Our friend, John Pestana, in the news…
by Karmel Larson
I just found this article in the Daily Herald, highlighting the new business of our friend John Pestana. Check out his website at exactrail.com to learn more about his model trains. John hosts the monthly movie club that Brigham started.
Photo by MARIO RUIZ,Daily Herald
Look out, Lionel. A new Orem-based model railroad business, ExactRail, has embarked on a journey that the company’s founders hope will eventually take the “new kid on the tracks” to the peak of the industry.
ExactRail, co-founded by Chris Clune and John Pestana, designs and manufactures model trains in HO and N scales.
“We want to become the largest train company in the world,” said Pestana, who lives in Provo. “We estimate Lionel has sales of around $100 million per year. There’s our benchmark.”
In 2007, Pestana retired from Omniture, the Orem-based software company he co-founded with Joshua James, and where he is still a member of the board of directors. In his words, he “played golf for six months” before his entrepreneurial love of the startup phase of creating a new business got him looking for a partner.
Enter Chris Clune. He had formed Cascade Micro Tooling in 1996, and had already acquired a prestigious reputation in the model railroading industry by engineering and tooling products for other companies, Pestana said.
“I was introduced to Chris,” Pestana said, “and we talked for three or four months.”
The two discovered they had a lot in common — not only a love for business, but also a passion for model railroading, a passion gleaned from their fathers.
“We both love business and trains,” said Clune of himself and his partner, “so it’s a great union.”
Clune said his father has always been a model railroader. Consequently he “was born into the hobby and enjoyed it growing up,” he said.
“My dad was a toy train enthusiast, and that made me interested,” Pestana said. “I could do something that my dad loves and I really enjoy.”
After some groundwork by Pestana and Clune, the public launch of their products was in February of 2009. Clune, now a Draper resident, came to Utah from Oregon, when operations were recently moved from Eugene to Orem.
Pestana is chairman of ExactRail. Clune is CEO of the company and does the designing, engineering and tooling, which are “truly an art form,” Pestana said.
“The goal in the end is to make [a model] completely accurate to the real train,” Clune said. “But a lot of different factors have to be weighed, including production, assembly and cost. … We pride ourselves on our price performance value. … We make the best quality product at the best price, for a win-win position.”
That opinion appears to mirror reviews coming in for the ExactRail products.
“I can say, as a devout Southern Pacific modeler that I almost fell off my computer chair when I saw the wood chip gondolas for the first time,” wrote a customer from Pennsylvania. “I consider myself to be a fairly good modeler, but I struggled for years with the old wood kits to get three of those cars on my roster. Now, I have all 24 of yours and they are simply beautiful.”
Pestana said that after a local hobby shop received its first order, store personnel were on the phone to the ExactRail offices, saying they had sold out of the new stock in 30 minutes.
“It wasn’t a huge order,” Pestana said. “But model train [hobbyists] are passionate — they see something new, and they want it.”
ExactRail caters to serious modelers, but the company executives find the products also have a wide appeal.
“Childhood memories so drive what model railroaders do,” Clune said. “They want to re-create in miniature a world that they remember, or even their own miniature world.”
“And it’s not just guys over 60,” Pestana said. “There are tons of the younger generation who are collecting. What little kid do you know who doesn’t like a toy train?”
The company is in its infancy, Pestana said, and his focus now is getting dealers signed up, and making the public aware of ExactRail.
“Our goal is to keep spreading the word,” he said.
Go to www.exactrail.com for more information about the company’s trains.