Right Place, Right Company

Graham, TX, proves to be an ideal place for a family-run high-end cabinetry shop.

By Sam Gazdziak

     
Custom Cabinets of Graham
Graham, TX
www.customcabinetsofgraham.com

Year Founded: 1990
Employees: 6
Shop Size: 8,000 square feet in two buildings.

FYI: Custom Cabinets of Graham does much of its work in the Possum Kingdom Lake area, where many wealthy Texans have built their second homes.

 
   
     

Texas’ Possum Kingdom Lake has more going for it than a great name. The lake and the area surrounding it is becoming the spot where many wealthy Texans are building their second homes. And many of these homes feature cabinetry from Custom Cabinets of Graham.

Located about 50 miles from Possum Kingdom Lake and 100 miles west of Dallas in Graham, TX, Custom Cabinets of Graham finds itself in a good location, says Chris Hall, who runs the business along with his father, Richard. “There are a lot of developments with $2 million and $3 million dollar homes, and that’s where we’ve done the bulk of our work,” he says. “We’ve also done jobs in Dallas, and we’re doing a lot of jobs in Wichita Falls now.”

The company primarily does high-end residential cabinetry. Custom Cabinets has also done some commercial cabinetry in the past, and it has also recently done more residential furniture jobs. “We’re in a town of 8,000, so we can’t just settle on one specific thing. We do whatever people want,” Hall says.

Custom Cabinets is a family-operated business. Chris Hall handles the CAD work and CNC machining, while Richard, a carpenter by trade, oversees the company’s furniture manufacturing. Richard’s wife Mona runs the office. Including the Halls, the company has six employees.

Diversifying through technology
Chris Hall says that he had researched CNC machinery for more than two years before making his purchase, an SCM Routech 130 CNC router. At the same time, the company purchased Cabinet Vision design software and expanded into a new 5,000-square-foot building. But despite the careful planning, there was an unforeseen setback.

     
 
One feature of this paint-grade kitchen is a suspended set of cabinets over the island.  
     

The CNC router was delivered on Sept. 10, 2001.

“Two days after Sept. 11, we lost $100,000 in sales,” says Richard Hall. “Customers put their projects on the back burner.”

Fortunately, the machine’s capabilities helped offset the loss of revenue. Chris Hall says it has allowed the company to do work beyond cabinetry. One recent furniture piece was for a designer in Wichita Falls. She requested a table that she could sell in her store. The company came up with a reproduction of an Italian table, and all the parts were cut on the router.

“With the CNC machine, we’re not relying completely on cabinetry,” says Chris. “We go out and look for work. We’re doing specialty millwork and furniture.” He adds that the company can manufacture for a wider price range now by adding more cost-affordable options, like using MDF cabinet doors instead of wood doors.

Richard Hall’s expertise in furniture design and construction also helps the company diversify. “Our designers give us a basic concept of what they want, and then I put it together and make a generalized outline,” he says. “Chris tells me what we can do on the CNC and what we need to do on the other machines. I may have a little better eye as far as how it goes together, but the other guys are the ones who execute it.“

     
 
Service is very important to the company. Customers are able to sit with co-owner Chris Hall as he designs the cabinets to get exactly what they want, from a certain door style to plate racks.  
     

Along with the router, Custom Cabinets of Graham’s shop floor contains a Powermatic 12-inch table saw, a Whirlwind cutoff saw, an Omga radial arm saw, a Delta 10-inch table saw, a Williams & Hussey moulder and an SCM surfacer. When it expanded into a new building last year, the company added a Disa dust collection system.

After experimenting with a production environment, Chris Hall says the best way they have found to work is to build one job at a time. All of the drawers and doors are cut first, and then he machines all the casework. All of the parts are then laid out on a long table and are assembled. “We’ve cut down on the time that it takes to do a job,” Chris says. “Any kind of mistake is almost eliminated, because everyone knows what goes into the job. We’re all focused on completing one job at a time.”

Prime Possum real estate
Custom Cabinets of Graham is getting back the work that was postponed or cancelled after Sept. 11. Added to the company’s new markets, the company is expected to surpass the $500,000 mark in sales in 2002. Its work in the Possum Kingdom Lake area is another reason for the growing sales figures.

Richard Hall says that the company fell into that market by accident. “We inherited a job,” he explains. “We were the third firm. The first firm never showed up. The second firm only built one or two vanities, and then he and the architect had a falling out. We then got the job and finished 45 days after receiving it. I think the customer had been waiting nine months before that.”

     
 
Rustic cabinetry is popular in homes around the Possum Kingdom Lake area. Custom Cabinets of Graham has distressed several sets. This entertainment center also boasts deer antler hardware.  
     

That successful job has led to many others in high-end homes. One 16,000-square-foot house built on an 8,000-acre ranch had cabinetry in a different species of wood for every room, including walnut, cypress, alder and red oak. The company also built furniture for the house to match existing pieces. “That’s how we’ve gotten into doing furniture. A lot of people can’t find the furniture that they want to go into their homes, so now they’re wanting us to build it,” Chris says.

Many of the jobs in the PK area have a rustic style, so employees have had to distress several sets of cabinets. One distressed entertainment center also used deer antlers for door and drawer pulls. Another set of cabinetry went into a log cabin, so John Salas, Custom Cabinets’ installer, scribed each cabinet to fit tight against the timber walls. The Halls agree that Salas plays an important role in ensuring a successful installation.

“John is very accomplished in installing, trimming it out and really making it look good. And he’s also very good at working with other subcontractors, which is important when you’re working with a builder or an architect,” Chris says.

Service, along with quality, are Custom Cabinets of Graham’s biggest strengths. Chris says that the customer is able to come to the shop and participate in the design process. With the Cabinet Vision software, adding more drawers or changing the dimensions is relatively painless. “Really, there are a lot of companies that do what we do, but the service end is key,” he says. “With the different types of wood species, the different styles of cabinets and trim, we’re selling the opportunity for customers to get involved with the design to get what they want.”

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