First-time customers at Parkerville Wood Products in Manchester, Conn. are often in for a surprise. They usually know about the vast selection of hardwoods and panel products, then learn about the turnkey millwork and cabinet manufacturing services.
“Very often, people come in here thinking they need one thing, and they end up working with us on a whole other project that they never expected to because the common reaction is, ‘Oh, I didn’t know you guys did that.’ It’s a diversified environment. You never know what’s coming through the door,” says assistant manager Dave Norman.
Founded in 2005 as boutique lumber company, Parkerville is co-owned by David Harris and his son Brendan Harris. The operation has grown exponentially in the past 10 years due to David’s desire to offer much more than high-quality hardwoods.
A fresh start
Parkerville started as Harris Woodworking over four decades ago.
“I’ve been in business for 42 years,” says Dave Harris. “I built a company that was more or less a manufacturing company that sold wood. I sold that company in 2004 and started Parkerville in 2005. The former company was a similar model where we did select woodworking and sold lumber, but here we seemed to gravitate towards more complex, higher end work.”
Harris Woodworking, officially known as Harris Enterprise Corp., offered custom furniture, light construction and home improvement services. By the mid 80s, it was producing store fixtures for large department stores, Connecticut casinos, Ivy League schools, and Fortune 500 companies. Harris sold the company in 2004, but the new owners decided not to maintain the lumber and supply portion and sold it back to Harris.
Parkerville, which is named after the area’s former Parker Village that once supported a cluster of production mills, began as a source for hard-to-find materials in southern New England. Today, it carries a huge inventory of hardwoods and panel products, which has become a gateway to its custom woodworking division.
“We get a lot of first-time customers here every single week. Saturdays it’s not uncommon to have 10 new customers,” says Norman. “Customers can be anywhere from five minutes to two hours away. Some are just looking for domestic lumbers like cherry and walnut they can’t find at their local lumberyards, while others are looking for more exotic woods like purpleheart and bubinga.
“And a lot of people walk in that need help. They have their own wood, but they don’t have a way to mill it or process it. What I tell people consistently is if there’s any woodworking project that you have but you don’t have the time, tooling, or experience, bring it to us. If the project is 12 steps and you want us to do three or four, we’ll do it.”
The commercial woodworking division accounts for about 50 percent of the business. Projects are coordinated through architects, interior designers, contractors and builders, and the occasional homeowner.
Installation services, when required, are subbed out through a network of talented professionals, but if something is quick, easy, and local, it may be taken care of by the crew.
“The manufacturing end of our business specializes in things that are complicated,” says Dave Harris. “We do museum-quality type work. We’re really good at replicating historical trim, making custom entryways. We just replaced a couple of old window sashes at the Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington, Connecticut that couldn’t be replaced anywhere else.”
Open for tours
Customers are welcome to tour Parkerville’s 22,000-sq.-ft. facility, an old brick paper mill full of character with exposed timber trusses inside.
“People like to see all these woodworkers hustling about and see these cool projects in development in their different areas and you see the eyes open up. We’ll take people up to our CNC router and to the cabinet area. They’ll see all the different things we can do up there, whether it be basic milling of cabinet parts or milling of slabs or the sign work we do,” says Norman.
Shop equipment includes a Biesse CNC router and boring machine, Brandt edgebander, SCM shaper and planer, Butferring wide-belt sander, Altendorf panel saw, Diehl rip saw, Oliver jointer and Wadkin planer/molder.
Parkerville has an average of 20 employees, including retail associates who work with customers selecting wood and basic milling applications, craftsmen and finishers on the shop floor, estimators, draftsmen and administrators.
Talk of expansion
Parkerville recently began working with an analysis specialist to give management an organized picture of its client base. Results have indicated a few thousand customers visit consistently year after year, and that new customer relationships are developing significantly with social media efforts. Brendan Harris, who’s been with the company since age 15, says opening another location or two is often discussed. “We’ve talked for years about trying to move into a plant that’s more conducive to manufacturing, but it’s expensive to move and we’ve gotten by here for years. So now we’re more and more thinking that we should have a separate location versus moving this location,” he says.
“We’ve had a lot of growth over the past few years without putting a lot of effort into our marketing and things like that, so as we continue to push that we’re looking for some more growth.”
“If we could get a bigger footprint, I think there’s unlimited potential,” adds David Harris. “What I’m trying to do in the not-too-distant future is not be here running the day-to-day operation the way I do now. It’s very time consuming, but it’s just part of my personality in the way I built the company that I stay and be involved in a lot of aspects of it. I’m trying to build a team where I don’t have to be here every day.”
Contact: Parkerville Wood Products, 580 Parker St., Manchester, CT 06042. Tel: 860-649-9663. www.parkervillewoodproducts.com.
This article was originally published in the August 2021 issue.