Greg Bettencourt had some notable first impressions after purchasing Cedar Crest Cabinetry and Revolution Furnishings, two businesses operating under one very large roof in Manchester, N.H., in 2015.
“What we saw was a great asset in our facility with its size and fantastic location, an incredible team with strong tenure, and great growth potential. We saw the wholesale furniture line hadn’t been touched in years which provided the foundation for a great opportunity,” says Bettencourt.
Cedar Crest Cabinetry is a custom cabinet and furniture shop serving the residential and designer markets. Revolution Furnishings is a wholesale furniture line marketed to large retailers and boutique shops. The company was founded in 1989 as Oak Designs, a wholesaler, and added Cedar Crest in 2005.
Ditching the tie
Bettencourt comes from a woodworking family. His great grandfather, Howard Custance, co-founded Custance Brothers, an architectural millwork shop in Lexington, Mass., in 1911.
Bettencourt pursued mechanical engineering at Tufts University then worked at a Fortune 100 company and a software startup.
“I went into corporate America for eight years. It was a great experience with great mentors, but I felt like something was missing. In 2013, my wife and I started getting serious about other opportunities and met the Boutin family (the previous owners) who were ready to retire.”
The timing was good. Bettencourt, who credits some of his best advice to his experienced family members, noticed the industry had a promising group of consumers that were no longer interested in low-quality imports, providing a marketing opportunity to grow the wholesale line.
“There was a yearning for better quality. I really had a strong belief that New England consumers desired better quality at approachable prices. There was a big gap between really expensive heirloom quality fine furniture and the imports with no options in the middle.”
He and his team implemented digital advertising campaigns through pay-per-click options and social media, and ran some print advertisements through home magazines, a huge help particularly to the Cedar Crest side which has since doubled its output. But the wholesale side was falling by the wayside and needed a lot more work.
“The former ownership had limited ability to get the word out. They hadn’t refreshed the catalog or opened a new account in a while,” he says.
Turning it around
Marketing wasn’t the only issue with the wholesale side. It had taken quite a hit in 2007 from an influx of imports coupled with the Great Recession. There were only 15 wholesale clients by 2015, down from a high of about 100.
Revolution Furnishings now has approximately 50 dealers and is adding accounts at a healthy clip. Bettencourt wants to grow the list beyond New England.
Much of the growth is attributed to the talent, dedication and focus of the team and up-to-date sales tools. These include a new website featuring a product catalog with virtual rooms and 3D imagery.
Revolution Furnishings can deliver a quality product very quickly to its wholesale buyers, who can then offer their store customers several custom options such as finishing, hardware, dimensions and profiles. There are 10 base styles ranging from traditional to contemporary.
“The idea is that you can get a custom product that’s built with integrity locally in four weeks. No one does that at our scale in New England,” says Bettencourt.
“Agility is important. The ability to serve the needs of a diverse set of customers is huge. We want to make those large stores happy. They’re competitors with one another and we need to give them product segments different enough so that shoppers will see different items in different stores.”
On the retail front
Cedar Crest Cabinetry generally serves clients within a 50-mile radius, from Boston and the New England seacoast to New Hampshire’s Lakes Region and southern Maine.
About 80 percent of jobs are from walk-ins and referrals, with the remaining through contractors. The projects can be quite diverse.
“We see everything from transitional to contemporary, even some uses with rustic wood in a modern way. Lots of customers walk in saying they have old stained oak cabinetry from 1984 and want to replace it. We’re doing a lot of two-toned Shaker paint with something like a rustic hickory contrasting island,” says Bettencourt.
The shop has automated machinery and added Cabinet Vision design and manufacturing software about two years ago, which has benefitted production and sales for both sides of the operation, according to Bettencourt.
“Custom work is challenging to sell because people really want to see it. It’s tough conveying their options to them through hand drawings. That’s solvable with technology,” he says.
Maximizing the potential
With a 43,000-sq.-ft. facility and 20 employees, Bettencourt wants to keep growing from within. He’s exploring direct retail ideas through different product segments and has had discussions about industry partnerships.
“Our goal is to grow. We’re exploring ways to do that, so long as it doesn’t cannibalize our existing wholesale market. It’s a delicate thing. What we see is a core group of people who want to touch and feel.”
He also wants to focus on the bath market. “We do lots of bathrooms and we’ve been selling vanities for years so we’re starting to build a bath furniture line to sell directly or through wholesalers,” says Bettencourt.
Bettencourt, who has brought his father Don on board as CFO, tries to be involved as much as he can in all aspects of the company. He fills roles in the shop when needed and troubleshoots issues as they develop but relies heavily on his experienced team for daily sales and production efforts. As much as he would enjoy a more active role in the shop, his key role as business developer keeps him focused on the path forward.
“We will continue to grow. I don’t see any end in sight. We’ve seen 500 percent growth on major market stores in the last six months. It’s taken longer than we planned but we are finally achieving what we set out to do. There’s always more work to be done,” he says.
This article originally appeared in the January 2020 issue.