Going from craftsman to businessman

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Going from craftsman to businessman
Invaluable experience
Half and half
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When Tony Mason's custom millwork business failed the first time around, he swallowed his pride and kept at it. That's because he has an incredible entrepreneurial spirit. Mason first established Mason Woods of Whately, Mass., in the late '80s, but closed the operation less than five years later after realizing that even though he was an excellent craftsman, he was a lousy businessman. His major flaw was charging prices that were much too low, which he finally learned how to correct after working at a commercial shop. Now, with help from his son and guidance from his 83-year-old father, the shop is back up and running with more work than it can handle.

"We cannot compete with larger mill shops, on their terms anyway," says Mason. "We focus on medium- to high-end custom work and compete by providing high quality and service, working with clients in initial phases of design, providing education and offering resources. By generally going the extra mile, even when getting the job seems remote, we usually end up getting it."

Mason Woods produces custom woodworking of all types, including cabinetry, furniture, mantles, doors, columns, flooring, moldings, and timber frame components. They offer an entire line of furniture made of reclaimed antique materials to high-end markets in New York and Connecticut. Clients include architects, designers and contractors, as well as the general public.

The facility is located on a 125-acre property that features a sawmill and kiln, which allows Mason to offer additional services that include drying lumber for local sawyers and loggers. In the near future, Mason is planning on harvesting the native lumber on the property to supplement his income and meet the demand for flooring and molding products in New England.

First time around
Mason studied electronics at Springfield Technical Community College in Springfield, Mass., and got a job with Coulter Electronics Inc., servicing blood analyzing equipment in his early 20s. He was married and starting a family, and eventually moved to Rhode Island for work. By the time his second son was on the way, he began to feel the burnout from a high-pressure job.

"I drove all over New England repairing blood analyzers. It was great money but I was on the road constantly and had to worry about blood-borne diseases and things like that. I actually quit the day I drove my car into a light pole."