Taylor Made Custom Cabinetry and Design in Pennsauken, N.J., has been known in the South Jersey area for its high-end residential cabinetry since opening its doors in 1989. In recent years, however, the shop’s leaders have decided the company should continue to develop its growing commercial end in order to withstand the changing dynamics of the residential market.
Operating within a spacious 24,000-sq.-ft. facility, the shop has 18 employees, most of whom were laid off during the Great Recession but brought back in recent years. Company president Jay Taylor is always spending time reviewing the state of the economy and client spending patterns to keep the business profitable. Lately, residential work is looking a little less promising.
“We’re seeing customers do a lot more revisions. You quote a job out at $50,000 and they ask how they can save money, so they start revising the designs and we revise the quote to fit a budget, where before when the economy was going well you didn’t have that. Now, no matter how much money the client has, they’re still at that point where they want to know how to save a dollar,” says Taylor.
“Even the wealthy people aren’t spending money on their homes the way they used to. And what’s starting to change now is younger people aren’t worried about investing into their houses nearly as much as they used to even if they have the money and the means to do it. That’s changing a lot of the way things are done here, too.”
Livin’ the dream
Taylor aspired to be a cabinetmaker ever since he was a child growing up in Pittsburgh and followed that dream through high school and college.
“In eighth grade we had to pick three professions and write a term paper on them. Cabinetry was one of the ones I picked. I just got really lucky that I fell into a trade and profession that I loved as a young kid,” he says.
He took up furniture design at Indiana University in Indiana, Pa. After graduating with a fine arts degree, he landed a position at a Philadelphia cabinet shop and relocated to nearby New Jersey for a quick commute to the city each day.
Eager to start his own business, Taylor started doing side jobs with friends, advertising in papers, and things just took off in the late 80s. He started in a shared co-op space, graduating to larger shops over the years while hiring employees along the way, and eventually moved to his current building in 2014. His formal training allowed him to develop a strong client base throughout the company’s formative years.
“I bring my education to the projects when I come on. I do a lot of work with interior designers who don’t have the architectural design background. They bring their concepts to me. I help them refine their designs with the client and that allows them to sell more work than what they could do on their own because they don’t have the background.”
Evolving client base
Taylor captured the residential market early on in his career when he built a full-scale library in a show house for a designer in the early 90s.
“It was a $120,000 project. That’s what really got me started and a lot of people to know who I was, and I got a good foothold in the South Jersey area doing high-end residential work.”
Through word-of-mouth, repeat customers and connections with designers, the company’s residential work is done in homes averaging $450,000 to $2 million. The client list includes professional athletes, entertainers and CEOs.
The shop’s primary market extends to the New Jersey coastline, New York City and eastern Long Island. Popular projects included kitchens, bars, entertainment centers and wall paneling. Customers prefer frameless cabinetry and painted finishes - white, light greys and light blues.
But Taylor is concerned about the sustainability of his high-end residential market.
“We did $2.2 million in sales last year. Of that, we did $1.2 million in residential sales and that’s a lot for a custom shop. How long is that going to last that people will build these big homes and be able to afford it and want to afford it?”
Taylor’s son, Corey Taylor, joined the company about 10 years ago. He noticed that commercial work had more profitability and quicker turnaround times.
“Corey started out with residential because that’s where I was at and where the leads for the business were. After three years he started to want to do commercial, and the little residential he does is based off commercial clients he has. So were trying to keep a nice balance between the two sides.”
Nearby commercial hot spots include Trenton, Lawrenceville and Princeton, N.J., according to Taylor. The shop’s portfolio includes work for colleges, banks, credit unions and corporate offices, such as Jet.com based in Pedricktown, N.J.
Long term planning
With Corey in line to take over the business in wake of his father’s anticipated retirement, it’s safe to say the company will be 95 percent commercial in the next five to ten years. Right now, the biggest concern is what to do when the shop’s 10-year lease is up.
“We’re five years in on our lease and during production meetings we discuss what we will do when it’s up. Will we stay in this building? Will we scale back? What do we see happening? Is this company growing? Do we want to continue to grow? Do we want to maintain where we’re at?”
Taylor, along with Corey and shop foreman Chris Eachus, all agree the purchase of an Anderson CNC in 2004 helped the commercial end thrive.
“It allowed me to increase my sales volume without increasing the number of employees it took to produce the work because we were able to generate the panels so much quicker. Fabrication time dropped as well because the consistency of the machine cutting the parts made it a lot easier to assemble the cabinetry.”
He will encourage more machinery purchases, but cautiously. The last thing he wants to see is Corey face layoffs.
“We were fortunate we had the lease [nearly] paid off on the CNC before the crash hit and I know that put a lot of guys out of business. During the crash we had one year left on our lease, so I was able to work my way through that. I know a lot of guys who had to close because they couldn’t get enough work to pay for their equipment.”
Taylor has an intuitive foresight and says he sensed the last recession just before it hit. While a healthy $2.2 to 2.5 million in sales is projected for 2019, he says it always pays to be vigilant with market patterns.
“Before the last crash I was fortunate that I could sense something wasn’t right. I had a project that kept getting delayed and that just sent a shiver down my spine, then the volume really dropped. It’s not a bad economy now, but it’s not flowing smoothly. Every job we have, whether it’s residential or commercial, there’s always a delay in it for some reason.”
Contact: Taylor Made Custom Cabinetry & Design, 7035 Central Highway, Suite 200, Pennsauken, NJ 08109. Tel: 856-786-5433. www.tmcc-inc.com
This article originally appeared in the June 2019 issue.