CWB September 2004

 

Everything to Everybody>

From high-end cabinetry and closets to kitchen appliances and cabinet doors, Kiesler Enterprises offers its customers a variety of options.>

By Sam Gazdziak

 


Kiesler Enterprises>

Glendale, AZ
>

Year Founded: 1986 (Distinctive Cabinet Doors founded in 2003)

>Employees: 85 (65 for Kiesler, 20 for Distinctive Doors)

Shop Size: 39,000 square feet

FYI: Along with its high-end cabinetry and furniture, Kiesler Enterprises distributes kitchen appliances, builds closets, offers a line of semi-custom cabinets and produces cabinet doors for itself and other cabinet shops.

 

Kiesler Enterprises' showroom has been designed to make prospective customers feel right at home. Walking in from the hot Arizona sun, they are treated to a cold drink from a Sub-Zero refrigerator. The smell of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies may be wafting from the oven. If they were wearing a jacket, they could hang it in the closet display while guessing which panels can be opened for secret storage space. The Venetian plaster walls and hardwood flooring nicely complement the kitchen cabinetry, accenting and disguising modern amenities like dishwashers.

President Gary Kiesler and the employees of the Glendale, AZ, cabinetry company have made sure every facet of the company's headquarters showcases the company at its finest. "Every area of the building, whether it's a showroom, conference room or bathroom, we want it to be a little vignette of what we do, so we put our own cabinetry in there," Kiesler says.

The kitchen on display in the showroom is not only beautiful, it is also fully functional; the company has been known to host cooking demonstrations for local designers, builders and architects. To make the showroom look even more appealing to owners and designers who are working on brand new or remodeled homes, Kiesler has partnered with other local trades. The hardwood floors, the Venetian plaster walls, the entry doors to Kiesler's office and the showroom's wine cellar door have all been supplied by other companies. "Much of what is seen is going to be what's in their own home, so they have a real feel of comfort when they're here," Kiesler explains.

The other advantage is that if a customer happens to be looking for a good flooring or door company for their house, Kiesler Enterprises is ready to provide a recommendation. Kiesler says homeowners typically get names of different tradespeople, but the showroom lets them see the product and workmanship up front. "When they're spending a boatload of money [on a home], they like to have good strong references. So we do promote other people for that reason, to help them out," he explains.

An all-encompassing business

Along with every room in the house, Kiesler Enterprises' cabinetry can be found outside the house, including garage cabinetry and patio cabinetry that has been copper-wrapped to withstand the weather. It can also provide fine furniture to complement the cabinets.

 

Kiesler Enterprises' cabinetry can start at around $50,000 and go up to more than $1 million. Along with the Phoenix area, its cabinetry has also shipped to resort towns like Aspen and Vail, CO.>

Versatility is the company's hallmark. Kiesler says that designers and architects can always expect something new, whether it be a new door style or a new finish, when they visit the company's headquarters. Many of those new ideas are provided by customers. Kiesler says clients can bring in fabric or furniture samples, and the company's finishers will match them. If the finish is off by a shade, the customer can actually go into the finishing room with the employees. "That seems to be the best way sometimes," he says, "to put the homeowner with the finisher until they get it exactly right."

Ric Jones, Kiesler Enterprises' chief operating officer, says one customer came back from France with a 200-year-old furniture piece, and they wanted cabinetry with that same antique look. "We had to make a new door and replicate it exactly, distress it and age it to make it look exactly like that 200-year-old door, and we were able to do it," he says. "I've got to say the sample that we came up with and replicated looked better than the original."

"We've since sold that [style] a few times," Kiesler adds, "because people come in and fall in love with the charm of the door. That's how we've grown and stretched ourselves by not saying 'no' to these clients."

While the main business of Kiesler Enterprises is custom cabinetry and furniture, the company has expanded in several other directions, including Calidad Cabinetry, a semi-custom line, cabinet doors and appliances. In fact, the only part of Kiesler's work that it outsources is the drawer boxes, which come from Top Drawer Components.

In many cases, the side businesses came from both need and opportunity. Kiesler started distributing appliances in order to provide a full-package deal to clients, says Jones. "While we're designing their cabinetry for the kitchen, we can do it around the very appliances that they will use in their house," he says.

