Chris Giampaolo, owner of Closet Creations, with offices in Sleepy Hollow, New York and a manufacturing facility in Yonkers, New York, got his start in the closets industry nearly 28 years ago.
While working with his father, who was in the construction business, Giampaolo saw a Space Metrics display in a cabinet dealer’s shop along with 5/8-inch material. The display and material sparked the inspiration to redo the closet space in his small, co-op apartment.
“I talked to the guy in the sales room, bought the material, did my own closets, and I was like, ‘This is a great little business,’” he says. That decision eventually lead to Giampaolo starting his own closet company.
He began gradually, first working with Space Metrics then later buying components from other manufacturers. All the while the company was continuing to grow as well as his space requirements, so he moved from the back of a van to larger and larger facilities.
At one point Giampaolo says he was approached by Closets By Design to purchase a failing franchise in the area. He was invited to tour the franchisor’s main manufacturing facility and that trip proved pivotal in determining the direction he wanted to take.
“I saw their manufacturing plant, and they had three work cells, they had two RTF cells, there were thermafoil cells, and basically what I came away with was, not so much that I wanted to be in business with Closets By Design, but I should go into manufacturing,” he explains.
“I was spending so much money at that point on components that saving 10 percent by manufacturing things myself and pocketing a good amount of money every year [seemed like a good idea],” he adds. “I wouldn’t have to wait for deliveries, so I wouldn’t have to wait for a part to come in the following week, if something was wrong, and I couldn’t make it myself. So, my cash turnaround would be a lot quicker. I could make a part if a guy is on an install, and the parts are wrong. I’ll make the part myself, run it out to him, get the job done and you’re finished. So, I started looking into manufacturing.”
The Vitap Point K2 Top from Atlantic Machinery will offer Closet Creations more versatility in fabricating specialized parts.
In 2008 Giampaolo opened his 8,500 square-foot manufacturing facility in Yonkers, New York, and purchased machinery from the Mt. Vernon-area Closet By Design franchise that was failing.
He credits his electrical engineering degree with getting the plant set up as well as help from industry experts.
However, not long after the factory was up and running the economy crashed, which led Giampaolo to look for ways to keep the machines going.
“What helped save me was I did a favor for a guy who sold me a used CNC, Rich Glover, and did a demonstration for a builder of what this small, little-used CNC could do in terms of a kitchen cabinet. When the guy came to look, he was like, ‘Wow, your shop’s beautiful, and so clean and neat.’ He didn’t know it was clean and neat because we weren’t doing anything,” Giampaolo laughs. “He came at night, so I was like, ‘We run a tight ship here.’”
That demonstration led to work on one of the builder’s rehab buildings in Brooklyn, New York.
“We made dowel cabinets, kitchen cabinets, low end, and over the next four or five months, I think it was four months, we made 1,200 kitchen cabinets for this guy and whatever little closet components. It taught me about having to make cabinets, and all the ways the machines work, and that basically saved me that winter. And then things started picking up little by little. People started coming in and going, ‘Oh, do you do closet components?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, whatever you need.’”
Currently, about 60 percent of Closet Creations’ work is for builders but the company also supplies components to about 25 small, independent closet companies in the Tri-State Area, as well as vertical panels for a customer in Boston. Along with fabricating components for its own needs, its growing list of clients has allowed the company to stay extremely busy.
Giampaolo credits his hardworking staff of 19 employees including three designers, a receptionist and an operations manager - for the company’s success.
After Giampaolo’s initial purchase of used equipment, he has made additional investments over the years including a Weeke CNC, a beam saw, Holz-Her edgebander and Vitap Point K2 TOP and Eclipse contour edgebander from Atlantic Machinery. He says the Point K2 Top has become a backup to his Weeke CNC machine.
“If the Weeke goes down, we have a fully operational CNC that can do our parts, just not as fast. Also, it is good for specialized stuff, and that’s what we’re now developing it for,” he says. “Like drawer cubbies, small parts, because it has clamps, and hold downs and it’s easy to load, fairly easy to program, so we’re going to start using it for doing dowel drawer boxes, wine cubes, specialized type stuff, special shaped vertical panels, that have to go to a contour edgebander. We’re going to use that so that the Weeke will blast through regular closet panels. It’s got dual heads with 25 bits in each head. That thing is a beast, but it’s huge. You see the size of it, but it runs through stuff. In under a minute it can do a full 14 by 84 panel, but sometimes we’ll get a custom drill where it’s a certain shape and somebody will want to stop the Weeke from blasting through panels and get a program righted and get the part on there, but it stops my regular Weeke operator, and it slows everything down.”
According to Giampaolo, the addition of the Vitap machinery allows the firm more versatility. closetcreationsinc.com.