76. Craig Graybar Furniture Works Ltd.
West Allis, WI

'96: $905,000
'97: $1,022,000
Sales '97: +12.9%
Projected '98: +20%
Est. 1982 Employees: 25

Custom builders of classically-styled furniture.

Craig Graybar Furniture Works holds the distinction of being the only company to appear in all nine Wood 100 surveys -- and shows no sign of slowing down. A new marketing program has contributed to the company's success. "We now emphasize radio advertising directed by each station's demographic match to our customers," said Graybar. "By tracking all of our advertising, including print media, I have found the best use of our advertising resources, thereby increasing our sales over our targeted 20% growth figure." Improvements were also made in finishing. "We have found a new pre-cat lacquer that meets our standards, is acceptable environmentally, and has a high-solids content," Graybar said.


77. Creative Seating & Fixtures
Baxter Springs, KS

'96: $1,484,000
'97: $1,663,000
Sales '97: +12.1%
Projected '98: +20%
Est. 1996 Employees: 35

Tables, chairs, booths, laminated cabinetry for restaurants and retail stores

After purchasing the company in 1996, owner Michael Bell knew what he had to do to make the company competitive. "The company had a very limited customer base and poor upper management. We replaced the management team and gave more responsibilities to the ones we kept," he said. The result was a noted rise in sales from the time Bell took over. In the future, Bells says, "We will continue to look at diversifying our product lines in order to secure new customers and look at ways to improve our production methods in order to increase our productivity."


78. W.W. Wood Products Inc.
Dudley, MO

'96: $10,816,000
'97: $12,059,000
Sales '97: +11.5%
Projected '98: +18%
Est. 1978 Employees: 185

Kitchen cabinets

W.W. Wood Products is predicting nothing but good things in its future, said company president Ron Wunderlich. The firm is adding a 50,000-square-foot expansion to its present 170,000-square- foot plant. In addition, the company has continued new product development to stay one step ahead of the pack. "We have been adding new products to our line and improving on quality without any price increases to our customers," said Wunderlich. With all this expansion and improvement, Wunderlich remains wary of economic cycles. "We are trying to be careful not to overextend while the economy is good," he said. This is W.W. Wood Products' fourth consecutive Wood 100 appearance.


79. Zongkers Inc.
Omaha, NE

'96: $788,000
'97: $879,000
Sales '97: +11.5%
Projected '98: +25%
Est. 1990 Employees: 12

Hand-crafted custom wood residential and office furniture

Launching a nationwide marketing program, Zongkers' vice president Dan Zongker hoped to take the nation by storm and leave nothing but profits in the program's wake. "We have opened new markets along the East Coast and expanded our customer base in the Midwest," he said. Zongkers has added government furniture contracts to its customer base and created a Web site for potential customers to learn about the company. The company's biggest concern, however, is employee recruitment and retention. "The Omaha area has the lowest unemployment rate nationally, with 1.6%, and keeping employees can be difficult at times," Zongker said. Alphabetically, Zongkers is always at the bottom of the Wood 100 list, but has ranked #83, 14, 47, and 41 since 1994.


80. Riss Bros. Inc.
Blackhawk, SD

'96: $5,809,000
'97: $6,470,000
Sales '97: +11.4%
Projected '98: +10%
Est. 1948 Employees: 96

Manufacturers of hospitality furniture, residential kitchens, countertops, commercial casework, gaming fixtures, and marble fabrications

With unemployment at an all-time low in the Blackhawk, SD, area, Riss Bros.' president Joseph Riss looks to his current employees to bear extra responsibility. "With unemployment at 2% in our area, it is very hard to find quality help, so our training program is extra long," he said. But with a rising economy, Riss hopes to continue to promote the Riss name as a synonym for quality work. "We are best known for our ability to design and manufacture. Letting the market know what else we have to offer is the problem," Riss added. The 50-year-old company is appearing in its fourth straight Wood 100.


81. Mill-Rite Woodworking Co.Inc.
Pinellas Park, FL

'96: $4,750,000
'97: $5,285,000
Sales '97: +11.3%
Projected '98: +15%
Est. 1986 Employees: 73

Full service manufacturer of custom architectural millwork and custom plastic laminate and/or wood casework

As Mill-Rite grows, so do the size and needs of its customers, according to Meg Lashley, vice president of business development. "In the early years of Mill-Rite, a large project was the $100,000 contract. Today, our typical project size is in excess of $500,000." Recently, the company signed its largest contract to date -- Tampa Stadium, in Tampa, FL. Lashley lists employee skills as her biggest concern for the future. The company, which appears for the third straight time in the Wood 100, has instituted an apprentice system and has been hiring personnel from vocational and trade schools to counteract the shortage of experienced woodworkers.


