Brothers Share a Decorative Eye

Chuck and Jerry Hoose started Accu-Trim Custom Woodworking in Cooleemee, NC, and built a reputation for putting eye-catching interior millwork touches in local residences.

By Hannah Miller

     
Accu-Trim Custom Woodworking

Cooleemee, NC

www.accu-trim.com

Year Founded: 1990

Employees: 5 full-time, 1 part-time

Shop Size: 10,000 square feet

FYI: The company is housed in a two-story former sewing factory. A conveyor belt that was used to carry bolts of cloth to the second floor is now used to bring projects to the second floor finishing room.

 
   
     

Who would give a couple of former construction workers carte blanche to design a home’s interior trim? Cynthia Hoose would, if the workers were her husband Chuck Hoose and brother-in-law Jerry Hoose, co-owners of Accu-Trim Custom Woodworking in Cooleemee, NC.

“I trust them,” she says. They know what they are doing when they look at a room and decide what millwork will suit a house’s look, she adds.

For instance, it was their idea, not hers, to use latticework and a decorative back on the bookcases in her family room, she says. When she saw the result, she was extremely pleased.

Other customers, even those who are not relatives, have the same experience, and many give the brothers free rein to do whatever they like. “We want something that’s going to be different,” clients often say. “We just want to see the finished product. We want it to look like whatever you want it to look like.”

Such trust is the result of a reputation earned over the years, Chuck Hoose says. “They (customers) look to us for the design concept.”

     
 
Accu-Trim fashioned this curving wall of raised panels in a Winston-Salem, NC, home, and also built the mantel supported by gilded lions.  
     

Working on homes in the $500,000 to $1.5 million price range, the brothers have built up a $500,000 annual business since starting out 12 years ago. They do a wide variety of projects. “We’ll build anything,” Hoose says.

“I don’t think we have every turned anything down,” Jerry Hoose adds.

A good eye for decoration

The two brothers have come up with many eye-catching decorative millwork ideas since they started the company. For example, to achieve a country farmhouse look in one home, the brothers attached a network of hollow, exposed “beams” to a pitched ceiling that was more than 30 feet high — “entirely decorative,” says Chuck.

The beams were 1-by-8 maple, finished to match cherry-finished cabinets and built hollow so that they would not split like solid wood. They were lightweight enough to be lifted to the ceiling by means of a scaffold, says Jerry, who is in charge of installation.

“We built them in the shop, complete,” Chuck says, “then trucked them to the site.”

For one home, the brothers routed MDF to mimic granite blocks for a floor-to-ceiling fireplace surround. Faux finishers supplied the shades of gray.

For another customer, who said she wanted something “massive and different,” they built a mantel supported by two gilded-wood lions. Faux finishers painted the mantel black, gray and gold. The client hadn’t specified lions, that was Chuck Hoose’s idea. Once he saw them, he says, “I knew it would fit. It was something she was looking for.”

By the time the Hooses are consulted for most of their jobs, builders already have the houses up and they have to work within the existing space.

“We walk into a house to get an idea of its overall style,” Chuck says. The clients or builders will say, “This is the space we have. We want to have a TV here,“ etc.

Sometimes the brothers show clients photographs of several styles of work they have done to give them ideas. “If they say, ‘I like this’ or ‘I like that,’ we’ll combine those styles,” Chuck says. “If it fits their budget, we will try to make it work.”

They work with any wood species and lay up their own veneers using a vacuum-bag press from Quality VaKuum Products. They use a lot of MDF for various applications. “It’s a very stable product,” says Chuck. “It gives people a good product and keeps the cost reasonable.”

However, “We always use solid wood for our face frames,” he adds.

Homebuilder roots

Chuck and Jerry Hoose both started their working lives doing general construction for residential homebuilders. Chuck was employed as a superintendent.

     
 
Accu-Trim applied wormy chestnut veneer to a plywood substrate in this mantel, entertainment center and bookcase.  
     

Chuck says he began to learn woodworking in high school in Red Hook, NY, and the construction work expanded his knowledge. In 1990, “Jerry and I decided to go out on our own trimming houses,” he says.

“Then one builder wanted us to do his interior trim,” he says, and that work expanded as other builders signed on. “Bookcases turned into whole rooms,” he says.

