Small shop, big business

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Chuck Bloodgood runs a small family business that's been taken over by machines. Big, expensive machines — about $1 million worth — have allowed Bloodgood to skimp on employees, yet match the productivity of other custom cabinetry and millwork shops with twice as many workers.

Bloodgood runs Architectural Cabinets Inc. with the help of his wife, Sandy, and 19-year-old son, Justin, in Ruskin, Fla. They seem outnumbered in a shop that features a Biesse Rover 20 CNC point-to-point, Biesse Selco EB-70 beam saw, Altendorf F45 sliding table saw, Omal 1300 insert dowel borer and SCM K203 edgebander (to list only a few).

How can a small shop afford so many major purchases? First, by investing all profits back into the business, says Bloodgood. But also by sticking to a plan, started when the shop opened almost a decade ago, of creating a self-sufficient operation to compete with the biggest and the best.

"We don't rely on outside manufacturers of any kind, except for hardware and material," says Bloodgood. "I started with a shop straight out of the Flintstones — with a table saw, chop saw and a couple of routers. Then, year after year, we've re-invested in machinery to increase productivity. When we got the point-to-point, our volume increased significantly. What used to take 15 minutes suddenly took 15 seconds.

"With our beam saw, we're cranking out the boxes so fast that we're waiting for the doors."

Bloodgood doesn't like to wait, so it's no surprise he's looking for a machine to make raised panel doors faster than humanly possible.

Change of plans
Blame it on Mother Nature. That's basically how Bloodgood ended up in central Florida.

After high school, Bloodgood took his first job at Universal Custom Millwork in Amsterdam, N.Y. He stayed five years, learning and appreciating the 32mm system of building cabinets. That led to a job offer from a millwork shop in Tennessee, so Bloodgood sold his home, packed up his belongings and started driving south. But a snowstorm caused a detour to his brother's home near Ruskin, where he established his own shop about two weeks later.

In the early days, Bloodgood took whatever jobs he could get — building bathroom vanities, refacing cabinets and remodeling kitchens. Today's clientele includes mostly high-end homeowners who request built-ins and kitchens. His current backlog is anywhere from three months to a year.

Usually when Bloodgood begins a remodeling job, he'll start drafting off the original footprint of a kitchen and work on making it more functional, unless the owner wants to completely change things around. After drawings are approved and a contract is signed, the shop's turnaround time is typically four to six weeks.