82. Paone Woodworking Corp.
Philadelphia, PA

'96: $9,656,000
'97: $10,711,000
Sales '97: +10.9%
Projected '98: N/A
Est. 1967 Employees: 65

Architectural millwork including custom millwork and cabinetry

The technological revolution that has swept the nation also has hit Paone Woodworking, a four-time Wood 100 participant. Paone recently purchased two Giben panel saws, a Morbidelli 504 point-to-point boring machine, an Ott edgebander and a Gannomat boring and automatic dowel inserting machine. The company also updated its office systems. Increased productivity in the office and factory have been the result, according to purchasing manager Michael Paone. Increased productivity was also attributed to the outsourcing of items not conducive to the operation, such as trucking and installation.


83. Bruewer Woodwork Mfg. Co.
Cleves, OH

'96: $10,932,000
'97: $11,979,000
Sales '97: +9.6%
Projected '98: +15%
Est. 1962 Employees: 75

Millwork, architectural casework, retail store fixtures, roll out programs

Ralph Bruewer of Bruewer Woodwork Mfg. Co. has a simple but effective marketing strategy: "Let your work sell itself." Since appearing at #56 in the last Wood 100, the company has added six employees and 80,000 square feet of space. Recent equipment purchases include a CNC machining center and CNC panel saws.


84. Giffin Interior & Fixture Inc.
Bridgeville, PA


'96: $11,268,000
'97: $12,307,000
Sales '97: +9.2%
Projected '98: N/A
Est. 1980 Employees: 140

Custom display fixtures, showcases, cashwraps, retail perimeters, furniture, desks, conference tables, hospital casework, mouldings, architectural millwork, residential built-in units and solid surface products

With the recent purchase of several machines including a Holzma HPP 81 panel saw, Weeke BP-12 machining center, and an additional Holz-Her edgebander; and an addition to the company's building and continued upgrading of existing systems, Giffin Interior has given its workers the tools needed to build the company. "Our employees continue to increase their skill levels and demonstrate that their work is more than just a job," chairman and CEO Gordon Giffin said. The company has also completed a management reorganization with resounding support from its employees. "The support and dedication has been tremendous throughout the organization," Giffin said. The company ranked 13th in the 1997 Wood 100 survey.


85. Columbia Oak Inc.
Columbia, MD


'96: $2,076,000
'97: $2,259,000
Sales '97: +8.8%
Projected '98: Lower
Est. 1982 Employees: 34

Wood household furniture

Columbia Oak has gone digital with the purchase of a new Holzma HPP 81 CNC panel saw, a Jonsdorf CNC Unidrill and an Accusystem dowel inserter. "Our employees are getting the hang of operating our new CNC equipment," said general manager Al Dargis. Dargis said he realizes that the reason there is not greater productivity is the "lack of larger runs," but that is a problem Columbia hopes to rectify in the future by cutting prices to increase volume.


86. The Keller Mfg. Co. Inc.
Corydon, IN

'96: $55,292,000
'97: $60,126,000
Sales '97: +8.7%
Projected '98: +10%
Est. 1895 Employees: 740

Manufacturer of solid wood dining and bedroom furniture, made of red oak, white oak and cherry

Vice president of finance Danny Utz said he believes that new product development is best to keep consumers and dealers buying their product. "The dealers know we only introduce products that have tested well and know the research is over," Utz said. Utz's plans for the future include instituting new employee programs. "We plan to have better training programs to instruct quality and safety. We also hope to improve benefits, including: profit sharing, retirement plan, health care, and holiday pay," he said. Among the successful lines for this four-time Wood 100 member are: Chestnut Creek, Sunset Bay and Cherry Legends, Utz said.


87. Parenti & Raffaelli Ltd.
Mount Prospect, IL

'96: $19,008,000
'97: $20,503,000
Sales '97: +7.9%
Projected '98: +10%
Est. 1950 Employees: 140

Commercial and residential custom free-standing and architectural millwork, casework and furniture

Over the past two years, Parenti & Raffaelli has purchased a Heesemann sander, a single spindle tilt shaper, a straight line ripsaw and a CNC router. "Our procurement of new and advanced technological machinery has increased our productivity," said senior vice president Donald Parenti. "We feel we must think about ways to cut labor hours without compromising our end product. We feel we are working toward that goal through the new machinery." This is the company's third appearance in the Wood 100.