Similarly, Kiesler started a new company, Distinctive Cabinet Doors, more than two years ago because it couldn't find a supplier that could provide the company's ornate doors at a reasonable price or to the just-in-time requirements. "The only logical solution was to do it in-house," Kiesler says. The door division's catalog includes several distinct styles, made with a variety of materials, colors, finishes and machined and hand-carved details.

 

Kiesler provides cabinetry for every room in the house, and it can also build complementary furniture.>

Distinctive Cabinet Doors now employs 20 people and is poised to top the $1 million mark in sales this year. Although the company started off providing doors for its parent company, Kiesler says the long-term goal was always to market the doors to other companies. About 35 to 40 percent of the doors go straight to Kiesler Enterprises, and the company hopes to shrink that eventually to 20 percent.

Jones says there was initial resistance in marketing the cabinet doors to other cabinet shops, which did not want to buy product from a shop owned by a competitor, so there was some education needed. "Everybody knows the reputation of Kiesler as being the most custom of the custom shops and being the most exacting and demanding in the looks they require," he says. "They realized if the shop is capable of meeting the very high standards that Kiesler has, then obviously they're very qualified. That began to make sense, and now we're beginning to get their business."

Mini-shops specialize in assembly

Kiesler says he learned several lessons in starting a brand new company, not the least of which was, "Don't start a company right before you move." Kiesler Enterprises has moved about five times since starting in Kiesler's garage in 1986, the most recent of which was summer of 2003. When the company's lease expired in its old building, Kiesler decided to take advantage of the low mortgage rates and find a larger facility.

He happened to find a building with the right warehouse-to-office ratio, the right power requirements and a loading dock, so Kiesler Enterprises and the then-fledgling Distinctive Cabinet Doors moved to its present (and final, Kiesler hopes) 39,000-square-foot facility.

Distinctive Doors is set up in its own machining area, while the cabinetry side has a series of "mini-shops" set up in the remaining manufacturing space. The company used to have a one-big-shop approach, where a project went from one department to the next as is was gradually assembled. "There was no accountability, no ownership, and guys never had the satisfaction of having a job done under their leadership," Kiesler says.

Now, there is a cut-out department that cuts the panels on a Holzma Optimat beam saw, machines the parts on a Biesse CNC machining center and edgebands them on a Holz-Her edgebander. If moulding is needed on a project, it is produced with a Weinig Profimat moulder. For those projects that require a special touch, Kiesler's master carver can hand-carve designs onto doors, legs and other parts.

 

While the Old World style has been popular in Arizona for many years, Kiesler Enterprises can also design and build a more contemporary kitchen.>

All the milled parts meet up with the doors and drawer boxes and are then delivered to one of five mini-shops for assembly. Each team has its own assembly area with all the tools they need to complete the job. They are responsible for working on a couple of projects at a time, and they take the project through final assembly. The assemblers use Blum hinges and drawer slides, and any specialty hardware comes from H+ñfele. Once they are assembled, the company's in-house movers and installers finish the project.

Kiesler says the mini-shop approach has given the assembly workers accountability for every project. "They see a project from start to finish, and they like being involved," he adds. "Some of these guys have had their own shops before, and they didn't like the fact that they didn't have control once it left their department."

More growth on the horizon

Kiesler, 43, has been involved in woodworking for more than 30 years. Far from an absentee owner, he says the office is the least likely place to find him during the day. Instead, he may be meeting with a customer, going over new ideas with the company's designers or overseeing product quality on the shop floor. His wife, Jennifer, serves as director of marketing and has been heavily involved in the accounting and social sides of the business.

Kiesler Enterprises has just added a vice president of operations to relieve Kiesler of some of his day-to-day duties, freeing him to focus on the company vision and its future development. He says the Southwest has been a booming market, and the company continues to take advantage of its reputation.

The company is on track for $7.2 million in sales this year, and Kiesler says it can jump to $12 million in 2005. The company has been expanding out of the Phoenix area to gain a regional presence, with cabinets getting shipped to some of the high-end resort areas like Vail and Aspen, CO.

Despite the success, Kiesler is still looking to improve, with plans to add a new kitchen display to the showroom. "It's going to be a Spanish/Mediterranean look with twin Sub-Zero [refrigerators] and a mesquite island," he says.

"I think it's important to always be looking for a better way - whether it's the way you build something or present yourself or behave, just try to be improving," he adds.

                                                                                                                                                                                           

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