Accu-Trim’s first shop location was Chuck’s 16-foot by 24-foot backyard garage in the small town of Cooleemee, about 35 minutes from Winston-Salem. When they outgrew that, they moved to a 40-foot by 40-foot building at Jerry’s home. But they soon found that “once we built the cabinets, we had no place to put them,” Jerry says.

So two years ago they moved into a two-story brick building that is a former sewing factory on Cooleemee’s main street. Built in 1909, the building had not been used for 25 years. The wooden floors had rotted. The Hooses are still renovating; but its 10,000-square-foot size gives them plenty of room. They do fabricating and assembly downstairs and finishing upstairs.

One relic of the sewing factory actually turned out to be a surprising help. A conveyor belt that originally carried rolls of cloth to the second floor now carries cabinets to the upstairs finishing room. Chuck and Cynthia’s daughter, Rebecca, works part-time as the company’s finisher. The spray booth is equipped with an AOM spray gun, and the company uses M.L. Campbell materials.

Most jobs include cabinets and millwork and range from $30,000 to $60,000. The company also does stairs. It builds the posts, balusters, risers and treads in the shop, but leaves the rough framing on-site to the construction company.

Most jobs are residential, and many have won awards. Accu-Trim won two Honorable Mention awards in CWB’s 2001 Design Portfolio competition, and one project was selected as a 2001 “Idea Home” in Southern Living magazine.

There have been occasional commercial jobs; a recent one of interest involved building a long, double-radius set of steps which lead to a stage at Old Salem, the reconstructed “living history” site in Winston-Salem.

“It looked like a big ‘B,’ “ Jerry Hoose says.

He adds that he enjoys curved work and says his favorite job was a curving wall of white-painted raised panels topping a bank of windows for a residence. The radius panels had to be built without direct measurements, he says, adding that it was accomplished by using a company “trade secret.”

Five full-time employees, including the Hoose brothers and Chuck and Cynthia’s son, Justin, work in the shop. “It’s really a family business,” says Cynthia. In addition to themselves, Rebecca and Justin, their 11-year-old daughter, Charlie Michele, and Jerry’s 10-year-old twins, Brandon and Brenton, also spend a lot of time in the shop. “They all get in there, take wood and glue it together,” she says.

Even with a relatively small number of employees, Accu-Trim still handles a lot of whole-house jobs, including everything from paneling, wainscoting, doors, mantels, entertainment centers and bookcases to the kitchen cabinets.

There are times, Chuck says, when the entire shop is involved with one job. Once it gets to the installation stage, however, some employees will begin work on other projects.

During their 12 years in business, the Hooses have not only sharpened their skills, but also improved their equipment. “We have found better and faster ways to do things,” Chuck Hoose says.

“For example, I can remember running up and down boards by hand for hours,” using a homemade guide to do fluting, he says. “Then we changed to a square-type jig, and we thought it was the greatest thing.”

     
 
Accu-Trim applied Brazilian cherry veneer to an MDF substrate to create the wall units and coffered ceiling in this family room. Louvered vents in the entertainment unit accommodate heat buildup.  
     

In 1995, the Hooses became one of the first purchasers of a ShopBot computerized router system. Chuck says that although it may not be as fast or sophisticated as large CNC routers. “It is affordable for us.” For less than $10,000, he adds, “we can have the same abilities or technologies as the bigger guys.”

The company also has a Mini Max sliding table saw, a Powermatic table saw, two Woodtek shapers, a Woodtek joiner, a Virutex edgebander, DeWalt hand tools, a Dynabrade air-powered sander, the QVP veneer press, and a Williams & Hussey moulder. Sanding is done on a Duskits downdraft table.

Custom touches make the difference

Experience and a willingness to experiment have led Accu-Trim to give customers such custom touches as louvered vents in entertainment centers to handle ventilation in style.

“The heat building up in some of these electronic components gets pretty warm,” Chuck says. “In time, it would hurt the wood.”

They talk to electronics installers to determine how much heat is likely to be generated, then build cabinets with matching louvers.

They recently made an entertainment center of MDF and Brazilian cherry veneer with louvers at both the top and bottom of the side panels. The warmer air coming in at the bottom rises to the top. It creates a natural air flow that is complemented by an interior fan.

Touches like that “take a little thought,” the Hooses say, but they enjoy that challenge. It is one of the reasons they say they prefer millwork to their former jobs in construction.

“There is more room for creativity,” Chuck says, and Jerry adds, “There’s more satisfaction. When we walk away from a house, we have touched most of it.”

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