WOOD 100 -- NUMBERS 51 TO 75
St. Louis Closet Co.
'94: $618,000 '95: $755,000
'95 Sales: +22.17% '96 Projection: 37%
Est. 1991 Employees: 22
Designs, manufactures & installs custom closets and organizational systems for residential & commercial use
Cross training employees is one of the secrets behind the success of the St. Louis Closet Co., says Jennifer Quinn, who founded the company while she was still in business school. All employees undergo a 90-day training program in which sales people learn to design closets, designers learn to make sales calls, etc. "Employees learn to see and appreciate their co-workers' job tasks," says Quinn, who recently purchased a Ritter line boring machine, an Altendorf sliding table saw and a Holz-Her edgebander. Last year, the company was ranked 36th in the WOOD 100. Quinn predicts 1997 will be St. Louis Closets' best ever.
'94: $1,053,000 '95: $1,279,000
'95 Sales: +21.5% '96 Projection: 10-12%
Est. 1978 Employees: 15
High- and low-pressure laminated components for the office furniture & store fixture&display industries
At a time when many companies are having difficulty finding and keeping employees, Michiana Laminated Products has found a creative solution. "We nurture relationships with local high schools in order to develop an ongoing co-op program with a few select students through school-to-work transition initiatives in Indiana and Michigan," says Michael R. Sutter, president. The company recently purchased a KOMO V408 machining center and an SCMI Selecta B edgebander.
P.J. Milligan & Co.
Santa Barbara, CA
'94: $1,822,000 '95: $2,204,000
'95 Sales: +21.0% '96 Projection: +25%
Est. 1991 Employees: 60
Reproduction pine furniture in antique tradition
Change is good - especially for this California furniture manufacturer. "We don't come up with a design and then stagnate on that design," Ken Sterling, CFO, says. "If a customer says, 'Why don't you try it this way?' we try it that way - immediately." Sterling estimates the company introduces new and upgraded products every month. "We understand the value of remaining a step above the competitive junk market." Projecting 35 percent growth in 1996, Sterling looks for a "best ever" 1997.
Grand Rapids, MI
'94: $2,783,000 '95: $3,352,000
'95 Sales: +20.4% '96 Projection: +15%
Est. 1983 Employees: 48
Wooden office furniture, furniture components
"One of our strengths is definitely engineering," says Scott Gilmore, president of Gilmore Inc. "We offer an engineering and design service that helps our customers who haven't completely specified what they want. We try to be as helpful as possible right at the front end of the process." On the manufacturing end, the company recently purchased a CNC machining center, CAD stations and a moulder. Gilmore, a WOOD 100 veteran, has been listed every year since 1990, when the WOOD 100 was launched. Sales have rocketed more than 600 percent since 1988.
Sun Prairie, WI
'94: $16,525,000 '95: $19,850,000
'95 Sales: +20.12% '96 Projection: +22%
Est. 1978 Employees: 240
Retail store fixtures, sporting goods fixtures, video store fixtures & specialty store fixtures
"By marketing to specific customers and by understanding our own resources and capabilities, we have been able to meet our customer's needs. This has resulted in our ability to better serve existing customers," says Steve Thole, head of manufacturing operations. Famous Fixtures, founded as a division of Famous Footwear, has grown rapidly since taking on projects for other clients. The company now ranks as one of the largest wood store fixture manufacturers in North America and has grown more than 300 percent since 1990. This is Famous Fixture's fifth consecutive listing in the WOOD 100.
Evans Cabinet and Door Co., Inc.
'94: $1,895,84 '95: $2,275,000
'95 Sales: +20.05% '96 Projection: +25%
Est. 1991 Employees: 38
Custom residential & commercial cabinets; raised-panel, flat panel & one-piece cabinet doors
"In the past three years, we have lacked the production capacity to keep up with sales," says Joe Hickl, general manager of Evans Cabinet and Door Co. To pick up productivity, the company recently added new machinery, including a second widebelt sander, a second forklift, two Whirlwind cut-off saws, a dust collection system and two air compressors. As a result, Hickl says, "Our production workers are gaining experience, which has resulted in maintaining quality at increased production rates." This year marks the company's third listing in the WOOD 100.
PRECISION PANEL PRODUCTS, INC.
'94: $13,950,000 '95: $16,579,000
'95 Sales: +18.85% '96 Projection: +28%
Est. 1988 Employees: 164
Manufacturer of components for kitchen cabinets, commercial casework & architectural wood products
Quality control and customer service allow this component shop to ease the concerns of its smaller customers who are new to manufacturing RTA cabinet systems. "Cabinet shops that have gone from being a custom kitchen manufacturer to an assembly operation need personal attention and the comfort of knowing that perceived quality is still in their products and company name," says Michael D. Lawler, vice president. Precision's business strategy has been paying off - its sales have increased 419 percent since its new owners took over in 1992.
