Melissa Kossler Dutton
Michael McGillicuddy, left, and Anthony Stineburg are the owners of AJ Studio.
Anthony Stineburg began woodworking about seven years ago as a way to relax when he wasn’t at
work. It was an interesting hobby that he could pursue during his days off as an airline pilot.?
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His first project was a workbench with a set of drawers for his father. After that, he started
making wine cabinets and other furniture. Occasionally, he filled requests for friends; that’s how
he made his first butcher block.
He wondered if the block he had created, using the end grain of the wood rather than the edge
grain, would appeal to others. He took a chance and launched a business, AJ Stineburg Woodworking
Studio (now known simply as AJ Studio).
His goal was to create pieces that were beautiful and functional. A friend, Michael
McGillicuddy, offered to help. McGillicuddy, who has a marketing degree from Ohio State University,
looked for ways to build the business and its brand.
In April 2012, McGillicuddy landed a deal to create butcher blocks for the Rust Grain
product line by Anthony Carrino and John Colaneri of the HGTV show
ousins on Call.
McGillicuddy and Stineburg, partners in the firm, moved to a bigger workshop and increased
production. McGillicuddy joined the business full time, as director of marketing. They took out a
loan and used their savings to buy about $75,000 worth of equipment.
“It’s sink or swim. We’re both really committed to it. We both love it,” said Stineburg, who
still works for Shuttle America, part of Republic Airways Holdings.
The owners hope working with Carrino and Colaneri will help them increase revenue to continue
growth. AJ Studio sells products to individuals and corporate clients including Cameron Mitchell
Restaurants and the Wasserstrom Co.
Q: What do you like about owning a business that taps into your creative side?
A: It gives you the creative freedom to do what you want. You can come into the shop and just go
with it — see where it takes you. You’re not really restrained by anything.
Q: What was the scariest thing about starting a business?
A: I sincerely think that the biggest issue, without a doubt, is failure. I think that’s
everyone’s worst fear. But sometimes you just have to jump into the deep end of the pool and figure
it out. And Michael and I are figuring it out.
Q: How has your vision of the business changed?
A: For a long time, I’ve wanted a business in woodworking. I saw it as a retail location doing
custom furniture. That’s a lot to wrap your head around. Last January, I opened the shop and
thought if I failed, it would be a playground. Michael came on a couple of months later and landed
a pretty big account specializing in butcher blocks and cutting boards. We decided to do one thing
and do it really well. Once that’s up and running, we’ll start our next line of products. It was
simply a workshop. Now we’re really focused.
Q: Would you like to have a storefront?
A: Right now, our products are available in Clintonville at Mix: Home. We have a couple irons in
the fire to get in a couple of other stores. It has to make sense before we take that step.
Q: What are your long-term goals?
A: We would love to see our products get into the hands of celebrity chefs — even celebrity home
designers. But we’re not just interested in celebrities. We want our reputation to precede us. When
people hear our name, we want them to know exactly who we are. We want to build a brand and a
reputation for being a high-end, designer woodworking company that people flock to.
Q: What sets your product apart from others?
A: A lot of products that are out there, they’re strictly utilitarian. There’s not a lot of
thought behind the overall design or aesthetic. It’s just there to get the job done. With ours, we
want people to truly see that our work is not only useful and practical, but it’s also a piece of
Q: How have local shops helped AJ Studio?
A: People have been very honest when it comes to our products. If they feel it’s not a good fit,
they tell us. But they also try to help us find where to go. They’re not only helping us, they’re
helping other small businesses. Small businesses in Columbus, Ohio, are very aware of each other.
That’s helped us find our niche.
Q: What makes Columbus the right place for your business?
A: I’ve lived here my entire life. It’s interesting because just five years ago, I was ready to
get out of town. Nothing was necessarily holding me here other than my family. It’s been a really
awesome experience to see how quickly the city is growing — the positive direction it’s going. It’s
made me very happy to be part of the movement, as we start this business and grow it right along
with the city. It’s fun to share that.
Melissa Kossler Dutton is a freelance writer.