Plain & Fancy Custom Cabinetry has a special niche starting with delivering a quality product in traditional styles. Founded by John Achey in his Richland, Pa., garage in 1968, the company today employs more than 100 in a modern plant.

Recently, the company has tried to offset the slow cabinet market by taking the features of its cabinets and applying them to standalone furniture, emphasizing more finish options, and focusing on specific market needs such as range hoods, larger cabinets and closet products.

CabinetMaker+FDM visited Plain & Fancy’s plant in Schaefferstown, Pa., to find out more about the company and its products.

“Plain & Fancy delivers a quality product, on time. For our dealers that’s very important, and that we are very consistent in that process,” says Plain & Fancy’s Rick Yohn.

Furniture features 

People may go furniture shopping elsewhere and then come to Plain & Fancy for certain features. Plain & Fancy makes furniture pieces such as armoires, dressers, desks and media centers on a line with all other cabinet products.

“So many times something comes through our operation and it doesn’t look like furniture, it looks like a case,” Yohn says. “We don’t always call it furniture, but it isn’t going to end up in the kitchen.

“It’s a product of our own, and we haven’t introduced it through other markets,” Yohn says. “We would hope that our dealers and designers would utilize it through a kitchen and bath showroom.”

What are cabinet features in furniture? “Drawer guides and dovetail drawer boxes out of solid wood are big selling points,” Yohn says. “Also, we can offer mortise and tenon, or dowel construction and dovetails. The rest of it is basic case construction. It’s depends on how you want to use it and how you want to style it.”

Customers can choose an existing design, have it customized, or create an entirely new design.

“We also provide customization of finish. A high-end customer has looked around (at furniture) and noticed that the finishes are secondary, the woods are iffy. The (furniture stores) sell something as a cherry stain that allows them to sell something else underneath. We’re selling them American hardwoods and a finish to their liking. They’re able to choose the color, stain, glaze, door styles and profiles.

“The consumer makes a lot of choices when they pick a cabinet from us, because of all the variety.”

Paint and custom colors 

With any higher-end product, finishes are important. Plain & Fancy’s Butch Achey says that paint accounts for 55 to 60 percent of business, and that is continuing to grow. “The biggest selling color is custom,” he says.

“We have created a niche of our own in painted product,” Yohn says. “But it belongs to the custom-end cabinet line because we do it best. We offer any color; you can color match any of our systems. People walk into a custom floor and our dealers and designers want those customers to be satisfied so they (lead) them to Plain & Fancy products for the quality of our finish.

“People like a painted kitchen, they like that look. It fits in traditional, Shaker style, and country style.”

“Our finish room expansion is based on the premises for flexibility,” Yohn says. “We have a very diverse offering, hand wiped stains, paint and glaze, antiquing in two different systems, and a perfect paint system. Our paints are most popular, because dealers and designers have confidence in the product. The consumers love the look, feel and durability. We have a quality control laboratory, checking all incoming materials, but, more important to the designers, we custom blend any color they desire. We do hundreds annually.

Achey says that they are seeing more requests for laminate, some of which is institutional. Textured melamine is a new cost-effective way to give a new look to a kitchen or a closet. New laminate colors and textures will change trends because they are affordable.

Range hoods expand 

Range hoods have been a specific product with a lot of appeal, and Plain & Fancy’s factory is full of jumbo-sized range hoods. Plain & Fancy has 20 basic designs on this product, which Yohn says has become the focal point of the kitchen.

“Custom kitchens are most often enhanced with high end appliances, ranges that were considered commercial have been adapted to the consumer market,” he explains. “These larger units, 36, 48 and even 60 inches wide, need adequate ventilation. Larger stainless steel commercial hoods did not fit the average consumer vision.

“They often are a focal point of a cooking wall, and feature spice racks or utensil storage, and add to the beauty and function of the kitchen. Many of our kitchen designs have a signature piece that they have adopted as their favorite look and style. With our variety of door styles and finishes the offering is truly endless. As for size, code will dictate clearance left and right of the range, and head clearance to the blower. We have built units nearly 10 feet long and 6 feet tall.”

Larger cabinets 

Another trend is that Plain & Fancy is making bigger and bigger cabinets. Instead of two or three cabinets together there may be one very large one. Achey pointed out a 102-inch base cabinet during a recent visit.

“Designers like the look of one cabinet, and installers like the feel of just putting one cabinet in place,” Yohn says. “Designers gain a very custom look.

They can tailor-make that front frame. It would no longer have a joint. Especially when you sell a painted product, those joints start to look a little obvious, unless you work around them.

“So they like us to have 72-inch vanities. Basically they’re controlling the style of the front look. That’s basically what they want. They can set up their drawer configurations and basically get it all in one.”

Custom cabinets 

Plain & Fancy is also doing more custom cabinet work for closets. “We are hearing (more about) a trend to closets,” Yohn says. “With the kitchen such a large financial commitment, a closet is a feel -good renovation for a lot less money.

He believes that making a walk-in closet, or a spa-type area adjacent to the bathroom and master suite allows a good opportunity for custom cabinetry.

Features include shoe storage, benches, jewelry stowaway, and LED lighting. Hafele and Rev-a-Shelf offer great add on accessories, Yohn says, such as hampers, pant storage, and organizational items.

In the shop 

Plain & Fancy has 110 employees in its Schafferstown location. Total plant size here is 250,000 square feet. Equipment in the main building includes two Holzma panel saws, Altendorf F45 sliding table saw, Weeke CNC machining center, Holz-Her Triathlon 360 and 1305 edgebanders, and Butfering widebelt sander, Doucet return conveyor, Hofer press, and Dodds dovetailer machines. The main plant has a European box assembly area, dovetail wood drawer box area, and one assembly line for frameless, two for framed cabinets. A whitewood sanding department is important here, with a number of separate custom tables with people doing hand sanding.

A separate mill building cuts and sands solid wood doors and is set up like a rough mill. Lumber is brought in surfaced and kiln-dried. A Mereen-Johnson ripsaw, Weinig moulder, and Opticut computerized saw are used here. Plain & Fancy makes about 80 percent of its own doors. The rest are made by Conestoga.

Finishing area expansion 

Plain & Fancy’s largest recent upgrade was a large building expansion of 45,000 square feet completed in 2008 to upgrade the finishing capability. A large Cefla automated flatline system, with denibbing, panel cleaning, spray area, and large tray oven sprays a catalyzed product.

“The Cefla Italian finish line has been an extremely important addition to our consistency,” Yohn says. “It lays down a perfect coat of primers, sealers and topcoats. Cleaning machines, a water wash booth, and inline ovens provide a clean room environment. “

Future plans 

The company has a large scheduling system that keeps track of five weeks of scheduling on the shop floor. This was an internal project developed in house “In the past year, we implemented a scheduling system that allows them to scan and monitor every job through 27 different locations on the shop floor,” Yohn says. “That’s critical to us, that we have control. That allows us to move jobs up, to hold jobs, slide things around, have better control than we had in the past.”

For the coming years, Yohn sees a possible slant toward “transitional” design, and believes that is where the market is going.

“We’ve put the flag back on our advertising again to promote the fact that we’ve always been an American-made product. We invest heavily in our local vendors. We love that. We do what we can to promote that as well.

“We landed a large hotel job, 400 units of standalone wardrobes -- all walnut!” Yohn says. “This will be about half of our production from now till year end. Finding and landing this work is a challenge, we look to expand our contacts and continuing to pursue this type of work."

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