COLUMBIA OAK, INC.
'94: $1,365,000 '95: $1,621,000
'95 Sales: +18.75% '96 Projection: +15%
Est. 1982 Employees: 34
Contemporary wood household furniture sold through its own stores
This is Columbia Oak's fifth straight appearance in the Wood 100, and General Manager Al Dargis credits the company's "open book management" strategy with its continuing success. "The open book management strategy promotes good will by giving employees incentive to be more productive. We keep employees posted if we are making money or losing money, and we set some new income goals and share one-fourth of any revenue earned beyond that goal with the employees," says Dargis. To keep the ball rolling, Columbia Oak was planning on purchasing a productivity-boosting CNC boring machine at IWF '96.
ATLANTIC STORE FIXTURES
AND DESIGN, INC.
'94: $887,000 '95: $1,046,000
'95 Sales: +17.9% '96 Projection: +35%
Est. 1991 Employees: 13
Designer & fabricator of laminated store fixtures
This shop, which divides its time equally between custom and production work, attributes some of its success to the practice of bulk buying, which has helped it to increase its buying power. Within the past couple of years, Atlantic has purchased sliding table saws and edgebanders to increase its efficiency in the production of everything from simple countertops to custom showcases. Wade Lober, president, also said that the company's increase in productivity is due to "having good employees and a shop foreman who knows how to delegate work."
ON SITE WOODWORK CORP.
Loves Park, IL
'94: $5,940,000 '95: $6,980,000
'95 Sales: +17.5% '96 Projection: +5-10%
Est. 1982 Employees: 70
Custom architectural woodworker
Ralph Peterson, president of On Site Woodwork, says that his employee training program and his employees' skills are what keeps his business growing. "I believe that training our people in all areas, including shop, office, sales, supervision and field installation has helped us grow over the past years," says Peterson. "We lay up our own veneer, run our own mouldings, prefinish and install our work with our own people, so it's important that they are trained well." The company also has focused on increasing its productivity by moving into a new facility in 1990 and purchasing a Schelling FW automatic rear-loading panel saw.
LIVING TREE RESTORATIONS, INC.
Stone Ridge, NY
'94: $162,000 '95: $190,000
'95 Sales: +17.3% '96 Projection: +5%
Est. 1983 Employees: N/A
High-end custom veneer work, handmade furniture, high-end custom cabinetry/architectural millwork, one-of-a-kind prototypes
Nicholas Brown III, president of Living Tree Restorations, has a clear vision of what he wants his company to be: "We have the desire to be the best overall custom shop with an unconditional guarantee on our product. At the same time we need to be the most competitive price-wise." Brown's top concern about his company is the availability of good employees. "Real woodworking craftsmen are rare because they either own their own business or they want unreal salaries." Brown is not willing to sacrifice the quality of his company's work, though, because "today's creations are tomorrow's heirlooms."
CRAIG GRAYBAR FURNITURE
West Allis, WI
'94: $576,000 '95: $672,000
'95 Sales: +16.7% '96 Projection: +20%
Est. 1982 Employees: 16
Custom-built, classic-styled furniture covering the entire spectrum of furniture design - contemporary to the most ornate Jacobean
Regular readers of the Wood 100 will recognize the name of Craig Graybar Furniture Works, which is one of only two companies that have been featured every year in the Wood 100. Graybar was also featured in the "Furniture Fantasies" section of the June 1996 edition of Custom Woodworking Business magazine. Since 1988, Graybar Furniture has achieved 433 percent growth and has only added seven employees. "Our priority lies with our training program to ensure continued skilled furniture construction and finishing," says Craig Graybar, president. "We shall continue our in-house training partnerships which take advantage of proud skilled craftsmen, acting as mentors, who teach their skills and convey a sense of personal pride in a job well done."
'94: $8,289,000 '95: $9,597,000
'95 Sales: +15.78% '96 Projection: +25%
Est. 1978 Employees: 130
Commercial and institutional fixtures including P.O. P. displays, showcases, kiosks and casework, plus a standard line of stationery, gift, magazine and book figures.
Organizational development has been the factor that has most contributed to Millrock's success, says president/CEO Marty Liebmann. Some of the benefits of organizational development include a better understanding of the company's dynamic markets and better identification of the key elements required to reach operational and financial goals, Liebmann says. Also integral to Millrock's success has been the addition of two Rover CNC work centers and a Selco panel saw from Biesse.
