|CWB September 2004
From high-end cabinetry and closets to kitchen appliances and cabinet doors, Kiesler Enterprises offers its customers a variety of options.>
By Sam Gazdziak
President Gary Kiesler and the employees of the Glendale, AZ, cabinetry company have made sure every facet of the company's headquarters showcases the company at its finest. "Every area of the building, whether it's a showroom, conference room or bathroom, we want it to be a little vignette of what we do, so we put our own cabinetry in there," Kiesler says.
The kitchen on display in the showroom is not only beautiful, it is also fully functional; the company has been known to host cooking demonstrations for local designers, builders and architects. To make the showroom look even more appealing to owners and designers who are working on brand new or remodeled homes, Kiesler has partnered with other local trades. The hardwood floors, the Venetian plaster walls, the entry doors to Kiesler's office and the showroom's wine cellar door have all been supplied by other companies. "Much of what is seen is going to be what's in their own home, so they have a real feel of comfort when they're here," Kiesler explains.
The other advantage is that if a customer happens to be looking for a good flooring or door company for their house, Kiesler Enterprises is ready to provide a recommendation. Kiesler says homeowners typically get names of different tradespeople, but the showroom lets them see the product and workmanship up front. "When they're spending a boatload of money [on a home], they like to have good strong references. So we do promote other people for that reason, to help them out," he explains.
An all-encompassing business
Ric Jones, Kiesler Enterprises' chief operating officer, says one customer came back from France with a 200-year-old furniture piece, and they wanted cabinetry with that same antique look. "We had to make a new door and replicate it exactly, distress it and age it to make it look exactly like that 200-year-old door, and we were able to do it," he says. "I've got to say the sample that we came up with and replicated looked better than the original."
"We've since sold that [style] a few times," Kiesler adds, "because people come in and fall in love with the charm of the door. That's how we've grown and stretched ourselves by not saying 'no' to these clients."
While the main business of Kiesler Enterprises is custom cabinetry and furniture, the company has expanded in several other directions, including Calidad Cabinetry, a semi-custom line, cabinet doors and appliances. In fact, the only part of Kiesler's work that it outsources is the drawer boxes, which come from Top Drawer Components.
In many cases, the side businesses came from both need and opportunity. Kiesler started distributing appliances in order to provide a full-package deal to clients, says Jones. "While we're designing their cabinetry for the kitchen, we can do it around the very appliances that they will use in their house," he says.
Similarly, Kiesler started a new company, Distinctive Cabinet Doors, more than two years ago because it couldn't find a supplier that could provide the company's ornate doors at a reasonable price or to the just-in-time requirements. "The only logical solution was to do it in-house," Kiesler says. The door division's catalog includes several distinct styles, made with a variety of materials, colors, finishes and machined and hand-carved details.
Jones says there was initial resistance in marketing the cabinet doors to other cabinet shops, which did not want to buy product from a shop owned by a competitor, so there was some education needed. "Everybody knows the reputation of Kiesler as being the most custom of the custom shops and being the most exacting and demanding in the looks they require," he says. "They realized if the shop is capable of meeting the very high standards that Kiesler has, then obviously they're very qualified. That began to make sense, and now we're beginning to get their business."
Mini-shops specialize in assembly
He happened to find a building with the right warehouse-to-office ratio, the right power requirements and a loading dock, so Kiesler Enterprises and the then-fledgling Distinctive Cabinet Doors moved to its present (and final, Kiesler hopes) 39,000-square-foot facility.
Distinctive Doors is set up in its own machining area, while the cabinetry side has a series of "mini-shops" set up in the remaining manufacturing space. The company used to have a one-big-shop approach, where a project went from one department to the next as is was gradually assembled. "There was no accountability, no ownership, and guys never had the satisfaction of having a job done under their leadership," Kiesler says.
Now, there is a cut-out department that cuts the panels on a Holzma Optimat beam saw, machines the parts on a Biesse CNC machining center and edgebands them on a Holz-Her edgebander. If moulding is needed on a project, it is produced with a Weinig Profimat moulder. For those projects that require a special touch, Kiesler's master carver can hand-carve designs onto doors, legs and other parts.
Kiesler says the mini-shop approach has given the assembly workers accountability for every project. "They see a project from start to finish, and they like being involved," he adds. "Some of these guys have had their own shops before, and they didn't like the fact that they didn't have control once it left their department."
More growth on the horizon
Kiesler Enterprises has just added a vice president of operations to relieve Kiesler of some of his day-to-day duties, freeing him to focus on the company vision and its future development. He says the Southwest has been a booming market, and the company continues to take advantage of its reputation.
The company is on track for $7.2 million in sales this year, and Kiesler says it can jump to $12 million in 2005. The company has been expanding out of the Phoenix area to gain a regional presence, with cabinets getting shipped to some of the high-end resort areas like Vail and Aspen, CO.
Despite the success, Kiesler is still looking to improve, with plans to add a new kitchen display to the showroom. "It's going to be a Spanish/Mediterranean look with twin Sub-Zero [refrigerators] and a mesquite island," he says.
"I think it's important to always be looking for a better way - whether it's the way you build something or present yourself or behave, just try to be improving," he adds.