by Jamie Wendland, Mankato CabinetCraft

Establishing a complete experience for residential and commercial cabinetry clients,
including venturesome finishing, is Mankato CabinetCraft’s expanded mission.  

Back in 1997, Karl Wendland and I founded Blue Lion Cabinetry, a custom cabinetry and millwork business that has since grown to be one of the larger custom cabinet shops in the southern Minnesota area.

For years, building our clientele of home-owners, businesses, contractors, designers and remodelers, we operated strictly out of a production facility. Over time, we recognized our clients’ need for a showroom to view our products, and for a location that also had professional designers on hand to help with the decision-making process.

A new business line for Mankato CabinetCraft is
Kitchen Re-Nu cabinet refacing. Here’s an example
of before (left) and after.

In 2008 Blue Lion Cabinetry teamed up with Mankato CabinetCraft, a local cabinet design firm. Mankato CabinetCraft became the exclusive dealer of Blue Lion custom cabinetry and millwork.

Around this same time, Blue Lion Cabinetry brought on board custom cabinetmaker Denny Jahnz, widely known in southern Minnesota for the unique specialty finishes he did in his own cabinet company.

The timing was perfect for Denny, Karl and I to team up and combine our talents. Two solid existing businesses joined, letting us build on each other’s strengths, share overhead costs and form a stronger, more well rounded company.

Mankato CabinetCraft established a mission to provide the most complete cabinet and millwork experience for residential and commercial cabinetry clients, expanding to appeal to homebuilders, contractors, and architects, as well as homeowners and designers.

We now offer cabinetry to suit all rooms and styles in a variety of wood species and finishes. From modern and contemporary to stylish and classical, in framed and frameless versions, in a variety of finishes such as stained, painted, glazed and distressed — nothing is off limits. Mankato CabinetCraft’s continued success is also due to hiring quality employees who keep on top of current trends and emerging technology and materials.

Production equipment at our Blue Lion unit includes
an edgebander, wide belt sander, shapers and a sliding
table saw.

Mankato CabinetCraft opened a showroom in the brand new Mankato Design Center. The Design Center houses a dozen other independent businesses (e.g., Minnesota Valley Granite, Lights on Madison, Andersen Windows, etc.) who specialize in home improvements. This unique location affords clients a one-stop shop for all of their home remodeling needs.

Mankato CabinetCraft’s unique location within the Mankato Design Center, along with its relationship with the other businesses, allows us to promote our services through promotions and events held by the Design Center. We have also been able to team up with the other businesses within the Design Center to advertise in greater volume. The joint efforts among the businesses have proven that each can get more “bang for the buck” when it comes to advertising as a group.

We have seen an increase in commercial work over the last several years. However the majority of our business is still for the residential customer. The advantage to our setup is that we are fully capable of doing both commercial and residential projects.

Blue Lion Cabinetry handles all our production using a range of equipment including, sliding table saw, shapers, wide belt sander and edgebander. While a CNC machine could be on the horizon, the biggest factor governing that decision is that we are currently maxed out at our production facility. If things continue to trend in an economic upswing, growth at the companies, including expansion, could be in the future.

Since opening the Mankato CabinetCraft showroom, we have expanded our product lines and services, offering not just Blue Lion Cabinetry custom lines, but several other brands of manufactured cabinetry, as well as several lines of cabinet hardware, laminate and Corian countertops, fabricated locally by Blue Lion Cabinetry. We have also recently added lines of interior and exterior doors, millwork and door hardware. The added product lines have allowed us to meet every client’s budget — which has become increasingly important to remain competitive in these tough economic times.

What Consumers Want
Many consumers are branching out of the traditional cabinet designs. They are mixing wood species and stain and paint colors that result in a unique look that suits their lifestyle and tastes. Consumers no longer feel restricted in their kitchen designs and are feeling comfortable in individualizing their spaces. They are also looking at the long term accessibility of their living areas, including the kitchen, as many are looking to settle in a location permanently.

Shifting Wood Preferences
We have seen an increase in demand for cherry, maple, alder and beech. The soft grains in these species complement the more contemporary look that many home?owners are striving for.

In 2010, as Mankato CabinetCraft saw a growing need for cabinet restoration and refacing and we added a new division called Kitchen Re-Nu. Through this new division, Mankato CabinetCraft is able to use the talents and expertise of our in-house finishing specialist, Denny Jahnz. The concept for Kitchen Re-Nu began in the 1990’s while Denny was working for a kitchen remodeling franchise.

While involved with the franchise, Denny saw that they had a great business model for restoring the look of cabinets that were showing signs of wear and tear, but he was never comfortable with the process that they used. Though the cabinets did look good when they were finished, he knew that the process wasn’t delivering durable results. With that in mind he started to explore ways to improve the long-term performance of the process while keeping the cost reasonable.

Researching Finishes
Some 10 years ago, Denny was introduced to a new product that made it possible to achieve that goal. Over the last decade he has honed his skills in restoring and repairing cabinet finishes through experience and professional training, becoming more familiar with products that could give him the look he wanted with the performance he demanded.

Mankato CabinetCraft now offers Kitchen Re-Nu to clients as a cost effective and dependable way to update existing woodwork without the cost and disruption of major renovations.

Jamie Wendland is co-owner of Mankato CabinetCraft, Mankato, MN.
Visit to see its portfolio of projects.

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