Greg Hubbard was introduced to the family cabinetry business as a teenager. Now that his father has retired, he’s stepped up as president of Montgomery Cabinet and Trim in Montgomery, Ala., and stays on his toes at least six days a week keeping operations in order.
“I don’t get in the shop too much anymore because I don’t have time. I deal with the salesmen. I do all the material orders, all the drafting and layouts. When my dad used to do it, I didn’t think I’d be able to learn all of that, but you’ve got no choice,” says Hubbard, whose mother Lenora still keeps her role as bookkeeper and estimator.
Established in 1974 by Hubbard’s father and grandfather, the central Alabama cabinet shop has 10 employees and provides custom cabinetry for every room in the house. Through builder connections, it produces up to 300 jobs per year in both new and remodeled homes. The geographic focus is the residential sector of Montgomery and its surrounding regions. Last year the company grossed $1.2 million, close to the target.
“We’re definitely busier than last year,” Hubbard says, while his phone rings every several minutes.
From kitchens to bathrooms, the shop does it all.
No place like home
Born in Montgomery, Hubbard can’t imagine living anywhere else. He’s surrounded by family and the great outdoors, and can get to the ocean in a couple hours.. Having spent many enjoyable summers working in the shop before graduating high school in 1986, he yearned to be a permanent part of it.
“When I started there were five employees here. I didn’t do cabinets. I was a gofer. I painted the building and worked in the back assembling face frames. I worked my way up.”
But there’s more to the story. Hubbard also wanted to build houses, something else his father did. He went to school for drafting at Troy University in Troy, Ala. for a year. Then he changed his mind and showed up to help run the shop and grow the business.
“I got my builder’s license because my dad had his. I started another company called Gregory Properties. I still do that just in case my mom retires from here and I can’t keep this going. Right now, we have to depend on employees to do our work and it’s hard to find people to hire.
“So, I have that company too, but I don’t use it a lot basically because the builders that I do cabinetry for now, if I start building a lot of houses they will quit using me for cabinets. I would be their competition. Plus, I don’t really have the funds to just bust out and start building a lot of houses. I’m too cautious to start taking too many risks.”
After starting in a rented space, the Hubbards built a 6,000-sq.-ft. shop in the woodworking part of town.
“This area stood out to us as a good location years ago. There was another cabinet shop for manufactured cabinets and a commercial millwork shop, and then us with custom cabinets. It was like a row of car lots where everyone offers something different,” says Hubbard.
The company added a 2,500-sq.-ft. building in the late ’90s to provide finishing services, something it hadn’t originally offered. The building is equipped to deal with the heat and humidity, and a great deal of attention is paid when mixing finishes to prevent blushing.
About 15 years ago, the shop purchased an Omnitech CNC to increase production and eliminate the need for outsourcing.
“Once we started finishing cabinets we needed to make them faster,” says Hubbard. “We make our MDF doors instead of outsourcing them. That machine has helped a lot, speeding everything up.”
Targeting new developments
Most of the shop’s work is fairly local. The builder connections certainly help in that regard as new subdivisions pop up. The shop has done quite a bit of work at New Park in Montgomery, Brookwood in Wetumpka, The Ridge on Lake Martin, and Fairhope near Mobile Bay.
“One thing I have seen is people are moving out of the city limits of Montgomery, out to the country towns like Pike Road and Fitzpatrick. There’s a lot of family land that’s been passed down out in the country and houses are being built on that land now,” says Hubbard.
Most designs call for a modern look, not surprising since about three quarters of the shop’s work goes into new homes. “Trends come and go,” says Hubbard. “There are years when everybody seems to want stained cabinets. Right now, everybody’s gone back to Shaker-style doors and whites and grays, the simple, clean look.
“We offer any type of wood. People seem to like knotty alder, walnut, heart pine, and barn wood is really popular. On paint grade we use poplar and some people go with MDF doors because of cost, but we’re trying to switch from MDF to plywood since it’s a lot lighter and my guys are getting older.”
Keeping in touch with builders has given Hubbard an advantage against other custom cabinet shops.
“We’ve never really done a lot of advertising,” he says. “We get a lot of jobs by word of mouth and we have our normal builders. One of our builders, when things were busy, was building 20 to 30 houses a month. He’s retired now, unfortunately.”
The company had 18 employees in 2006. “That was one of our best years,” says Hubbard. “We were basically installing a set of cabinets and finishing a house at the same time, all the time. We had two crews going out. About 2007, I was building a house, and it just drastically slowed. It didn’t completely stop, but we did some commercial work like doctors’ offices and car dealerships. Then people seemed to start doing a lot of remodeling.”
A future with purpose
Hubbard grapples with the idea of expansion given the lack of skilled help available.
“It’s hard to find good employees. The problem is if I say I’m looking for a cabinetmaker and they say they’re a cabinetmaker, I don’t know what they know. If they say they can do it, I will give them a chance.”
Family is extremely important to Hubbard. About four years ago, his youngest stepson Dylan Bieber, a junior in high school, was killed in a car accident. Hubbard strives to keep his memory alive by giving back to the community.
“My plan is to start a website and call it Dylan’s Corner. It will be a way to sell products we make and other components like hardware and other cabinetry supplies. My wife and I want to donate a portion of the money to Wetumpka High where Dylan went. We do a scholarship for him every year.”
Some of the items on the site will include keepsakes like photography boxes and picture frames, and larger items like vanities.
“The best part is working for yourself is that you have the choice of having some freedom,” adds Hubbard, who admittedly doesn’t take advantage this as much as he’d like.
“I went on a family trip to San Antonio two years ago, and I basically stayed on my phone the whole time. I feel guilty when I’m not here, so I don’t stay gone very much. I don’t want to disappoint my customers. I need to make sure everything and everyone is taken care of.”
Montgomery Cabinet and Trim, 5658 Bell Road, Montgomery, AL 36116. Tel: 334-281-6627
This article originally appeared in the June 2018 issue.