How do you distinguish yourself when a whole industry is doing well? According to Richard Schwartz, controller, Dura Supreme Inc. in Howard Lake, Minn., you offer innovative products, top-notch customer service and have "the right products at the right place at the right time."

Schwartz notes that cabinet industry sales have been going up consistently at a rate of about 10 percent a year. "We've been doing better than the industry for our category by three to four percent extra.

"The whole cabinet industry is doing well. In our category, which is semi-custom, it's been running overall gains of about 13 percent a year. And that continued on even into this year, so we're going to be at about $90 million this year."

Innovative products

Schwartz credits Dura Supreme's success to products they have created in response to market demands. "Innovation within our product line has helped a lot," Schwartz says. Dura Supreme currently offers boot benches, lockers and other pieces that have been popular in higher-end remodeling jobs. The company's customer base has traditionally leaned toward higher-end dealers that need a lot of innovative products and customization features.

In addition, creative and stylish storage solutions have been very popular and successful for the company. "A lot of things are going into niches," Schwartz says. "They're kitchen cabinets, but they're configured for storage specifically in niche applications like entryways, mudrooms and laundries and that type of thing. People are definitely packing the cabinets into those areas."

Meeting demand

Schwartz observes that most cabinet companies have had their lead times increase over the last five years, and he admits that Dura Supreme is no exception, despite its ongoing race to keep up with demand. Dura Supreme has expanded its Howard Lake operations every 18 months since 1995. Plant footage now runs in excess of 200,000 square feet.

The company also recently redid its finishing system. "It's in the process of being tested," Schwartz says. "It's installed, it's just going to take a few months to get it so that it's ready for full production." Schwartz says they expect the finishing system to be online by the end of the year and that it will "significantly" affect their ability to keep up with capacity demands.

Expanding operations

In a move that shifts the company into a more integrated mode, Dura Supreme also recently completed testing of a prototype rough mill in northern Minnesota. The company first rented space to test mill operations; then once they were convinced that the mill would be successful, they built a building of their own and are now completing its set-up.

Customers

Schwartz says that while traditionally Dura Supreme has been strong locally, Minnesota is not its highest growth area anymore. "We're nationwide," Schwartz says. "Most of our growth has come from the coasts. The East Coast and West Coast territories have been up for us significantly."

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