DESIGN FABRICATORS, INC.
'94: $8,690,000 '95: $10,059,000
'95 Sales: +15.75% '96 Projection: +20%
Est. 1987 Employees: 110
Custom commercial furniture & fixture manufacturer, plus signage and environmental graphics
Design Fabricators has been focusing on increasing its production levels over the past couple of years. "By increasing our production, we are able to be more competitive with our pricing while maintaining margins, or to be more profitable by having greater than usual margins. Being solidly profitable offers the resources to remain profitable," says Bob Coleman, principal. To achieve its goal of increased productivity, Design Fabricators has added computer-aided design network software, a CNC panel saw and a CNC machining center to its list of equipment.
T.J. HALE CO.
Menominee Falls, WI
'94: $14,507,000 '95: $16,589,000
'95 Sales: +14.4% '96 Projection: +7%
Est. 1950 Employees: 125
Architectural woodwork & millwork for department & specialty stores
T.J. Hale, which came in at number 20 on W&WP's Top 25 architectural woodworking and store fixture makers in March 1996, has been doing a lot of growing lately. The company finished an expansion to over 113,000 square feet to allow for smooth production flow and staging of complex rollout programs, and completed the installation of an integrated finishing system that permits production of large parts to exacting specifications. Jack Hale, president, is concentrating much of his energy on maintaining strong relationships with customers at all levels of their organizations. "We need to build on the synergy between our departments to expedite project flow and ensure integrity of company-to-customer communication through all stages of planning, production and installation," Hale says.
U.S. CUSTOMIZED FINISHES, INC.
'94: $1,509,000 '95: $1,719,000
'95 Sales: +13.9% '96 Projection: +25%
Est. 1990 Employees: 30
MDF doors available raw, primed or finished
Automation is the buzzword at this company, which has been making an art of investing in CNC machinery. In the past few years, U.S. Customized has purchased a CNC machining center, a CNC panel saw, a feedthrough paint line, and, most recently, a membrane press and a laminator which will be used to produce a new foiled door product. "Our processes are highly automated," says Phillip Clark, president. "When an order is received and acknowledged to the customer, it then goes via computer to our CNC saw. A barcode is produced which tells the CNC machining center which pattern to cut. This automation allows us to produce a high-quality product and control our labor costs."
THE VALLEY CITY MFG. CO. LTD.
'94: $17,102,000 '95: $19,428,000 (Can.)
'95 Sales: +13.6% '96 Projection: +3%
Est. 1884 Employees: 130
Architectural woodwork & casework
Sometimes the one thing that can really boost a company's productivity is not a $200,000 machine with all the fixings - it can be something as simple as on-time delivery. The Valley City Mfg. Co. decided a couple of years back to make meeting scheduling demands and thus increasing customer satisfaction a priority. "We made a very important decision to stress performance, delivering the right item at the right place at the right time," says Robert Crockford, president. "In the past two years we have had no instance of failing to meet the customer's schedule, which has been the critical element in improving our profitability and customer satisfaction."
A&K MILLWORK LTD.
'94: $6,638,000 '95: $7,530,000 (Can)
'95 Sales: +13.4% '96 Projection: +9%
Est. 1971 Employees: 70
Architectural millwork, institutional furniture & store fixtures
The buzzword at A&K Millwork is diversify. Allan Wainwright, controller, says that the company has entered the U.S. market with its products and has expanded into the store fixturing field. "We don't want to rely on any one line of products or one group of customers," says Wainwright. "We need to diversify and send our products to many different geographic areas while always meeting deadlines and acting in a professional manner with contractors." Helping A&K to increase its productivity are a new Selco panel saw and a new Holz-Her edgebander.
WOODLAND CONTAINER CORP.
'94: $31,249,000 '95: $35,391,000
'95 Sales: +13.3% '96 Projection: +25%
Est. 1946 Employees: 356
Industrial packaging products
Woodland Container offers a full line of industrial packaging products to the OEM, recreational vehicle, wire and cable and military industries. The company is celebrating its 50th year in business by expanding its capabilities and services offered to its customers. "It starts with design support and testing, then moves on to manufacturing on JIT schedules, possibly includes some warehousing and then even some assembly," says Kevin Ruen, vice president of administration. "Woodland is willing to take responsibility for the complete packaging services that a company needs and can now offer exporting services and related packing supplies." The company has extended its string of WOOD 100 listings to five, during which time sales have almost tripled.
