cutting board or my bowls,” he says.

It’s usually a struggle to come up with a great name for a company, he say, but Madeira was a cinch. He has a friend who catches fish off of Madeira archipelago in Portugal, a place Norcross hopes to someday travel to. And when he found out that Madeira means “wood” in Portuguese, he was set.

“I was like, ‘Done!’ It literally took me three minutes to figure out the name of the company,” he says. That’s about the same length of time it takes to figure out that Norcross is full of good ideas.