Mark Richey marks dual anniversary
May 11, 2021 | 1:26 pm CDT

Mark Richey, president of Mark Richey Woodworking, the Resolute Desk in the reproduction Oval Office his company built.

Massachusetts architectural woodworking innovator Mark Richey Woodworking is celebrating a double anniversary this year. Not only does 2021 mark the 40th year since Mark Richey founded the company in his basement workshop, but also, it’s the 50th anniversary of the company’s Vermont-based WallGoldfinger division.

Mark Richey is number 204 on the FDMC 300 list of largest woodworking manufacturers with an estimated $25 million in sales and about 100 employees.

Mark Richey Woodworking has specialized in doing high-profile woodworking projects like the Harvard Art Museums while also blazing trails in environmentally responsible manufacturing with a plant that uses biomass, wind, and solar power to operate.

And, despite the name of the company, the firm is actually majority owned by Mark Richey’s wife Teresa, and the company has been certified in both Massachusetts and New York as a minority/women-owned enterprise.

Meet the Presidents exhibit
A recent high-profile project for Mark Richey Woodworking was the reproduction Oval Office at the New York Historical Society's "Meet the Presidents" exhibit in New York City. Photo by Francis Dzikowski Photography.

Building the Oval Office

One recent project for the firm shows the scope of craftsmanship and attention to detail that Mark Richey Woodworking regularly exhibits. The New York Historical Society contracted with Mark Richey to build a full-size replica of the White House Oval Office for a museum exhibit titled “Meet the Presidents.” 

Oval Office reproduction
The Oval Office reproduction was styled after what the Oval Office looked like when Ronald Reagan was president. Each president frequently changes Oval Office decore to suit his taste. Photo by Francis Dzikowski Photography.

A special permanent gallery on New-York Historical’s fourth floor features the detailed re-creation of the White House Oval Office, where presidents have exercised their powers, duties, and responsibilities since 1909. Visitors to New-York Historical can explore the Oval Office and hear audio recordings of presidential musings.

Oval Office ceiling
Meticulous detail like the ceiling trim was part of the Oval Office project.  Photo by Francis Dzikowski Photography.

This re-creation evokes the decore of President Ronald Reagan’s second term, widely considered a classic interpretation of Oval Office design. Centerpiece is the Resolute Desk, which has been used by almost every president, and was presented by Queen Victoria of England in friendship to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880. The original was made from timbers from the British Arctic explorer ship H.M.S. Resolute, which was trapped in the ice, recovered by an American whaling ship, and returned to England.

Craftsmen at Mark Richey reproduced in meticulous detail the historic and distinctive woodwork elements that make the Oval Office so recognizable in photos of important meetings and events.

Presidential Seal in Oval Office ceiling
The Presidential Seal is the focal point of the Oval Office ceiling trim. Photo by Francis Dzikowski Photography.

Begun in basement

Mark Richey began his career as an apprentice to master harpsichord builder, William Dowd. Trained under those exacting standards, in 1979 he began building fine cabinetry. In 1981, he officially opened Mark Richey Woodworking, operating out of his basement, offering high-quality architectural woodworking. The company has expanded steadily ever since.

In 2005, after a major renovation which transformed a derelict manufacturing building into a 130,000 square foot, state-of-the-art woodworking facility, the company moved to its present location in historic Newburyport, Massachusetts.

Today, Mark Richey Woodworking employs a diverse workforce of highly skilled, dedicated craftsmen and construction specialists, many of whom have been with the company for more than 20 years.

“Throughout the years, we have been proud to work on some of the highest profile projects in the nation,” said Mark Richey. “We look forward to continuing to serve our customers by providing expertly crafted and engineered architectural woodwork to transform their vision into a built environment of outstanding quality.”

Mark Richey solar energy project
In 2016, the company installed a 500-KW rooftop solar array to try to get even closer to the company goal of 100 percent off-grid power.

Sustainability efforts

As the company grew, an important factor was not only expanding the manufacturing capabilities of the plant but also reducing the company’s carbon footprint.

In 2007, they installed the industry’s first clean-burning biomass furnace to heat the facility, which heats the entire shop, achieving a 73-percent reduction in solid and universal waste generation according to the Toxic Use Reduction Institute (TURI). In 2009, they added a 300-foot-tall 600KW wind turbine to help power the plant.

In 2016, the company installed a 500-KW rooftop solar array to try to get even closer to the company goal of 100 percent off-grid power.

“If a small manufacturing company in Newburyport, Massachusetts can do this, so can the larger companies,” said Richey. “Our hope for youth is that when kids are my age, sustainable manufacturing will become the norm and not the exception.”

Mark Richey on wind turbine
Mark Richey uses his mountaineering skills to personally clean the 300-foot-tall wind turbine that helps supply electricity to the woodworking plant.

Environmental honors

Following the addition of the solar array, Mark Richey Woodworking was recognized as one of the greenest architectural millwork firms in the U.S. MRW receives state award as an industry champion for its exceptional efforts to reduce pollution

In 2018 it received a state award as an industry champion for its exceptional efforts to reduce pollution.

Mark Richey Woodworking was recognized with a Environmental Merit Award by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s New England regional office on Sept. 12, 2018, at Faneuil Hall in Boston. The annual award given across New England since 1970 recognizes businesses, organizations and individuals’ work to protect or improve the environment through efforts demonstrating ingenuity and commitment.

In addition to the biomass, wind and solar power efforts, the award recognized the company’s extensive experience in LEED-certified projects, as well as its efforts to reduce its own use of toxic chemicals, such as adding solvent recycling, ultrasonic spray gun cleaning and a robotic spray line.”

