Alcorn’s Custom Woodworking in Reidsville, N.C. has been a trusted source for residential cabinetry since 1996. With an eye to future, owners Richie and Lori Alcorn have been making big adjustments with its management and use of technology.
“I think the most exciting thing we’ve got going on right now is our daughter, Sarah, is coming on board. She’s going to make a career in the woodworking business, and we’re excited to have her and see what the future holds,” says Richie Alcorn.
“We also just purchased a big piece of equipment, a Thermwood Cut Ready Cut Center. I don’t want to grow past being a custom shop. I don’t want to start stamping out cabinets. I never had a CNC machine because of the highly custom nature of what we’ve always done, but with the state of the world in hiring employees, we felt like we had to.”
Alcorn’s has 10 employees, including Sarah, and produces kitchen and bath cabinetry, entertainment centers, built-ins, bookcases, ‘hand-made’ trim, and more.
Alcorn, who was born and raised in Reidsville, formerly worked as a purchasing agent for a large, family-owned paper business, and turned his woodworking hobby into a full-time endeavor in 1996 with a little encouragement from the company owner.
“I knew that I would only go so far [at the paper business]. The gentleman that owned it had seen some furniture work that I’d done and told me that I needed to be doing that instead of working for him,” says Richie.
He took that advice and ran with it, moving his part-time operation into a 1,200-sq.-ft. rented space. Lori eventually joined full-time as a bookkeeper. By 2001, the company moved into a portion of its current facility, which started with an 8,000-sq.-ft. building and now also occupies a 6,500-sq.-ft space across the street.
The client base has increased steadily over the years. “The majority of our business has always been word of mouth. In the beginning we concentrated on Greensboro, Winston, and High Point (N.C.). We were very fortunate to meet some great contractors and great designers, and cultivated those relationships.
“We try to diversify our customer base and work with a lot of contractors and customers now. We work directly with the public, too, taking direct phone calls from homeowners. About 75 percent of our plans are from designers, but we can do those, too.”
Projects are generally within the Piedmont region, which has seen an uptick in new home builds and renovations coinciding with the area’s rapid industry growth.
“Greensboro, Winston, High Point, Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, the whole area is growing,” says Alcorn. “Traditionally, we probably did 80 percent remodels and 20 percent new construction. For the last five years, about 40 percent of our work has been in new construction, and the new construction is more high-end with homes that are $1 million and over. The median home value we work in is probably around $700,000, and most houses like that are in Durham or Greensboro, not in Reidsville.
“We just worked on a house that is about 10,000 square feet and did a whole home package with four bathrooms, kitchen, wet bar and built-ins in the great room, and two offices. We have worked in homes up to 17,000 square feet. Half of our jobs are whole home packages. The higher end ones, if they’re going to spend money, they’re going to spend money.”
While the company doesn’t bid on commercial jobs, it will honor occasional requests from existing customers.
Sarah, who is 22 and the Alcorn’s only child, will essentially be taking over her father’s role in managing the shop, meeting with customers, taking field measurements, and estimating. She will start after completing her business degree at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. She initially started coursework to become a social worker but was dissuaded by the negativity that can go with that career.
“The burnout rate for social work is 18 months and they told us in that class every day. I have a heart for that kind of work, and I didn’t want to get burnt out and never help anyone again. Mom and dad built this business, and I’d be stupid not to take it over. So, I took up business and I can still volunteer to help people when I want to,” says Sarah.
She grew up working around the shop and has been learning the ropes on her time off from school. She is excited to be part of an automated facility with the newly acquired CNC machine.
“I was scared about getting a CNC, thinking our work wouldn’t be custom anymore. But every single piece that comes off it will be touched by everyone here, and our methods will still be the same. It’s still going to be custom. It’s just going to be quicker.”
One of Sarah’s goals is to expand the clientele throughout the U.S. and possibly do work internationally. In recent years, the shop has completed and shipped projects for clients in Charleston, S.C., Manhattan, and Los Angeles.
In a good position
Jobs are now booked well into December and the company is working feverishly to stay ahead of supply chain issues. While it struggled getting materials and hardware earlier this year, things seem to be easing up. Richie says having good relationships with everyone is the key to sustained success.
“The big thing is building relationships with customers, clients, as well as suppliers and sales reps. We build relationships and always concentrate on customer service, and build relationships with our employees,” he says.
Looking ahead, Richie, who’s active at his church with Lori, and busy serving on the board of directors for his local fire department, will be involved as long as necessary for the transition. He’s already cut back to four days a week. He’s certain his daughter and the company will have a promising future.
“There are a few other shops in Rockingham County where we are here, but we’re probably by far the biggest cabinetmaking operation. The other shops, the guys we know, are a lot smaller with maybe two people. I’ve seen over the last 26 years, there are fewer and fewer shops. People have phased out and retired and nobody’s there to take it over, so they just close. And that’s why I think Sarah will have a bright future here because there’s not as many people doing it now as there was 20 years ago.”
For more, visit alcornswoodworking.com.
This article was originally published in the August 2022 issue.