Wood Lake, MN
'94: $5,492,000 '95: $6,194,000
'95 Sales: +12.8% '96 Projection: +10%
Est. 1983 Employees: 100
Wood kitchen cabinet accessories sold to larger kitchen cabinet mak
A high-level commitment to research and development and to technological improvements has been key to this company's growth. Hoffco has also begun to "stain to match" for large repeat orders. Doug House, sales manager, considers finding and retaining skilled workers to be one of the company's greatest challenges. "We are in a very competitive labor market with approximately 2 percent unemployment. We are developing new compensation strategies that should make us more competitive, reduce turnover and upgrade the workforce," House says.
STUDIO DISPLAYS, INC.
'94: $1,751,000 '95: $1,968,000
'95 Sales: +12.4% '96 Projection: +8-10%
Est. 1980 Employees: 20
Custom exhibits, corporate displays, sets & props for TV commercials & movies, sets for theme parks and enclosed malls (Christmas and Easter)
Over the last couple of years, Studio Displays has concentrated on developing its marketing program by adding salespeople and coordinating telemarketing, direct mail campaigns, trade advertising, networking and new printed promotional pieces. Adding new shop equipment has helped this company, but building a new manufacturing facility is what really helped boost gross sales, according to Tom Pope, president and owner. "Since we work in several areas of the industry, we will continue to expand our client base and focus on our productivity and the cost controls we have implemented," Pope adds.
BLACKHAWK FURNITURE, INC.
'94: $13,093,000 '95: $14,648,000
'95 Sales: +11.9% '96 Projection: +25%
Est. 1983 Employees: 200
Contemporary & traditional oak bedroom furniture
In 1989, Blackhawk Furniture's gross sales were $1,624,000. Seven years and six Wood 100 appearances later, Blackhawk's sales have skyrocketed over 800 percent. What's Blackhawk's secret? "It's all in the merchandising of our gallery program!" says Mark Hoing, vice president of sales and marketing. "In as little as 300 square feet of showroom space, we give the customer a choice between two bed sales and a vast selection of case goods. Because of this, gallery showrooms are producing over $500 per square foot in sales," adds Hoing. Bruce Masterson, COO, plans on continuing Blackhawk's success by keeping an eye on the economy and "remaining flexible enough to downsize or upsize as needs develop." A Lantrax barcode/touch screen tracking system is being installed.
R.D. COOK CUSTOM CABINETS
'94: $697,000 '95: $775,000
'95 Sales: +11.2% '96 Projection: +2-5%
Est. 1977 Employees: 10
Cabinets for furniture use, kitchen & bath cabinets, bedroom sets, commercial case goods & tables
R. Dan Cook, owner, says his company is focused on making mostly one-of-a-kind pieces. "Because of our niche, it is necessary to constantly be looking for new ideas as well as designs and trends. We need to produce innovative items that cannot be bought just off the shelf." Among other things, R.D. Cook has built many remote control pop-up units and entertainment centers, and has done work for jet planes as well. Recent purchases, including a Striebig vertical saw, a 42-inch widebelt sander and a C.R. Onsrud inverted pin router, have helped this frameless design-based company increase its productivity.
NATIONAL WOODWORK MFG.
'94: $468,000 '95: $519,000
'95 Sales: +10.9% '96 Projection: +15%
Est. 1985 Employees: 5
Custom fabrication for commercial, institutional and residential applications
National Woodwork specializes in customized cabinetry and architectural woodworking including a variety of materials such as wood, laminate and solid surface. National Woodwork has a two-pronged approach to continuing its success. "Over the past year, due to our strong teamwork approach and increased flexibility, we have been able to meet or better our customers' requirements for quality products in the time frame requested," says Christine Merrigan, president. "We have also implemented an apprentice training program designed to better develop skills required by our shop," Merrigan adds.
ISLAND WOODCRAFTS, LTD.
'94: $1,378,000 '95: $1,523,000
'95 Sales: +10.5% '96 Projection: +25%
Est. 1973 Employees: 19
Manufacture custom kitchen & bath cabinets, one-of-a-kind furniture pieces & a stock line of cabinets
This is the fourth consecutive year that Island Woodcrafts, based on a barrier island off the North Carolina coast, has appeared in the Wood 100. "A lot of our customer base is second home building, which is not as adversely affected by economical slumps as other areas. But we are still expanding our sales inland for a larger base," says Clifford Granitzki, president. Granitzki also says that the greatest factors contributing to his company's success are service and quality. "We deliver and install 99 percent of our products, and we are told time and again by old and new clients alike how smoothly our part of the job went," Granitzki says.
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