ST. PAUL, MN - Mike Rone, founder and chairman of Northern Contours. a U.S. pioneer of membrane-pressed cabinet doors, passed away unexpectedly of an illness on Dec. 29 at the age of 63.
Rone and Duaine Miranowski co-founded Northern Contours in 1992, capitalizing on the potential of European membrane press technology. The company's growth was meteoric, earning it a long run of appearances in Wood & Wood Products' annual WOOD 100 Report of fast-growing companies.. These repeat WOOD 100 honors were bolstered by Northern Contours' expansion into new product arenas, such as veneer doors, textured laminates and custom components. Today, the company operates six manufacturing plants including two in Minnesota, three in Kentucky and one in Arizona.
Beyond mastering new and flexible technology, Rone is remembered for his commitment to customer service. “Mike’s approach to business was centered around caring for customers," said Lary Skow, vice president of sales and marketing at Northern Contours. "It went way beyond transacting routine business. He wanted to know them, provide superior service and develop longstanding friendships with those he served. This model of service is a cornerstone for the company he built and will be forever remembered by those who had the good fortune to know Mike."
“This has been a shock to all of us," said Ken Pfarr, president and CEO of Northern Contours. “Over the past 30 years, Mike has been a great friend, supplier and employer. Both his zeal and genuineness will be missed by everyone who knew him.”
Rone was born May 23, 1949 in Miami Beach, FL and moved to St. Paul when he was in high school. During the mid-1970s, Rone was attending the University of North Carolina in pursuit of a PhD in neuroanatomy, when his father, George asked him to join his kitchen cabinet company, Medallion Kitchens. He developed a passion for the wood products business, taking on a variety of roles including purchasing, new product development, production management and manufacturer's sales representative.
Rone and Miranowski started Northern Contours with a pair of CNC routers, a membrane press and a vision. In a January 2005 article- Membrane Pressing Pays Off - published in Wood & Wood Products, Rone offered this advice to wood product companies considering getting into membrane pressing. "There are companies that have gotten into it, but can't run it full-time. They can't keep enough product going through it to be efficient. It's not an easy operation to start and stop. It's not like a saw. The idea is how many times can the press be filled in an hour with parts. That's where the productivity comes from."
Beyond his career, Rone enjoyed skiing, golf and recently earned his pilot's license. He was also an avid bicyclist and participated for the past 20 years in the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, an annual 192-mile bike ride across Massachusetts raising funds for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Rone is survived by his wife, Kristin and two daughters.
A memorial service is planned for 1 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 6 at the University Club in St. Paul. In lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute or charity of the donor's choice.
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