After moving from southern California to Klamath Falls, Ore., with hopes of starting a business in 1981, it didn’t take long for Jim Borror to see there was a niche for custom cabinets. Borror Cabinets was formed that year as a turnkey cabinetry service provider and now thrives as the city’s leading custom shop.
Owned and operated by Jim and his wife Donna, the company employs 12. While it accommodates a broad geographic radius, most work is done for customers in Klamath Falls, including kitchens and baths for new and remodeled high-end residential homes.
Borror, now in his sixties, is proud of the company’s success and says the key has always been about providing excellent customer service. He expects to exceed last year’s gross revenue of $1.2 million in 2018.
“I feel tired, but it’s been good. I enjoy what I do and that helps a lot. Stresses and strains of jobs sometimes get overwhelming, but what we put out I think is a good quality product. That’s what I’m after,” he says.
A good move
Borror started his woodworking career at the age of 18 working for a high-end cabinet shop in Van Nuys, Calif., that served the greater Los Angeles market. At 25, he switched to building houses.
“We decided to move to Oregon and start a business, not knowing what was here at the time. It was fine with me,” says Donna. “His parents were going to retire in Klamath Falls, and my parents were in Northern California. We wanted to be near family and liked the size of the community.”
The small, rural community was a much-needed break from busy L.A. and things were looking up. But there were already plenty of building contractors.
“They found out my background was in cabinets and they asked me to do them, and the business grew out of that,” Jim says. “We originally built cabinets in our tiny two-car garage and then built a shop behind that. We finally bought a commercial property about ten years later. By then we had three employees.”
In 1995, the Borrors moved the operation to its present location, a spacious 11,000-sq.-ft. building with an outbuilding for storage. They increased the employee count and production volume.
“Our clients are mostly local contractors. In a small, rural community like this, your name is everything. You need a good reputation. The contractors are very suspicious of anybody new,” says Donna.
The shop produces work to fit Craftsman-style homes, multi-generational farm homes, contemporary residences and everything in between. Nearby vacation resorts are also good customers.
“Running Y Ranch Resort is one we do a lot of work for. It’s west of town between here and Medford. They have an Arnold Palmer [designed] golf course. It’s very big for us,” says Donna.
Local architecture tends to be rustic in style. So, over the years clear finished and stained wood cabinets became the shop’s specialty. That started changing three years ago.
“Right now, painted cabinets are really trending. Probably about half of what we do is painted. We do a lot of white right now. The next popular is wood stained really dark, or something like a maple and walnut contrast,” says Donna.
The Borrors have a separate countertop shop based in Central Point, Ore., run by their son Matthew.
Jim’s ambition, combined with his ‘when the going gets tough’ approach to hard economic times, has helped the Borrors claim a vast service area and clientele. Sometimes that means traveling great distances.
“We’re licensed in California and we’ve gone to San Diego. We had customers from here who moved there and told us they can’t get anybody to work on their house. Jim will fly to San Diego to measure and come back to work. We’ve done a little in the (San Francisco) Bay Area but that’s a really difficult place to work with all of the regulations and traffic,” says Donna.
During the Great Recession, they tapped into markets untouched by the competition.
“There are a lot of communities around us, like Lakeview, which is an hour-and-a-half away to the east of us. Nobody wants to go there because it’s out in the middle of nowhere. But when the economy tanked here, there was nothing here, so we drove to Lakeview every day. There were a lot of new homes being built,” she says.
“Eastern Oregon is very desolate and isolated, and they have a hard time getting any trades out there. So, we do a lot of work in rural eastern Oregon in general.”
Other customers include the Klamath Tribes, which has been building medical offices and housing units. Low-income housing for local government agencies also keeps the shop busy.
“We’re doing a lot of HUD, low-income housing for the Klamath Housing Authority. We have about 60 units we’re working on this year doing kitchen cabinets and casework,” Donna adds.
Content with their loyal following and high standing, the Borrors plan to keep the business at its current size through retirement.
“There are a few others doing cabinets but I think there’s enough work in this town so there are no hard feelings or anything. Fremont Millwork is a larger shop here that only does non-wood commercial, only laminate cabinets, and we have a good relationship with them,” says Donna.
Employee changeover is something the owners feel they do need to watch, however. Finding skilled help is a looming problem.
“I don’t even care if they’re trained, just trainable,” says Jim. “There’s just not anybody to hire. No one wants to work. Everyone wants a paycheck, but no one wants to work. Most of the people that come in I wouldn’t hire. We now have and have had workers with the drive I’m looking for. But others just don’t want to show up.”
With all the variables that lie ahead, one thing is certain: If business stays on track with its 2018 numbers, a secure future awaits.
“Business is great right now on the commercial end and the residential end. There are just a lot of things going on. It’s going to be one of our best years,” says Donna.
Jim adds, “The best part of this is seeing a happy customer and making the unhappy ones happy, too.”
Contact: Borror Cabinets, 5030 S. 6th St., Klamath Falls, OR 97603. Tel: 541-883-3586. www.borrorcabinets.com
This article originally appeared in the December 2018 issue.