Cabinet Crafters of Indiana grew by 155% and landed at the fifth spot on the 2008 Wood 100 List.

Tony Collins says that when Cabinet Crafters sets a kitchen, it is able to do the plumbing and electrical, as well as placing the countertops.

In 2007, Cabinet Crafters, located in Alexandria, IN, increased its sales to $1,276,000, a 155% increase over 2006. This high-volume year landed the company in the fifth spot on Wood & Wood Products’ coveted Wood 100 List.

According to Tony Collins, president, one of the major factors for his company’s growth was the relocation from a 4,100-square-foot facility to a 42,000-square-foot facility.

The increase in square footage enhanced productivity and triggered sales growth for 2007.

Other factors influencing the company’s growth were its equipment purchases, product quality and sales personnel.

“We were able to land jobs from our sales techniques, our software and a lot of it was our quality,” Collins says. “We had someone tell us a long time ago that our quality sells itself.”

According to Collins, the more product he put out, the more projects he received. “The theory was, the more product we pushed out, the more we had a chance of survival. Usually, one job that we put in for somebody, their friends and neighbors would see it and we’d get one or two more jobs off of that one job.”

These referrals compounded into tremendous growth for Cabinet Crafters. Also, the company was doing business with several builders and was able to develop good relationships with them. “If they needed something, we responded very quickly,” he says. “That was probably the biggest impact. Also, as we grew in size, we were able to build more, and as we built more, we sold more.”

In the Beginning

Collins worked as an engineer for an automotive company for 17 years, although he has had an interest in woodworking since his high school wood shop days.

“After school, I worked for a guy who refinished cabinets,” says Collins. “I really liked working with wood.”

That love affair continued even as he worked professionally as an engineer. About 16 years ago, Collins built his own kitchen.

“When I built my kitchen, I researched different cabinetry and different companies and found out what type of wood, thicknesses and hardware [to use],” he says.

The project went well and he received such positive feedback from family and friends that “it got me thinking that I could probably do this,” Collins explains.

From that point, Collins started looking for other jobs that he could do in his spare time. “I started building mantels for fireplace and gas shops,” he says. “People were calling and asking ‘Who did this mantel for you?’ [The companies] would let them know that it was me, and then they would contact me and ask for other projects. I was still working at the automotive company as an engineer, and I started becoming busier and busier [with woodworking].”

Collins worked at night and on the weekends as his mantel business started evolving into more kitchen cabinet projects. “That is what I really wanted to do,” he says. “So, I found a niche doing high-quality, extremely well-built cabinets. More and more I found people who wanted that kind of quality.”

The addition of a second spray booth has enabled Cabinet Crafters to improve its efficiency in providing high quality finishes on its products.

“I quit [the automotive company] and started doing this full-time. I hired a couple of guys, who worked for me nights and weekends, full-time. I did that for about two years and every year we kept growing a considerable amount.”

Collins added on to his garage shop, which was on six acres. But as the company continued to grow, it forced him to look at other locations for his shop due to local regulations. “The county wouldn’t let us grow anymore out there, and we were looking to hire all of these people. They wanted us to be hooked up to city sewers and septic. So, we needed to find another place to move. We started looking around and found this building.”

Collins says that at first he thought the size of the building was more than he needed. But every time he built on to his garage shop, they always outgrew it within a year. “We added on a 30 by 40 addition and then a 30 by 20 addition at the old shop. And every time we added on, we ran out of room. So, I was looking for something bigger that would allow us to continue to grow.”

The new 42,000-square-foot building gives Collins the ability to expand now as well as in the future. It also allows for 3-phase power, which he did not have previously. “It had all of the necessities that we needed, and we’re hooked up to city sewer and water, with plenty of power and sprinkler systems.”

After moving into the larger space, Collins made several equipment purchases, including a second spray booth, a 52-inch Timesavers widebelt sander, a Unique door machine and a JLT door clamp system.

“Those machines are something we didn’t have space for in the other shop or power to run,” he says. “They allowed us to ramp up our door speed. Now we can do a better job of making doors.”

The company also went from two table saws in the old shop to five in the new building. “We used to have people waiting in line to use the table saw at the old shop,” Collins says. “The old shop had one wall full of radial arm saws that shared the same workbench. For a while it worked fine for two or three guys, but then we got seven or eight guys and they had to wait before they could cut.”

When Collins laid out the new shop space, he tried to make the work area more efficient by adding a chop saw and a radial arm saw at every workstation. “We made big improvements that way,” he says.

One of the fastest-growing shops in the country, Cabinet Crafters has achieved its success without a CNC machine.

“We do have space for one,” Collins notes. He adds, however, that the company is able to currently maintain capacity with standard machines.

Every workstation in Cabinet Crafters’ shop is equipped with a chop saw and a radial arm saw.

New Year, New Challenges

Despite Cabinet Crafters tremendous growth in 2007 and a 10% increase in sales in 2008, the company, like many others, is dealing with the dramatic effects of the economic downturn.

According to Collins, “2009 is looking scary. We’ve never been in this position,” he says. “The whole time I’ve been in business, I’ve never been in a position where I have not had work.”

With reports of companies closing nearly every day, that challenge is something many shop owners are facing. The lack of credit from banks is drying up new business as well as putting pressure on companies to meet operation expenses.

Collins says that he recently had to lay off 10 employees. “And I’m not sure that we are done. We go from one of the fastest-growing businesses to one of the fastest dying,” he notes sadly. “My whole life of having a business — my joy — is to have people working for me, to give them a nice place to work and to give them good pay. It’s almost made me want to close the doors because it’s killing me to have to let people go.”

However, in the midst of the challenges and his concerns for his employees, Collins is optimistic. He says he believes that if he can make it through the next three months, the company will be in an even better position when business returns; in part, because of his reputation for high-quality work.

“We’ve been trying other ideas of what we can do to increase business,” he says, “We’re putting them in action right now. If anybody can make it through this time they will have a strong future. That’s the goal we have. There are some pretty promising things coming up in the next few months, which will probably help us get through.”

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.