John is The Builder because that is what John is good at.
He is good at building things, so his business cards say The Builder.
Prior to opening Studio AM both of us were teammates on the same football team where he actually blocked for me, and in a large way that is what he still does. He was one of the few people that didn’t think I was crazy when I told him my vision for Studio AM; he simply got on board, and began to do what he does best. From the beginning he helped me build a dream, and he still is.
I have the privilege of working with my best friends everyday, and the thing that is special about the way we work is how we are constantly challenging each other to get better, not only at our respective craft but as individuals. It has been amazing to watch John work tirelessly at his craft and become one of the premier woodworkers in the city of Pittsburgh.
I encourage everyone who I work with to write because I have come to learn that it is a great tool for an individual to learn retrospectively. As things progress you will get familiar with the Studio AM team through their own words. And these are the words of John.
Build: By John Malecki
The foundation of life for me, is an individuals desire to build. Build anything. Build a family, a legacy, or a story. Build memories and build up the people around you. These skills exist in every one of us. In every father, mother, daughter, and son. We all build every day. You may not realize what you’re building, but when you do…. That’s when you become extremely powerful.
As a young Pittsburgh Suburbanite, I became caught up in the easily swayed lifestyle associated with so many people in this wonderful town. Live and breathe sports, and do right by one another.
In a town built on steel and sweat, all I knew was work.
I applied this ethos of “dig your well before you drink from it” to what little skill I was blessed to have, and went screaming for the hills chasing a “dream”. I dreamed of being a champion, making a career and building a life based around the hard work and determination I put into it. I wore a helmet like I was a Spartan warrior, and I approached each day as if tomorrows opportunity could be ripped from my hands at any point.
Instead of building a career and financial stability, I built so much more. I built a reputation and a mindset. I learned to use these as tools to further myself as not only an athlete but as a man. The world is a grimy and hard place. It will hand you nothing and can take from you everything.
…But only if you let it.
I lead myself to believe that in losing football, I had lost everything.
As I stopped putting on my Spartan Helmet, I learned to pick up my ball cap, and simply go back to work. After almost a year of reflection, I realized I was more than just another name on a roster. I had become something greater. Something stronger. Something more resilient than any cubicle could have taught me. I had built myself into something more valuable than any number on the back of a jersey could ever give me. I had become a true teammate.
It was difficult to believe that I would be able to get away from being an ex-athlete. But one perk of being a lineman, is no one knew me anyway.
As I grew into The Builder I learned that physically building a table or piece of furniture is a skill that can be grown by working at it and studying the craft. The skills of what I learned through two decades of putting my hand in the dirt for the betterment of a team, those were completely organic, and I almost didn’t even realize I had them.
I met Baron when I became a Steeler. In our first few months together we probably spoke only a handful of times. Considering I was singularly focused on doing anything I could to make the team, I didn’t have time to pay attention to the new people around me, and neither did he.
I was on the field when Baron blew out his knee his rookie year during training camp, and looking back on it I would never have guessed how much that moment would change both of our lives.
Over the next few years we developed a relationship over bantering about TV shows in the lunchroom and playing ping-pong. But there was constant work being involved.
I respected how the kid showed up every day and literally took no shit from absolutely anyone. From the head coach all the way down to some undrafted free agent. He walked his own walk.
We became friends and a light went off. I knew this kid would be someone the world would never forget.
So as we grew older, barons hair grew a little longer, my waistline grew a bit larger. Life started catching up with us both. Baron’s body couldn’t keep up with injuries and I knew football would end some day. He had been hustling art and salsa and himself for years by growing and developing a business to skyrocket him into his life after football.
I was building something different, and I wasn’t even aware of it.
I was building the foundation to my legacy.
In life you must be able to evaluate yourself and be completely honest.
Am I a shitty person?
Am I a good son?
Am I a good teammate?
I always asked myself these types of questions while growing up, and always held myself to a higher standard.
The skills I constantly worked on became the foundation to what I would desire to be and mold myself into as I built my future. Yes I got a degree, and yes I networked while I was playing. And yes I am very aware of the unique circumstance professional sports provides once playing is done. But none of that means anything was handed to me.
After thirteen transactions on five different teams, football was over. I had to make a move; the real world was catching up fast.
It was time for the next chapter in my legacy
In this time, Baron and myself had started building furniture and making salsa together. I dabbled in a little painting as well, why the hell not. If he could do it why couldn’t I? As I strolled down the path life provides after sports I saw Baron and his “hustle” and thought, “Damn that dude is just punching life right in the face.”
We talked about it and he decided to bring me on board with Angryman Salsa.
I started handling all the purchasing and the production and we moved ahead as teammates on a different type of team now. As I was working on my role on the salsa team, Baron was conspiring for much bigger things.
In this time I was still building furniture. Simple tables and some shelving. After a few months and some good growth in the salsa business, we knew we had to get somewhere bigger to manufacture.
Baron knew the owners of the restaurant our business is located in today, and as fate may have it. They were moving.
So Baron mapped out our game plan for Studio AM and we ran ahead screaming for the hills. After grabbing some brushes and putting in a few weeks work, we had a brainchild that we sit in today. An idea that came to fruition through sweat and hard work.
As we continue to build this company I look at the people around me now, and could not be more pleased with the team we have created. I could not be more proud of the atmosphere we have constructed. I am blessed to be building something that benefits everyone around me.
Life has handed me a pile of blocks, and it has been tasked on me to take these blocks and build my legacy.
I am blessed to be able to share what I create with the world, and do it right here in my hometown.
I am The Builder, go build your legacy.