Next generation takes over Cohen Architectural Woodworking
November 19, 2021 | 3:08 pm CST
Ben and Nate Cohen as kids at Cohen Woodworking

This photo from 1999 shows brothers Ben and Nate Cohen when they were young and helping out the family woodworking business that became Cohen Architectural. Now the two are the new owners of the company started by their father Phillip Cohen in 1982.

Saint James, MO – Cohen Architectural Woodworking announced Ben Cohen and Nate Cohen have purchased the company from the previous ownership team and have assumed full operational responsibility for the business founded by their father Phillip Cohen.

Under the new ownership, Ben Cohen will serve as CEO, and Nate Cohen will continue to serve as CFO. The two were part of the prior group of family owners under the leadership of founder and former CEO, Phillip Cohen. The elder Cohen has transitioned into retirement and plans to spend more time with his 16 grandchildren and on ministry work.

Phillip Cohen started the company in 1982, making wooden porch swings in a neighbor’s barn as a way to recover from a life of violence and drug abuse. Over time the company has grown and won multiple awards for architectural design, business practices, and personal achievement.

Ben Cohen
Ben Cohen is co-owner and the new CEO of Cohen Architectural Woodworking.

“Our father, Phil, laid a tremendous foundation in building Cohen Architectural Woodworking from scratch into a highly successful business,” said Ben Cohen. “We believe our best years for growth are ahead of us, and we are redesigning our operational practices to meet higher levels of revenue and profits in both short and long-term.” 

Hear Phil and Ben Cohen discuss the company;s seven-step plan to keep the plant open and their people employed during the pandemic, in the March podcast with Will Sampson.

To facilitate growth, Cohen Architectural Woodworking is changing its business direction to focus on large projects, the new owners said. The plan to follow a “direct-to-client” approach for repeatable business. 
“Our goal is to work more directly with decision makers and in-house design and facility teams,” Ben Cohen said. “Since millwork usually requires the longest lead time in a construction project we can avoid many steps in the process and improve workflow and efficiencies. Thus far, clients have found this to be a real win-win model, reducing both red tape and cost.”

Nate Cohen
Nate Cohen is CFO and co-owner of Cohen Architectural Woodworking.

Cohen’s overall new organizational model also includes realigning divisions and management responsibilities. The firm has brought in Tim Bornemann, a former business executive and consultant with Fortune 500 corporations as COO to assist with the company’s realignment. 

“Tim has helped companies double and triple in size and done so with as few growing pains as possible,” Nate Cohen said. “He also is well versed in lean manufacturing and lean construction practices, something we currently practice and emphasize at Cohen. We believe Cohen Architectural Woodworking is strongly positioned for next level success. I’ve never been more excited about Cohen’s future.”

Nate Cohen was a 2019 honoree in the Woodworking Network 40 Under 40 program.

Cohen Architectural Woodworking emphasizes high-quality custom millwork components and casework for healthcare, airports, education, retail, transportation, hotels, and other high-profile projects, for new construction, renovation, and disaster reconstruction. 

The firm has won multiple awards including the Small Giants recognition from Forbes magazine, Architectural Woodwork Institute’s Award of Excellence for six separate projects, and the 2016 Small Business of the Year award from the Rolla Chamber of Commerce. Additional accolades include qualifying for the Inc. 5000, named to the list of Best Places to Work by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and named a Top Family Owned Business by St. Louis Small Business Monthly. 

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About the author
William Sampson

William Sampson is a lifelong woodworker, and he has been an advocate for small-scale entrepreneurs and lean manufacturing since the 1980s. He was the editor of Fine Woodworking magazine in the early 1990s and founded WoodshopBusiness magazine, which he eventually sold and merged with CabinetMaker magazine. He helped found the Cabinet Makers Association in 1998 and was its first executive director. Today, as editorial director of Woodworking Network and FDMC magazine he has more than 20 years experience covering the professional woodworking industry. His popular "In the Shop" tool reviews and videos appear monthly in FDMC.