Experience draws innovator to open shop
April 5, 2010 | 7:00 pm CDT

Twenty years of experience at other companies led to a new experience for Gregg Venchus: his own company. Venchus has been involved in commercial millwork and store fixtures for 26 years, and started his own business six years ago.

“I have been in this industry my whole life and I have done every aspect of this business from building to installation to CNC operator/programming to foreman to purchasing/project management to AutoCAD drafting, then sales,” he says. “I have always set goals for myself as I do with the business and I strive to accomplish those goals.”

CastleCraft Products Inc. is located in West Chicago, Ill., and its 12 employees make both custom products and commercial millwork and displays.

“We do custom and production millwork well. Most shops do one or the other,” Venchus says. “I surround myself with good people who care about what they do.”

He always did side jobs, and when a large enough job came along, he quit his main job and he went on his own.

“I started the business because I felt that I could control the quality and pricing better and I also felt that the customer service should be first and foremost,” he says.

“Being able to finish the job is most important. We strive to get whatever the installers need while they’re still out there. We rebuilt six cabinets that had been damaged in transit and shipped them while the installers were still on site just before Thanksgiving.”

Making the investment 

“I find that the biggest challenges are knowing when to invest back into the company,” Venchus says. As a hands-on owner I always want to get the latest and greatest state-of-the-art machinery. But you have to know when and how you are going to use that investment. We always try to make sure we can get good use out of the investment and then we usually find more uses for it down the line. That is why we have always invested back in the company with top of the line machinery and people.

What has been the most rewarding part of owning a business?

“I believe that the customer satisfaction is the most rewarding. I love it when someone comes to me with a rough sketch or concept and they ask me "can this be done". I tell them we can do anything, just give me the time to engineer it!”

One thing Venchus doesn’t do is residential. “I think residential and commercial are two different things. My background is commercial and retail. I want to focus on what we do best.”

No salesmen 

Venchus also handles sales, doing mailers and making cold calls, often focusing on 10 potential customers at a time.

“We have six or seven good-sized customers, but you never want to rely only on what you have,” he says.

He believes there is retail work to be done. “I think people are holding off doing their stores,” he says. “There are a lot of stores out there that need to be remodeled.”

“I’m also worried about residential people coming into the commercial market and messing things up,” he observes. “There are a lot of people out there who are pricing low to keep their doors open, and I think that will come back and bite them.”

Over the past year work has been fairly steady with a few dips. The company has started doing more showcases incorporating different kinds of metal and glass.

“I see the retail end picking up. I think people will wait and see how the holiday season goes.”

If he were to start over again is there anything he would do differently?

“I don't know if I would do anything differently,” Venchus says. “My wife and kids have always been very supportive of me in the beginning and have given me that extra push I needed to finally make the decision to go out on my own.

“I’m always looking for more ideas and ways to improve.”

To see more photos from CastleCraft, click here.

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About the author
Karl Forth

Karl D. Forth is online editor for CCI Media. He also writes news and feature stories in FDMC Magazine, in addition to newsletters and custom publishing projects. He is also involved in event organization, and compiles the annual FDM 300 list of industry leaders. He can be reached at [email protected].