It basically started with a job offer. Hawk Hill Cabinetry & Custom Woodwork in Brandon, Vt., can trace its roots to a contractor/craftsman relationship.
“I was working on my own as a cabinetmaker back in 2001 and Rob Naylor contacted me and wanted to know if I’d start a cabinet shop for him,” Hawk Hill principal Rich Davis says. “So that year, I started at Naylor and Breen as a cabinet shop manager to work in-house on projects they were doing.
“We were attached to the main office of Naylor and Breen when I first started. I had four guys in the main shop with me. In 2008, we named the shop Hawk Hill cabinetry to give ourselves our own identity. It’s named after a hill out back where hawks fly over all the time. We are still under Naylor and Breen’s control.”
In 2010, fire destroyed Naylor and Breen’s place of business. The silver lining in the loss was a new 4,700-sq.-ft. shop for Hawk Hill, separate from Naylor and Breen’s new building. It’s stocked with digital fabrication and industrial machinery, and a five-person crew, including woodworkers Tim Anderson, Matt Shook, Jeremy Woods and Dan McDonough and finisher Brenda Hall.
“I think it’s a comfortable number with the size of the shop we have,” Davis says. “We may have room to squeeze in one more person, but we may have to change how we produce things.”
Learning to fly
Hawk Hill has spread its wings through the years, morphing from a strictly in-house shop to one that has also tapped into the Northeast’s vacation-home market.
“The main impact was when I made a couple of contacts with architects in Long Island, did a couple of projects for them, and they liked our product,” Davis says. “The client had a house up in Vermont, I did a project for them there and they had a summer home in the Hamptons. I got in touch with the architect from that one job in the Hamptons, which led to five other houses there.”
Hawk specializes in the design, manufacturing and installation of custom kitchen cabinetry, built-ins and architectural millwork including stairs, mantel assemblies and interior and exterior doors. It’s still a mostly in-house shop, with roughly 90 percent of the jobs funneled through Naylor and Breen from general contractors and architects.
“We’re a custom shop. It doesn’t matter what anyone asks for. They just have to show us a picture and we’ll do it,” says Davis, whose motto is always to stand by his work.
The shop serves a 60-40 mix of residential and commercial clients, with the latter focusing on remodels of restaurants, bars and convenience stores. In this economy, the residential market is more reliable, Davis says.
The shop has adapted to style changes through the years.
“When we first started out, we were doing overlay setups and now we’re doing more beaded inset doors. We are also doing a lot of two-tone color variations where, say, the perimeter of a kitchen is a stained cherry wood and the island is finished with something different like black paint,” Davis says.
“Cherry is popular up here and we do a lot of painted white products, too. And right now there’s a lot going on with grays and soft hue colors, which are nice. In our commercial end, we’ve done some bars with cherry slabs.”
A major accomplishment
Hawk Hill surpassed $1 million in annual revenue last year after coming close in previous campaigns. Davis credits Naylor and Breen for running a tight ship and providing Hawk Hill with solid backing.
“All of our guys get paid by Naylor and Breen, so we don’t have to worry about getting paid from our clients to support everybody,” Davis says. “It’s all under one company, but separated with a financial statement that shows we sustain ourselves and make money at the same time.”
With that benefit there is, of course, a slight catch that can lead to difficulties in the production schedule.
“We’re often called upon to do something small for [Naylor and Breen] that’s very time-sensitive, so we find ourselves having to drop what we’re doing here and take care of that before getting back to what we were working on,” Davis says.
Hawk Hill also has the advantage of slim competition. “We don’t compete with big-box stores and if we feel we are, then we step away because that’s always just a battle with pricing,” Davis says. “I don’t even know how many custom cabinet shops are around here. There are a few one-man shops, but they’re not a production shop like this.”
Davis is currently working with the parent company on networking with more architects, with the goal of adding more clients and projects in 2017. Its marketing efforts include a glossy magazine-style portfolio, website and social media program.
Contact: Hawk Hill Cabinetry & Custom Woodwork, 192 Alta Woods, Brandon, VT 05733. Tel: 802-465-8297. www.hawkhillvt.com.
This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue.