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Maker of pool cues from 1993 to present in Mundelein, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.
Joel Hercek was introduced to billiards at an early age. His father, a builder by trade, was an accomplished three-cushion and straight pool player. He taught Joel the intricacies of both billiard games. Growing up, Joel played a lot of pool and helped his father run tournaments by refereeing matches at local billiard rooms. The local American Legion hosted a large annual tournament which drew the best players from the greater Chicago-land area and bordering states. It was at these tournaments that Joel´s interest in billiard cues was kindled. While watching matches, Joel would pay close attention to the cues that players were using and developed an interest in how they were constructed. During the late 1970s and 1980s, Joel´s obsession with the game and its equipment grew. At the time, Joel was employed by Lake County (IL) as their Forestry Foreman, a position he held for 14 years. Along with his employment and schooling, Joel also owned two other businesses. One was a fitness equipment company called Healthware Inc. and the other was a tree care and removal company named Oakwood Enterprises. It was in the mid-1980s when Joel added cue dealing to his resume. Joel began dealing in investment grade cue sticks and bought and sold some of the most desirable cues on the market today. He concurrently built his own collection of fine billiard cues.
While dining with several other cue makers at a billiard related trade show, Joel met Burton Spain, a famed cue maker. The two formed an instant friendship and Joel soon added Burt´s cues to his collection and inventory. Joel spent many days at Burt´s shop and was always impressed by Burton´s full splice construction techniques. To Joel, it made perfect sense to build a cue in this fashion considering some of Joel´s favorite hitting cues were built on the full splice Titlist blank.
Joel left the Forest Preserve in 1992 to go into the billiard business full time. He planned to open his own billiard room in the town where he, and his very supportive wife Margaret, settled. Burton tried several times to talk Joel out of opening a billiard room by explaining the pitfalls of such a business. Joel was determined to go ahead with his plans despite Burton´s advice. The only two obstacles to Joel´s plan were approval from the village and the signing of the lease. The night before the lease was to be signed, Joel received a call from Burton. Burt wanted to meet Joel the next day to discuss some pressing news. The news was grim; Burton was dying of cancer. Burton offered to sell Joel his business and stay on to train him as long as possible. Joel accepted Burt´s proposal and started his new career as a cuemaker. Burton passed away in 1994 at the young age of 54.
Joel built his first cue in 1993. That cue was one of seven built that year, all of which incorporated the full splice blank construction and the reverse joint that Burt made popular on his cues. As the years progressed Joel made many refinements to his cues. The first refinement was switching to a more conventional piloted joint using a 5/16-14 screw. Other changes including the taper and balance were implemented into Joel´s construction throughout the years. Today, Joel only builds cues to order and enjoys challenging himself with new one-of-a-kind designs each and every batch. He works alone and all his designs and engravings are created and executed by himself. Although many Hercek designs look quite different from one another, they all share a common bond. They are all built on Joel´s full splice blanks; he will not build a cue any other way. This construction method is time-consuming and quite costly. However, Joel believes this makes for the most sound and best hitting cue he can build. Joel´s customers are players and collectors alike, from the U.S. and abroad. Each of Joel´s cues are custom made, so he likes to deal directly with the customer. As a result of the one-on-one interaction, many of his customers have become friends throughout the years. Demand for Joel´s work has far exceeded his output, so getting in Joel´s order book could mean waiting nearly a decade before your name comes up on the list for a cue. Joel continues the tradition of building high quality cues in his one-man shop with the same care and diligence that he took on his very first cue. Considering Joel´s pedigree and legacy of quality, it is no surprise that demand for his work is very high.
If you have a Hercek or Burton Spain cue that needs repair, or would like to talk to Joel about ordering a new cue, contact Hercek Fine Billiard Cues, listed in the Trademark Index.

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