“Increased efficiency means the $1.2 million (investment into sustainable practices) will be paid back within five years,” stated a release from the EPA.

Mark Richey factory floor
Mark Richey Woodworking has a 130,000 square foot facility in Newburyport, Massachusetts. The entire building is heated by a biomass plant and powered by combined electricity from a wind turbine on the site and a solar array on the roof.

Adding WallGoldfinger

In 2018, Mark Richey expanded beyond architectural millwork into the world of contract and corporate furniture when it bought Vermont-based WallGoldfinger. Renowned for it’s spectacular boardroom tables and other related projects, WallGoldfinger is marking its own anniversary of 50 years this year.

In business for 47 years in Vermont, WallGoldfinger Inc. officially began producing furniture for the contract market in 1984 and had risen in the industry as the premier custom table manufacturer and the maker of successful reconfigurable table lines, namely Arbor and Summit. Recently they unveiled their new conference table and credenza line under the Doko brand.

The new line includes round, square and rectangular conferences tables with radiused corners, credenzas with unique rounded “corners” and separate waste and recycling receptacles of a similar design.

The product name comes from the shape of the conference table base, which is reminiscent of the inverted shape of doko baskets used by porters to carry goods in regions like Nepal. Mark Richey, president of Mark Richey Woodworking, is an elite mountain climber.

“To me, this new line is a reminder of not just the shape of the doko basket, but the strength and integrity of both the basket and the people who utilize it,” says Richey, who has climbed Everest in Nepal and supported relief efforts in the poverty-stricken country. “Nepal is a rugged place with people of remarkable endurance. The setting of this furniture in corporate America will be quite different than its roots but offer the market the same lasting durability of its namesake.”

Mark Richey mountain climbing
Richey was part of a climbing team that accomplished the first ascent of Link Sar in Pakistan.

Climbing to the top

Mountaineering is a serious sideline for Richey. He summited Mount Everest in 1991, along with his company’s Senior Estimator Barry Rugo. More recently he received a Piolet d’Or (Golden Ice Axe) award, often described as an Oscar award for mountaineering.

Richey was part of a climbing team that accomplished the first ascent of Link Sar in Pakistan. Other members of the team included Steve Swenson, Graham Zimmerman, and Chris Wright. The team was chosen to receive a Piolet d’Or, mountaineering award given annually by the French magazine Montagnes and The Group de Haute Montagne. It is considered mountaineering’s highest honor.

For Swenson and Richey, it is their second time winning the award. The duo along with a third mountaineer, Freddie Wilkinson, won a Piolet d’Or in 2011 for their ascent of Saser Kangri II. Swenson and Richey also have the distinction of being two of only four Americans to have received the award more than once.

Closer to home, Richey can be seen practicing his mountaineering skills when he scales the company’s 300-foot-tall wind turbine to personally clean the blades.

Teresa Richey, majority owner, Mark Richey Woodworking
Teresa Richey is majority stockholder and treasurer of Mark Richey Woodworking and is the spouse of the company namesake.

M/WBE certification

Already certified in Massachusetts, Mark Richey Woodworking recently was certified as a Minority and Women-Owned Business in New York City by the New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS).

The company has long been certified as M/WBE in its home state of Massachusetts. The company sought certification in New York City because of the increasing volume of work it does there, especially through its WallGoldfinger Furniture division.

The certification recognizes majority owner Teresa Richey, who is a native of Peru. She is also the company’s treasurer and spouse of company namesake Mark Richey.

“I am humbled,” Teresa Richey said of the SBS’s certification award. “Not only is this a recognition of me, but we have an inclusive company with fair hiring practices, including for women and minorities. My daughter-in-law is a woodworker on the factory floor, we employ people from many cultures and my mom is frequent visitor to the office. This commitment is probably second only to our commitment to green energy.”

Government agencies, non-profits and for-profits often seek out M/WBEs either voluntarily or through agreements and mandates. “Especially at this time when businesses are in turmoil, it’s encouraging to hear about a minority and woman-owned business looking at an even brighter future in such an important market,” Teresa Richey said.

Earning the certification involved a rigorous application and review process that took 10 months. The certification lasts through May 2025.

Craftsman during COVID at Mark Richey Woodworking
Sophisticated machinery and skilled handwork combine at Mark Richey Woodworking, rising to the COVID challenge.

Working through COVID

Like many woodworking companies, Mark Richey Woodworking and its WallGoldfinger division faced significant challenges from the pandemic. Both facilities are open and fully operational.

“We have instituted significant health protocols to safeguard our employees and their families from the virus, including social distancing, staggered breaks, continuous wipe down of hard surfaces, and aggressive handwashing within our facility,” Mark Richey said in a statement.

The company stopped all non-essential visits to its facilities and project managers ceased most travel to project sites. As all Boston construction has been shut down, the company is not visiting any of its Boston projects and temporarily suspended in-person sales visits to other regions of the country. They also set up work-from-home programs for some of their staff.
 

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About the author
William Sampson

William Sampson is a lifelong woodworker, and he has been an advocate for small-scale entrepreneurs and lean manufacturing since the 1980s. He was the editor of Fine Woodworking magazine in the early 1990s and founded WoodshopBusiness magazine, which he eventually sold and merged with CabinetMaker magazine. He helped found the Cabinet Makers Association in 1998 and was its first executive director. Today, as editor of FDMC magazine he has more than 20 years experience covering the professional woodworking industry. His popular "In the Shop" tool reviews and videos appear monthly in FDMC.