Jay B. McCoy, president of a production level cabinet company W.L. Rubottom Co., recently acquired Closet Crafters of Ventura, California, and launched a new sister custom cabinet company - Native Oak.
“I was looking for a small shop [to buy], and nothing was coming up,” McCoy says. “Around that time, I got an inquiry about a shop for sale. It didn’t say where it was but it was within Ventura County, which is where we are located. I followed up, and it turned out it was not only in Ventura County, it was Ventura. From there, I found a partner (Keith Rebulp), who’s not in the industry, but has some experience with shipping and production, just not case work.”
According to McCoy one of the things that appealed to him about Closet Crafters was its “flawless reputation” in the industry.
“I did the initial research, and said ‘oh, okay these guys do great work. They have a lot of integrity, they follow up on their jobs’. Those are the kinds of things that small shops tend to struggle with - follow-up,” he says. “Then, I saw they could do more than just closets. I understand the home organization market, but the jobs tend to be small, which can be hard to make a profit on. My expertise is in kitchens, bathrooms, whole houses, so as soon I put those pieces together that they had the reputation, they had the equipment, and all we needed was to put a few more pieces into place.”
McCoy calls establishing the Native Oak cabinet brand an evolutionary process. He plans to position it as a premium local product.
“Our goal is to really be focused on the homeowner that wants the perfect design, but also useful functionality,” he says. “Many people can get their cabinets at IKEA. We realize that, but we also realize that the Baby Boomers and Generation X customers want to use their kitchen, so they want them to be durable, but they also want it to be beautiful. We plan to position ourselves as that premium local brand for Northern Los Angeles County, Ventura County, Santa Barbara County. We build it here, and we know how to build a proper cabinet that’s going to last long-term.”
In terms of Closet Crafters, previously owned by Joyce Hardison (a Top Shelf Closet Design Awards judge) and her daughter, Kathryn Price, Hardison will remain on staff as the sales & design manager.
When it comes to upgrading the shop, McCoy says that one of the first investments he made was in a new edgebander with several different accessories including pre-mill.
“We wanted to have the ability to do 3-millimeter tape with corner rounding. We’ve got pre-mill where it cuts off a millimeter of the panel right before it glues so that it’s a brand new clean cut,” he says. “If you running a garage cabinet, or a medical office cabinet, you can use the thicker tape, the 3-millimeter tape, and the machine will round the corners on it with a really nice finish.”
Design and sales
For promotion and sales for Closet Crafters and Native Oak, McCoy says that one of the first things he did was hire a kitchen rep only.
“He does kitchens, bathrooms, that’s his expertise,” he says. “And Joyce can kind of do both. I told her to keep doing both, but focus on her expertise. She’s really a great designer. That was another appealing thing about the deal was that she wanted to stay on, so I wanted to cut her loose from the burden of ownership, and let her really thrive. She’s a designer. She’s great with closets. She sees it in her head, and she’s got contacts all over the place, and I’m letting her flourish in both markets.”
Closet Crafters and Native Oak are in the process of converting over to Mosaik Software design programs and its interface with Google Sketchup.
“Mosaic is kind of new to the market,” McCoy adds. “And they’re using more of a software-as-a-service kind of pricing model, so instead of having to pay $20,000 up front for software, they charge you a monthly subscription fee. So it’s a lot more reasonable for a startup shop to get started in.”
All of the closet and kitchen projects go through the same design process and through the same engineers. “We have the ability to do face frame and frameless kitchens, but we’re doing a little bit of everything,” he adds. “We’re doing inset, big frame, kind of like a Stickley type of look. We’re doing modern, European frameless designed kitchens. We’re doing kind of an in-between modified kitchen right now where it’s frameless, but it’s built to look like it’s an inset base frame, so we’re doing a lot of different types of cabinetry.
“A lot of people are looking for that old school face frame, inset face frame look, but they don’t want to lose their storage space, and they don’t want to have bold hardware,” McCoy explains. “They want the latest accessories inside the cabinets, and they want the nice soft-close drawer guides. With the modified frameless, we call it modified face frame or modified frameless, it looks like that inset face frame look where the door is flush with the face of the cabinet.”
McCoy says that his goal for Closet Crafters and Native Oak is to be the custom shop that uses modern techniques but also takes the production orientation of individualizing each cabinet.
Learn more at closetcrafters411.com and nativeoak.com.