Marketing Means Growth for Walker Woodworking
August 14, 2011 | 9:37 pm CDT

By Mike Wilson

A Shelby, NC-based custom cabinet shop keeps expanding with a mix of advertising, craftsmanship and top-quality materials.

An entertainment room bar featuring suspended display cabinets, a full working kitchen and a curved stemware rack built by Walker Woodworking Inc.

Aggressive advertising has worked wonders for Walker Woodworking Inc., allowing it to sustain growth despite the slowing economy. The Shelby, NC-based custom cabinet company has made the WOOD 100 list of the fastest growing wood products companies the past two years, and will hopefully make the cut again this year, says Travis Walker, owner of the business.

“We do a good bit of advertising, we don’t sit back and let our work come to us,” Walker says. “We get our name out there every way we can, including having our name on a clean delivery truck to the apparel that our employees wear around. We’ve even sold jobs off of that. We also set up a booth at the home and garden shows; that’s where we get most of our business.”

Walker adds that the company also hired Image Marketing Group, a full service advertising agency, to create a logo and build a recognizable brand. These marketing tactics, combined with a commitment to quality materials and craftsmanship, have made for a successful shop, Walker says. He started the business as a one-man shop 12 years ago, and it has since grown to 16 employees.

A one-inch thick-solid stainless steel rod, which was threaded to allow for adjustment, was used to suspend the cabinets above the bar.

Unusual Job Demonstrates Talents

An entertainment room bar featuring suspended display cabinets, a full working kitchen and a curved stemware rack that was designed, built and installed by Walker Woodworking demonstrates many of the company’s strengths, Walker says.

“It took about three weeks, and once I got it designed, it went perfect from there,” he says. “(The customer) really didn’t have a specific idea about the design. He just told me the appliances he wanted and that he wanted cabinets above the bar to display his collections.”

The design process included planning around a multitude of appliances and plumbing. One of the biggest challenges was suspending cabinets above the bar without obstructing the view from behind it, Walker says. They decided to bolt the top cabinets together and suspend them from roof trusses with a one-inch thick-solid stainless steel rod, he says. The rod was threaded at a machine shop so the cabinet’s height above the bar could be adjusted.

“We braced the cabinets in the attic. It just really took a lot of time to try to figure it out. I put it together 1,000 times in my head at night, you know, 3 a.m. stuff.” Walker says. “Once I do it enough in my head like that, it goes in real easy.”

Lumber used in the project included soft maple and plywood from Columbia Forest Products. Walker Woodworking uses only wood in its projects, which keeps high-end clients happy, Walker adds.

“Everybody I deal with, the first thing they say is ‘I don’t want any particle board or melamine,’ and I say that’s absolutely us. We don’t do anything but wood,” he says. “When I first started I was using the very best I could possibly buy, and that’s what I’ve stuck with. It’s always worked,”

The toughest step during the manufacturing phase was producing a curved stemware rack for wine glasses to go under the arch in the top cabinet piece, Walker says.

The company worked with an interior designer to coordinate the tile colors behind the bar.

“Basically it was trial and error for the layout and design of it. We put a sample board out there in the shop, took the arch after we made it, and just started laying it out,” he says. “We had to make sure everything was hanging at a true 90 degree angle on the table it was laying on.”

The entire project was manufactured in-house, except for the corbels and posts, because Walker likes maintaining control over the final product.

“We don’t outsource anything except corbels and posts,” Walker says. “We do a lot of rustic grades of wood, like rustic cherry cabinets. What I call rustic cherry, and what a door company calls rustic cherry can be two different things.”

The company also does all its own installations using four full-time installers.

The tile colors behind the bar were coordinated with an interior designer, he adds. Working with interior designers is a growing part of the shop’s business, and the company recently hired an interior designer to meet with customers and help with drawings, Walker says.

The company also hopes its new Web site, which will eventually include customer profile sheets to share plans and ease communication with far-away customers, will keep business pouring in for the shop.

“We’ve been real lucky. There are some shops around here that are slow, but they’re the ones that are still doing it the old way and not advertising,” Walker says. “We don’t sit around and wait on work to come to us. We go out there and seek it.”

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