|Terry Manufacturing built these knotty alder cabinets for a kitchen in an East Texas ranch home, featuring crown moulding and varied height uppers.|
Terry Manufacturing Co.
Year Founded: 1950
Shop Size: 45,000 sq ft
FYI: Terry Mfg. Co. — and its current owner — have undergone some changes over the years. The company started out in metalwork, but evolved into custom cabinetry. Owner Dick Terry, son of the founder, originally was an athletic trainer, but joined his father in the business in the 1970s.
Providing Quality and Choices
Quality is a byword at the company, distinguished in East Texas for its attention to detail. Terry believes that his company has remained competitive because of its willingness to embrace high technology solutions while remaining true to the basics.
“We work mostly with contractors and individuals, rather than selling through dealers, although we do work with a few dealers,” he says. Roughly 70 percent of sales are to customers in the Houston area, which is 170 miles from Palestine. Most sales are for homes that cost $500,000 and up.
“Today, the business is about options, features and providing a variety of sizes,” Terry adds. “We may start with a cabinet and add a lazy Susan or a sink shelf. There is something different behind every drawer, plus combinations of varying cabinet heights and depths. Customers today want to see a wide range of options in cabinet design and function, as well as wood type, edge designs and finishes.”
Terry says this is quite a contrast to business 30 years ago when he joined the company and customers chose from three basic designs — square, single arch or double arch — and one edge profile. “Today, there are nine edge profiles, 16 door designs and an unlimited number of woods. And cabinets don’t have to match — they can be furniture-like, complement each other or used as an accent.”
As a custom manufacturer, Terry knows the importance of staying on top of trends. “In our finishes, for instance, we are finding clients want some glazing, and medium to darker tones are more predominant,” he says.
While Terry Mfg. will use any wood species a client requests, maple remains very popular in his market, with clear and knotty alder also widely used. “Cherry is a super wood to work with, and beech and Lyptus are also popular,” he adds. “Oak beaded doors also are gaining in popularity.”
The company constructs solid wood butt joint or dovetail drawer boxes and uses “the finest drawer guides you can buy.” It also specializes in hardwood mouldings in a variety of species. “We have stock profiles in most of the popular designs in crowns, base, case and chair rails,” Terry says. “We have the ability to grind knives on-site to match any profile provided from the customer based on a sample or drawing. Popular profiles are run daily.”
New Technology Opens Markets
“Fifteen years ago, CNC technology was out of reach for a business our size,” Terry says, commenting about the technology changes in the last 30 years. When CNC machines dropped in size and price, the company purchased a Routech 130 CNC machine from SCMI and a variety of other technology upgrades.
“People in the shop weren’t sure they could co-exist with the new machines,” Terry says. “Now, when a part has to be manually cut, people act as though I am punishing them. Everyone in the plant loves the CNC equipment, which has been in use for approximately five years.”
Terry says one benefit of the CNC machine is the safety it affords. “It saves having to find someone capable of running table saws safely and efficiently,” he says. “In addition, it saves movement and time. We no longer have to move parts from machine to machine, as the CNC does so many functions with accuracy and precision.”
The company uses CabinetWare software and has upgraded to the latest version. Terry says he really values its features. “We used to draw jobs by hand and figure cutlists in our head,” he says. “The software offers a great marketing tool — you can show drawings to the client. We also use it to price jobs, and it streamlines the process of making cutlists when we have the final measurements of a job.”
Other recent machinery additions to the shop include several T130 shapers, a Superset 23 moulder, a Sandya widebelt sander used to sand doors and face frames, and a gang rip saw, all from SCMI. The company also has a new Weima Tiger 400 wood grinder, a 325 edge profiler from Unique Machine & Tool and a Whirlwind chop saw with a TigerStop controller.
The finishing department installed a system using air-assisted airless spray guns from Sata three years ago. Terry also purchased a Uni-ram solvent recycling unit that takes the waste from lacquer thinners used to clean spray guns and pots and recycles it by purifying it. The material can be used again for cleaning purposes.
“The greatest savings with this method is in not having to dispense with the material,” Terry Says. “We do use the proper methods for dispensing waste materials, but this recycling method just made sense to us.”