88. Hird/Blaker Inc.
Bronx, NY

'96: $16,036,000
'97: $17,290,000
Sales '97: +7.8%
Projected '98: +27%
Est. 1974 Employees: 100

Architectural woodwork and custom furniture, paneling, doors and frames, trim, cabinets, counters and work stations

Predicting its best year ever at $22 million, Hird/Blaker president Cliff Blaker said the company will not rest on its laurels. "We must continue to focus on customer satisfaction, quality control and delivering value-added products and services at competitive prices," he said. Blaker is also keeping an eye on the economy. He adds that if the New York City metropolitan area economy stays healthy, the company will prosper. Should the economy falter, "We will continue, but profits will be leaner," he said.


89. The Woodworks
East Dubuque, IL

'96: $310,000
'97: $334,000
Sales '97: +7.7%
Projected '98: +15%
Est. 1978 Employees: 7

Kitchen and bath cabinets

Customer service is a main reason for Woodworks' success, according to owner Bill Siemen. During the past year, the company has purchased additional shapers and table saws to help produce a quality product quickly and efficiently. "[The employees] have learned that quality is our number one concern. Therefore, we have many satisfied customers that spread the word about our company, which in turn has eliminated our advertising budget," Siemen said.


90. Cox Interior Inc.
Campbellsville, KY

'96: $43,098,000
'97: $46,037,000
Sales '97: +6.8%
Projected '98: +15-20%
Est. 1983 Employees: 544

Manufacturer of trim, mouldings, millwork, stairs, stair parts, and mantles

Cost accountant Mike Helm attributes Cox Interior's success to the skill and dedication of its employees: "We don't need a quality control department -- everyone here does that job." Helm plans to continue placing high emphasis on recruitment and training of employees in the future. And once they are trained, the company plans to expand employee benefits to retain them. Cox recently purchased new planers, rip-saws and fingerjointers. Cox was ranked #78 in the 1997 Wood 100.


91. Michiana Laminated Products Inc.
Howe, IN

'96: $1,106,000
'97: $1,180,000
Sales '97: +6.7%
Projected '98: +15-20%
Est. 1981 Employees: 15

High and low pressure laminated components, fixtures and case goods for the retail, educational and office furniture markets

Michiana president Michael Sutter is pleased with his company's 1997 results. "Productivity for our company increased nearly 7% due to a stabilized workforce, increased skill levels and continued improvement of equipment," Sutter said. Having workers that know what they are doing is definitely an asset, but having them on the job is just as important. Sutter commented, "Loss time due to absenteeism or injury was at 0.006%of total time scheduled. This phenomenally low rate was the driving force behind our increased productivity and profit."


92. Plato Woodwork Inc.
Plato, MN

'96: $9,650,000
'97: $10,254,000
Sales '97: +6.3%
Projected '98: +15%
Est. 1893 Employees: 130

Custom residential cabinetry

Through a high degree of flexibility with its door styles, finishes and specifications, Plato Woodwork has taken control of its future and has seen an increase in sales. Mark Krueger, vice president of marketing, said, "We feel our line of products have a reasonable broad market appeal." To continue making this line of products, employee recruitment and retention have become crucial for Plato. "We are doing more training and are implementing a gain-share program, working on employee recognition programs, and will be hiring a human resources person," Krueger said. Recent purchases include a new finishing line with drying ovens and computers for the shop floor.


93. B & L Cabinet and Supply
Gladwater, TX

'96: $1,455,000
'97: $1,540,000
Sales '97: +5.8%
Projected '98: +8%
Est. 1965 Employees: 18

Custom kitchen and bath cabinets for new construction, raised panel doors

B & L Cabinet and Supply is making its second consecutive appearance in the Wood 100, having held the #32 spot last year. With the recent addition of several salesmen to the staff, B & L vice president Larry Allen has seen nothing but good things come out of the company. While sales didn't increase dramatically, Allen still noticed a change. "Our productivity has increased because of the dedication of our employees toward productivity, quality control and cutting our waste factor on materials," he said. Allen says that the company plans to buy new computerized equipment that will take fewer workers and provide better benefits for its employees.


