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Concepts in Wood prides itself on good old-fashioned customer service, while providing high-quality cabinetry and millwork.
A lost art, it's not. Quality customer service still exists in today's world - if you look for it. Concepts in Wood of CNY Inc. is a great place to start.
President and company co-owner David Fuleihan says, "In order to achieve success, you have to know what your customer wants. You have to listen to their requests and explain to them the limitations of your business." Doing so allows for open communication between the buyer and the cabinetmaker, thus ensuring a happy customer in the end.
Fuleihan came to woodworking in 1987 from a 20-year background as a clothing retailer. "Quality was my goal when I came into this business. In (clothing) retail, if a customer doesn't get what he wants, then he doesn't buy and shops elsewhere. I felt that the concerns of the woodworking industry should be the same. You should work with a customer to give him what he wants. Over the years as the business has expanded, we have continued to be quality-oriented, and we are specific about what we can provide for our customers. Today we are still maintaining that same high standard of quality with our products and customer care," he says.
Building a Reputation Through Diversity
When Fuleihan and a group of investors bought Concepts in Wood from a friend of Fuleihan's in 1987, the company only produced interior paneled doors. The limited nature of the business was not enough to keep it profitable.
"My friend called me because he was having financial trouble with the business. I bought it from him because I thought I could restructure it [with my experience in operating five clothing stores]," Fuleihan recalls, joking that, "I soon found out that I was in the woodworking business full-time, without knowing what I was getting in to."
Fuleihan says he has never run a machine in the shop, adding that he makes the sales and runs the business instead. Eighteen years later, the shop has a new directive and a healthy bottom line. It fabricates many different things, including custom kitchen cabinets (averaging $18,000 and up) for upper-middle-class clientele. However, the Syracuse market is not big enough to just focus on custom cabinets. So to diversify, the company also produces casework for home libraries, bathroom vanities, entertainment centers and dining room hutches.
"Our work is extremely customized, but affordable," office manager Linda Angona says. "Our pieces are at the high end of better. We don't use anything but quality materials to make our end product."
Not to leave out potential local clients, Concepts in Wood also offers quality refacing for existing cabinetry. This is a beautiful and affordable solution for middle-class home-owners who want to change the look of their kitchens, Angona adds. Projects average $7,000 to $8,000 typically but can run higher if the homeowner adds new cabinetry, like an island.
With the aide of a new moulder, mouldings and other architectural millwork are another service offered to clients who are looking for new pieces or to match existing profiles. (See sidebar to right.)
As if that were not enough diversity, the company also fabricates a line of furniture pieces sold through Gaylord Brothers (www.gaylord.com), a domestic/international distributor of fixtures for libraries, museums and schools. Concepts in Wood builds, among other pieces, book trucks, showcases, slatwall and feature displays, bookcases and more.
Another lucrative outlet for the company is producing and selling mouldings, cabinet doors and drawer boxes to other cabinet and closet companies both locally and in the Long Island area, as well as shops from Massachusetts to New Jersey.
Through word-of-mouth and a little bit of advertising, the shop is always busy producing something. Concepts in Wood delivers and will install projects for its customers as well.
Today's Kitchens are 'Fashion-Forward'
Richard Liberty, project coordinator and designer, says he sees many contemporary style trends in the Syracuse area. "People's tastes have become more diverse. For example, the country kitchen has come back. We are installing a lot of farm sinks with rollover edges and there is quite a following for the bead-board cabinet doors. People seem to like the furniture look and are asking for egg-and-dart crown moulding, valances, pilasters, corbels, furniture bases, glass and pull-out shelving. Depth and height variations on the wall cabinets are also requested."
Source projects are submitted and specified by an outside designer. Otherwise, Liberty does the designs himself using KCDw software. Cherry, maple and red birch are the most popular woods, with calls for mahogany, ash, hickory, walnut, white birch, and red and white oak species occasionally.
Finishing is done in-house. The shop uses Binks spray equipment and Kremlin pumps with M.L. Campbell stains and non-yellowing, water-white catalyzed lacquers, as well as Sherwin-Williams stains and Benjamin Moore paints purchased from Purcell, a local distributor.
"Painting kitchen cabinets in light colors and shades of white is popular right now. We don't recommend painting in the kitchen and advise people we can stain in these same colors instead, but they still want to go with the painted look," Liberty says. "When we do use paint, all painted surfaces are topcoated with a lacquer as well."
"Highlighting is really big in kitchens," Angona adds. "People ask for the doors to be painted or stained one color with a different color highlighting the raised edges and panels."
Eighty percent of the requests are for frameless cabinetry with a concealed European hinge. The company makes dovetailed drawer boxes from 5?8-inch solid poplar or maple. Doors are 3?4-inch-thick and come in raised, flat and reversed raised styles. Drawer fronts are 5?4-inch-thick. Handles and knobs are purchased from a variety of vendors, but all retro hardware is purchased from Van Dyke Restorers.
Depending on the size and complexity of the project, an order typically takes six to eight weeks to fill, from design through completion.
The 15,000-square-foot shop is set up in work cells that are broken down as door, cabinet, finishing and shipping. Another 5,000 square feet in the building will be acquired by the end of 2005. Liberty says the company plans to reorganize the shop's layout, bring in new equipment and add an additional spray booth. "We are looking to be more efficient and put more through the shop in less time."
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