Skip to main content

Best of both worlds

Buckeye Custom Cabinets and Closets and its sister company, Organized Home Remodeling, share two owners and one shop in Columbus, Ohio. It’s a one-stop shopping concept, providing customers with custom cabinetry and home storage solutions from a single source.

Image placeholder title

“It’s wonderful to be able to offer a customer the skills of a design/build remodeling company partnered with having a custom cabinet shop allowing a specialty design made for their individual tastes and needs. We find it opens our ability to transform an area into a truly functional space with the beauty of a custom design,” co-owner Kathy Morgan says.

From the corporate world

Morgan and business partner Jeff Reasinger got into the remodeling and woodworking industry when times were tough and opportunity knocked.

Morgan was employed in the finance industry for 22 years, which brought her to Columbus in the late 1980s. In the mid-1990s, the division of her company she was working for moved to Denver. Her husband was terminally ill and she had young children at home, so it wasn’t feasible to relocate. Instead, she went to work for a local corporation as an executive vice president. Her husband died six months later and the corporate job was eliminated.

“So being home with the kids and knowing another corporate job would lead to things like travel, I was interested in finding a job that would provide for my family, but not require me to have the time away that previous jobs took. I’ve always been the one who was out working 60 to 70 hours a week and my husband was the one who was home full time,” says Morgan, whose children were ages 9 and 14 when their father died.

Four months later, in August 1999, after having gone through all of her savings and putting her house up for sale, a friend put her in touch with the owner of a national closet manufacturing business with a franchise in Columbus. She took the sales job out of necessity.

Image placeholder title

“I knew I would be doing in-home sales, sitting and talking to people and designing things when I had absolutely no artistic ability. It was just so incredibly different than anything I’ve ever done. But when you’re coming down to the end of the tunnel and there’s no light, you really start to open up your options,” Morgan says. “There’s no incentive in the world [like] knowing you have children asleep in their beds, expecting to have their meals the next day and live in the house they’ve grown up in.”

She made $65,000 in the first year and was responsible for two-thirds of the company’s sales six years later. She eventually left for a more challenging job, but her former customers kept calling with orders, which Morgan fulfilled through third-party shops.

With the help of her new husband, Dave, Morgan opened Space Transitions, a design and fabrication company providing home-storage solutions. She hired an installer and continued to outsource with other shops before purchasing a fully equipped shop.

Morgan and Reasinger became partners in 2012. Reasinger is another corporate refugee who grew tired of international travel and had opened a remodeling business in Columbus called Red’s Remodeling and Repair in 2003 and was later renamed Organized Home Remodeling. The partners formed Buckeye Custom Cabinets and Closets in 2013.

Attracting business

Morgan and Reasinger each brought customers to their new companies. Referrals, local trade shows and the company’s website have brought in more. The client base is about 90 percent residential.

“We like to be unique in that we give the best of both worlds to our clients,” Morgan says. “For example, we did a custom 12’ tall fireplace mantle and a custom bar for one client. We built her a buffet for her kitchen and replicated her cabinets. We also made particleboard storage shelving while we were remodeling for her basement. We offer everything.”

There’s plenty of work in the immediate vicinity of Columbus, according to Morgan. In fact, most of the jobs are within 20 miles of the shop.

Image placeholder title

The shop features a 2,000-sq.-ft showroom and design center, where customers can view samples of the many style options and learn about the manufacturing process.

Catlina Labra installs drawer slides.

“Don’t be afraid to invite customers into the shop to see how the product is being made. People love that,” Morgan says.

Style preferences range from traditional to contemporary, she says.

“In the Midwest, most people with single-family homes tend to stay with traditional looks or they do Mission and Shaker styles. But when you get into condos and there’s been a modest uptick of them in the downtown area, most of them are very contemporary.”

Cherry is a popular material choice, while finishes lean toward paint and stain. “I’ve noticed that women have a tendency to like painted cabinets while men prefer stained wood,” Morgan says.

What if there’s a tie between a husband and wife?

“I might offer that wood is affected by humidity, which can cause paint to crack while stain is more forgiving,” she says.

Behind the scenes

In February, both companies relocated to a new building just a few blocks away from their previous location in Columbus.

The shop has a full-time kitchen and bath designer and a design administrator. Morgan and Reasinger’s primary roles are sales, estimating, accounting and employee management.

“It’s sometimes hard to find people who work to the quality standards and have the ethics we require. But right now, I’d say we have the best group that we’ve had in the company since Day One,” Morgan says.

“Our turnover is generally not because people quit; they’re let go. We operate with a 90-day probation period. There are some companies who hire people who follow what they’re told to do. We are a company that likes to hire people that think. I expect them know their goals and contribute some ideas to the table.

Image placeholder title

“To be successful, you have to have huge attention to detail,” Morgan continues. “The people in your shop have to understand how important it is to make sure you do what a customer has hired you to do and make sure the customer has a thorough understanding of what they’re buying and how it will function.”

The shop is fully equipped to handle any request, but not especially high-tech.

“We do have one CNC machine and it’s an older model for line boring. We use our big double-bladed sliding table saw for a lot of what we do,” Morgan says. “Most of our products are hand-finished and built from scratch.”

John Miller works on a fireplace mantel.

Business in Columbus

Currently, there are no plans to expand, except for possibly making a designated line of storage cabinets in the future. The owners are focused on improving the bottom line and continuing to build a strong reputation.

Neither business has a big backlog of work, but activity usually picks up in the spring. Morgan says her biggest challenge is explaining to customers why so much time is required to complete jobs.

“Cabinetry is not necessarily a product that can be done right away and we are often explaining that skills required to do the work are learned skills passed on by trade and the jobs cannot be rushed.”

“Now that I’ve been in this business and I really have worked for myself for the last 16 years, I have such a huge appreciation for what cabinet shops do, which I didn’t when I first started. Handcrafted cabinetmaking is a talent and art form unto itself.”

Contact: Buckeye Custom Cabinets and Closets, 2045 Builders Place, Columbus, OH 43204. Tel: 614-754-8234.

This article originally appeared in the May 2015 issue.

Related Articles