While Terry endorses strides in technology, his philosophy is that machines do not build cabinets, people do. “You need good people in your organization, and I’m blessed with many good people working here,” he says. “We were willing to change and invest in new technology. If my customer has a need, I will do what I can to supply it.”
Ninety percent of his business is in the state of Texas, but he also has sold to clients in Washington DC, North Carolina and Tennessee. Terry says he is a big believer in encouraging education for the industry and also in belonging to industry associations. He is a member of the National Kitchen and Bath Assn., the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Assn. and the Cabinet Makers Assn.
“One of the best ways to stay educated and aware is to attend industry meetings,” he says, adding that association involvement is a contribution to the profession and helps raise the level of professionalism.
The Company’s Uncommon Side
Terry Mfg. is housed in two buildings, totaling 45,000 square feet. One is a 7,000-square-foot paint and finishing shop. The main plant, some 38,000 square feet, contains manufacturing and office space. Out back, there is a sight less common for a woodworking facility — a large compost pile.
The buildings are located on six acres, Terry explains, so he found a way to put some of the acreage to use. He takes shop wood shavings and dust from his DISA dust collection system to create compost.
“We have a large piece of property, so instead of paying to haul the wood waste away, we are making compost that we can one day sell,” he says. The company has not sold any yet, but has given it to appreciative friends and neighbors for their gardens, lawns and tree beds.
Terry attributes his company’s steady growth to offering an excellent product, paying attention to new technology and methods, and watching market trends.
“Shops our size are pretty common in Dallas, but not at all common in East Texas,” he says. “There are a few shops our size in
Tyler, but that’s about it.”
Terry says his main competition is not from shops his size, but from some contractors who work on-site and often use undocumented workers. “I am not at all reluctant to broach this topic. It is a serious problem for manufacturers like me, who follow the rules and pay taxes, worker’s compensation, social security and offer decent wages and benefits. I have to purchase equipment that keeps me compliant with OSHA and the EPA, and I’m afraid that isn’t the case with some people who employ cheap labor and work on-site.
“I get very tired of people saying undocumented workers don’t hurt anyone,” he continues. “It’s just not true, as they allow businesses to operate at an unfair advantage because their overhead is so low. I am not saying that some employers don’t offer decent wages or produce a quality product. I am saying people are getting hurt because the playing field isn’t level. We should not be penalized for playing by the rules.”
Terry also says that attracting qualified employees is a continuing struggle, but he is proud of his staff. The company employs 20. “Turnover can be a problem in the industry, but we are lucky that we have some long-time employees and many talented, professional people here. One person has been with the company for more than 24 years, another 20, and two are near to a decade with us.”
Terry also is happy that he has repeat business with satisfied customers. “It’s our philosophy to give the customer what he wants and expects, which is a quality product. If a problem arises, we work until the problem is solved. We make sure working with us is a happy experience,” he says.
While most of the cabinetry and products it makes are destined to be used in homes, the company has one ongoing “custom” job that is very different in nature. Palestine, TX, is home not only to Terry Mfg., but also to the NASA Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility. “Roughly once a year, we construct the cabinets used to transport the equipment in scientific balloons,” Terry says.
Those boxes, made from container wood, must be built to withstand the arduous trip involved in getting the delicate equipment to remote places. The cabinets have to be strongly made, because they are transported on cargo planes and often taken by helicopter to balloon launch sites. According to a Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility Web site, “Scientists use the data collected during balloon flights to help answer important questions about the universe, the atmosphere, the sun and the space environment.”
“Strength” and “attention to detail” trump “looks” for this particular custom work. But Terry says it is a fascinating part of what they do and something they look forward to all year.
|This Shaker-style kitchen is in oak and features upper doors with mullions. Photo by Ellis Vener||This custom vanity was fabricated in rustic alder for the powder room in an upscale Houston home. Photo by Brian Tafelmeyer|
|Terry Manufacturing added an SCMI Routech CNC machine about five years ago.||Company owner and President Dick Terry stands beside an example of a typical cabinet job in the shop.|
Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.