This Northern California cabinet door manufacturer prepares for its 10th anniversary by investing $7 million in a new plant and equipment.
Welcome to Gilroy, "garlic capital of the world" and home to California Kitchen Cabinet Door's new 120,000-square-foot manufacturing plant.
While the plant's location will not be appearing any time soon in this quaint San Jose-area city's tourism guide, California Door president and CEO Ed Rossi hopes it will be the next best thing since garlic bread. To this end, Rossi has bankrolled $7 million for purchasing, refurbishing and equipping the Gilroy facility. Included is a hefty investment in new technology for manufacturing five-piece cabinet doors plus a thermal foil pressing line featuring the first automatic trimming device of its kind in North America. (See sidebar.)
"Our goal is to get 20 years out of this plant, while achieving more output without hiring more people," Rossi said. "To make this happen means having good quality equipment manned by good quality people. I think we're on the right track on both counts."
$14 Million and Growing
Rossi, a self-described "shop guy" in high school, cut his teeth in the cabinet door manufacturing business immediately after graduating. He landed a job with the Cabinet Door Co. and worked his way up the company ladder, ultimately overseeing plant operations, including helping coordinate three plant expansions.
In 1988, at the age of 30, Rossi left the Cabinet Door Co. to found California Door. "After 13 years of working for someone else I decided I wanted to do my own thing," Rossi said.
Manufacturing traditional cope-and-stick, five-piece solid wood cabinet doors, California Door achieved $1 million in sales in its first year of business and reached $5 million in 1992. Then the bottom fell out of the California real estate market.
The economic slump caused company sales to stagnate in 1993 and 1994 at which point Rossi plotted two important courses of action. First, he decided to expand California Door's market beyond Northern California to encompass all of California, plus Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Arizona. Second, Rossi purchased equipment to add rigid thermal foil cabinet doors to the product mix. As a result of these two business moves, and an improved economy, company sales picked up dramatically, hitting $8 million in 1996 and more than $14 million in 1997.
Now, with the Gilroy plant fully up and running, Rossi said he sees sales of $20 million within the company's grasp. Achieving this sales mark would be a phenomenal way to cap off the company's 10th year in business, an anniversary it celebrates this May.
"Being the biggest has never been my goal," Rossi said. "What I've always wanted is to have a company that constantly strives to do it better than anyone else. By keeping our focus strictly on making cabinet doors and drawer fronts we've been able to keep customers satisfied and build on our client base. We've put the pedal to the metal the last couple of years and this new plant is one of the results."
Inside the Gilroy Plant
"Late in 1996 I began to explore moving the operation to a bigger facility," Rossi said. "Being in Silicon Valley, it would have been too expensive to expand or build a bigger plant in Morgan Hill."
Rossi's site selection search led him to Gilroy, located about 15 minutes south of Morgan Hill. There he purchased 10 acres of land occupied by a 120,000-square-foot warehouse last used by a garlic distributor.
"When I first came to check this place out, strings of garlic were literally hanging from all of the rafters," Rossi said. "The building reeked of garlic for weeks after the warehouse moved out."
It is impossible to tell that California Door's new home was once a garlic warehouse following the extensive plastering, tiling, plumbing, electrical, ducting and other interior and exterior renovation that has been done to transform it into a high-production cabinet door manufacturing plant. Rossi's younger brother Dino and father Joe helped design the new facility's layout.
Rossi said he spent about $3.5 million for the building, property and renovation. Then he turned around and invested another $3.5 million on new equipment, some of which performed service at Morgan Hill before being relocated to Gilroy.
Major equipment purchased within the last year includes:
The more than 120 solid wood designs available are summarized in a 40-page catalog. "Everything we manufacture is sized to individual customer specifications," Rossi said. "One customer might order a mitered white oak raised panel door at 213ÃƒÂƒ?ÃƒÂ‚?8 inches wide and the next might order the same door 1/4-inch bigger or smaller."
Accommodating these diverse size requirements, within tight turn-around times of five to 10 days, puts a premium on having machines that offer quick changeover times. In addition, downtime for tooling changes is reduced through the extensive use of diamond tooling mainly purchased from Gladu and Lach.
While much of the woodworking industry moans about finding and keeping good workers, Rossi said he knows he must be doing something right because he has had little turnover. In fact, he said that his entire workforce has followed California Door to its new home.
"I think it is very important to take care of your employees such as offering them full medical and dental benefits and a 401K program," Rossi said. The new plant also includes several creature comforts for workers including an employee lunchroom an outdoor patio with picnic tables, a basketball court, and men's and women's locker rooms.
Apparently word has gotten out that California Door is a pretty good place to work. Rossi said he received several hundred applications for a handful of positions that opened up with the expansion.
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