I was hired by Mills Pride in August of 1991 as an assistant sales manager at their factory outlet store across from the factory on Rt. 23 in Waverly, OH. I was blown away by virtually every aspect of working for this company.I was impressed by how many employees are taken aside by owner Malcolm Healey and asked their opinion about a door style or finish. Malcolm was always in the office early and always left after 6:00 p.m.
I remember the first year the outlet store was open we had a staff of three people. Within five years the Quality Maid Factory Outlet was doing sales in excess of $5 million per year and our staff was comprised of 17 people. I fondly remember the fast pace, the exciting new roll outs of product for Walmart, KMart, and Home Depot. I can think of no other job where I was able to meet the high caliber of quality people that Malcolm and plant operations manager Ray Wilkinson would bring over to the showroom so they could see our 10,000-square-foot showroom.
I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. I was hired with the following promise -- to be paid $200 a week salary and 5% of all the product I sold. I dedicated myself to be the best I could be at designing and giving great customer service. I never imagined that I would be selling well over $900,000 a year of kitchen cabinets by myself. The years 1998 through 2004 were great sales years for me as well as the outlet store in general.
Imagine my surprise on September 20 2004, when without any notice, Masco personnel came over to tell us we no longer had jobs and that the outlet was closed. Was I bitter? Damn right I was. I had ate, slept, and breathed Mill's Pride green for more than 13 years, and now I was getting the ax, no offer to move to another department, nothing.
I could tell from day one after Masco brought their people in that they had no idea how the RTA cabinet production lines were not the same as the manufacturing methods employed at their beloved KraftMaid. I saw young, college-educated pencil pushers telling 10-year veterans how to do their job. (They must have read it in a book at one time). The pencil pushers of course had to justify their salaries by creating volumes of paperwork, training, and such. I thought, my god if Malcolm could see what they have done to his operation!
I believe Malcolm has more knowledge about the Mills Pride facility, its machinery and how to run product than the total “pencil pushing” Masco brigade of 100 or 200 managers, supervisors, marketing managers and VPs combined.
I still get knots in my throat when I drive through Waverly and see the old Quality Maid Factory Outlet building, as it sits wasting away. I can’t even imagine what will become of the plant, with all of that state-of the-art-equipment that was purchased for that place. I think the biggest tragedy concerning the entire Masco closure of Mill's Pride is the devastating effect this is having and will continue to have on the local economy. I remember when we had 2,500-plus employees from four counties. Southern Ohio can’t afford these types of closures as jobs are scarce as it is.
Yes, it was truly a sad day for Waverly, Ohio when Malc decided to pack it up and move back to England. Waverly was turning the corner from small little town into a small boom town of sorts. Sadly, it will probably become a ghost town now.
Jeff Krider is currently employed as a kitchen and bath designer for a builder supply company and manages the Ohio-based company's showroom, a position he has held since 2005. He enjoys the challenge of keeping up with the newest trends and products, while staying in tune with each client's ideas. August will mark his 20th year in the kitchen and bath industry.
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