Corporate guy in a cabinet shop - Adding styles

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"One of our major [dealers] is r.k. Miles, based in Manchester, Vt. They carry [the cabinet lines] Wood Mode, Plain and Fancy, Cabico, Medallion and us. Wood Mode is probably their top line as far as price, with Plain and Fancy just a point below. We can fit between the two. We can service anyone from the Northeast better than anyone who has to ship from the outside of the region."

Westra is attempting to expand the market beyond the Northeast.

"The founder's philosophy was, 'We'll sell as far as we can drive the truck to and get back in the same day,'" said Westra. "One of the things we have been trying to do now is branch out in the Mid-Atlantic area. Currently, we have a dealer in New Jersey. We're talking with several dealers in the Philadelphia area, and there's another one interested down in the Raleigh/Durham area of North Carolina. I'm at the point where I need to get some more maps."

Westra hasn't changed the installation procedure. Vermont Custom Cabinetry is responsible for delivery to the back of the truck, and then outside installers take over. It's an arrangement that continues to work well.

"Our installers tend to love us," said Westra. "It's not unusual to get comments back from the installers, who say it is some of the best cabinetry that they've worked with."

Adding styles
When Westra took ownership of Vermont Custom Cabinetry, the company only built frameless cabinetry. However, there was potential to do more, something the previous owner apparently was reluctant to do.

"That's been another thing about the business. The guy who owned it before; he kept limiting what he wanted to do just because he wasn't really looking for new challenges," said Westra. "What we've been trying to do is open it up more. Where he said no, a lot of times we've said yes. It keeps it interesting and keeps our customers happy."

One of the changes was to offer framed inset cabinets, and the response from dealers has been very positive, Westra said.

"Our dealers were telling us, 'We love your frameless cabinets, but the market right now is demanding framed inset at the high end. I carry this other line because you don't offer it. If you offer it, I won't have to carry this other line,'" said Westra. "That made the decision fairly easy to make.

"All of our cabinet boxes are made from 3/4" plywood and we use what we refer to as a modified 32mm system. That means the dimensions we give to the customers are in inches, but all of our machines in the shop work off the 32mm system."

Vermont Custom Cabinetry buys its plywood from Atlantic Plywood and North Pacific. Domestic hardwoods are sourced from Highland Hardwoods, Kiever-Willard and Rex Lumber. "We do a little bit with exotics if we have a customer who is looking for something special," said Westra. "We just did a sample door in bubinga and it's absolutely beautiful."