|Risks and rewards|
A local clientele
A bulk of the shop's work comes from clients within an hour's drive. There have been the occasional jobs as far north as Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, and the delivery of a small knockdown drawer to a repeat customer who moved to Hawaii.
But expanding outside of the local market has never been part of the plan. There are plenty of jobs to be had from the luxurious estates of Rancho Santa Fe and coastal communities of La Jolla and Del Mar, and new condos in downtown San Diego's revitalized Gaslamp Quarter. Hagerty is much more interested in generating repeat business.
"The customers who keep coming back for more are always important, but our relationships with them takes on an even greater significance during times of economic downturn, as they comprise an even larger percentage of our business.
"Some repeat clients ask us to give rooms we've built cabinets for in the past a new feel by using a different species of wood and more ornate door styles, for instance. Other clients come to us to with rooms in their home where we have not built previously. Some former clients come to us with plans for new homes or whole house cabinet remodels. Previous clients also lend credibility to our name when they recommend us to their friends and associates."
Tools and machinery
The shop floor features a Masterwood (Speedy 207) point-to-point boring machine; SCMI sliding table saw; Brandt KD 57 edgebander; Ritter face-frame assembly system; Delta Unisaw; 36" Timesavers wide belt sander; Safety Speed Cut panel router; and Williams & Hussey 6" molder/planer. An Oneida 10-hp central dust collection is housed outside of the main building.
Hagerty is gradually embracing modern technology. The point-to-point has reduced the handling of materials significantly and he's thinking about the next big purchase.
"When the economy improves, the next step, of course, is to replace the point-to-point with a flatbed router with drilling. At that point, we will have taken the step of breaking down panels from the table saw and combined all of (boring and grooving) steps at a single machine. Our efficiency will shoot up even more. Right now, though, I have a pretty good selection of machines for the size shop I have and for the operations that are required."
Hagerty says he's been affected by the economy just like everyone else and knows he's fortunate to have endured what everyone hopes has been the worst. During the last couple of years, the shop's backlog has been generally less than it had been in years prior, but it's still in the six- to eight-week range.
He attributes much of his company's success during these slower times to its marketing efforts.
"To help fill the void, rather than just waiting for a contractor to call, we have expanded our presence in the Yellow Pages. However, the most significant source of clients has been our company's Web site. It is quite interesting how clients over 50 or 60 years old seem to find us through the Yellow Pages and the younger set finds us over the Internet.
"We do anticipate growth in the years ahead. Although mortgages are harder to come by, current real estate values have made it possible for buyers to get more home for their money. They can now delegate for home improvements what would have been consumed as part of their buying budget three years ago.
"I look back and recognize I started out in high-end residential construction; that's the niche that I found and the market that I enjoy. But I've taken pleasure in the addition of a broader scope of work. It's all interesting and I like it, so what I plan to do in the future is probably going to be more of the same."
Contact: Cabinets by Charron Inc., 1930 Commercial St., Escondido, CA 92029. Tel: 760-741-9442. www.cabinetsbycharron.com
This article originally appeared in the July 2010 issue.