94. Mack Studios/Displays Inc.
Auburn, NY

'96: $2,874,000
'97: $3,031,000
Sales '97: +5.5%
Projected '98: +65%
Est. 1964 Employees: 34

Complete retail environments, custom displays, signage and graphics, and architectural woodworking

According to director of operations Kim Warren, Mack Studios/Displays Inc. owes its growth to its emphasis on new product development. "We have grown from a manufacturer of primarily trade show displays to a company that now specializes in compete retail environments," she said. Mack still hasn't given up its roots though, as it maintains happy trade show clients while expanding the business, according to Warren. One problem Warren has had is finding people to do the job. "We have set up a recruiting program and are building relationships with school and employment agencies within central New York," said Warren.


95. A & K Millwork Ltd.
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

'96: $8,226,000 (C$)
'97: $8,674,000 (C$)
Sales '97: +5.4%
Projected '98: +7%
Est. 1971 Employees: 85

Architectural millwork, institutional furniture for the healthcare and hospitality industries and store fixtures

Like many other companies in the Wood 100, A & K Millwork attributes its increased sales to expanded production capacity. In the past two years, the company has purchased a new panel saw, edgebander, web press and case clamp. A & K also expanded operations into a new building, which doubled the plant size to 85,000 square feet. According to controller Allan Wainwright, "The building space has allowed for efficient plant layout and increased productivity."


96. Design Line Cabinets Inc.
Sauk Rapids, MN

'96: $7,572,000
'97: $7,971,000
Sales '97: +5.3%
Projected '98: Lower
Est. 1957 Employees: 125

High-end custom made kitchen, bathroom and other furniture

A blazing inferno completely destroyed Design Line's plant and office in December 1997, yet after only 78 days, the company began shipping orders again. "I think this is a great story of a company's determination to keep going, even after everything was destroyed," said Bill Vennes, marketing associate. A new 80,000 square foot plant with $1.8 million worth of state-of-the-art woodworking and finishing equipment was built and moved into by June 26.


97. Valley City Manufacturing Co. Ltd.
Dundas, Ontario, Canada

'96: $20,058,000 (C$)
'97: $20,793,000 (C$)
Sales '97: +3.7%
Projected '98: +35%
Est. 1884 Employees: 130

Architectural woodworking including corporate/institutional, laboratory, case goods, specialty seating and furniture

Rather than trying to be "all things to all people," Valley City has become selective in choosing the architects it works with. Company president Robert Crockford says Valley City's prospecting technique helps the company find architects who are trying to provide that same level of quality, thus enhancing the reputation of both. Learning to say "no" to jobs that do not meet Valley City's standards has been tough, according to Crockford, but worth it in the long run. The company has appeared in each of the last four surveys and recently purchased a Biesse Rover 346 machining center and a Holz-Her edgebander.


98. Original Crafts Inc. - DBA Stumpy Originals
Kingsville, MO

'96: $520,000
'97: $537,000
Sales '97: +3.3%
Projected '98: Lower
Est. 1978 Employees: 8

Wood souvenirs, wood and wire puzzles, the Horseshoe Puzzle, twig pens and pencils, and pocket toothpick holders

To produce its eclectic group of products, Original Crafts needs machinery that is flexible yet fast. These machines are often custom made according to company specifications. "The machines we use at each work station are designed for us," said company vice president Ramona Cook. "We continually improve each area to speed up production and make sure they are safe for the employees." In addition, Original Crafts has taken to outsourcing some products. "This year, we've had more of our products come in cut to size," said Cook. "It saves time and blades while we gain accuracy which is essential when we assemble and print." This year marks Original Crafts' fifth appearance in the Wood 100.


99. Kent and Fuller Cabinets
Muscle Shoals, AL

'96: $930,000
'97: $957,000
Sales '97: +2.9%
Projected '98: +4-5%
Est. 1973 Employees: 13

Custom-built cabinets, solid surface tops, mouldings

Although this year's Wood 100 shows many companies worried about finding or retaining skilled woodworkers, Kent and Fuller isn't among them. "We have low turnover and don't spend a lot of time training people," said owner Roger Fuller. "Most of our workers have been here eight years or more and know what to do." Among the company's new purchases is a new kiln.


100. Janik Custom Millwork
Hodgkins, IL

'96: $365,000
'97: $375,000
Sales '97: +2.7%
Projected '98: +5-7%
Est. 1987 Employees: 7

Custom mouldings, cabinets, doors and windows

Janik Custom Millwork's sales have grown over the past two years without the addition of any new machinery. Instead, the company concentrates on customer satisfaction, which generates repeat business, according to company vice president Ed Janik.

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