‘Holding tight’ until ‘life returns to normal’

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WoodshopNews-2018-08-02_09-28-26__1028052-(c)JosephLinaschke

From updating safety and health policies to stringent sanitizing procedures, woodshops of all types have been on their toes since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the world.

In March, when the nation began to grapple intensely with widespread shutdowns in all facets of life, Woodshop News surveyed recently featured shops. While their owners and managers expressed everything from uncertainty and fear to positivity and hope, all shared the common sentiment of being in this together with the goal to press on through the challenges they face.

Eric Criscitello of From the Heart Cabinetry in Potsdam, N.Y. (“Positioned in Potsdam”, February 2020) says his business was extremely busy as of March and is remaining calm and collective about the whole situation, hoping it subsides.

“We don’t know what the future holds. Obviously, I’d be more concerned with six months from now depending on how long this lasted than I would be for today or in the next six months. We have work scheduled all the way out into fall anyway in some form or another with some big commercial jobs and things like that,” says Criscitello.

“We’re all in this together. It’s not like it’s just one industry or one thing that got hit, it’s the world. So, you’ve got to kind of slow down the gut reaction and say ‘hey, we have to climb out of this.’ The one good thing about manufacturing and fabrication like we do is that someday down the road people are going to need us. I feel really concerned for service industries because they can’t make that work back up. But as fabricators and manufacturers, I think if we hold tight and try to do the best that we can, we’ll be okay.”

Greg Bettencourt of Revolution Furnishings in Manchester, N.H. (“Two brands, one direction”, January 2020) has made significant changes to the retail portion of his business and has applied for an SBA loan. He continues to ensure his team that the situation is rapidly evolving and keeps them updated as much as possible.

“In simplest terms, our plan is to do everything we can to stay open. That is the best-case scenario for us, our customers, and the suppliers that rely on us. That said, with each day that passes this is becoming more difficult. Most of our furniture retailers have been ordered to close or are not accepting deliveries and our retail traffic for kitchen cabinetry has slowed,” says Bettencourt.

“In response, we have been working on a number of initiatives to connect directly with customers in our local area in order to keep sales flowing: We are working to get a cabinetry site live to sell our bathroom vanities direct (www.bath.revfurn.com). We’re actively working with Wayfair.com to promote our products within New England to support local manufacturing. We recently worked to develop partnerships with local retailers to purchase low-cost desks to fit the needs of the millions of families now at home trying to make work and school a productive routine. I’ve reached out to numerous companies across the nation, the local governments of New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New York, multiple federal agencies, and the White House to raise our hand to help in the fight producing items that are most needed right now. If only we could make masks and ventilators! We’ve also applied for a disaster relief loan from the Small Business Administration, designed to give us a bridge to keep part or all of the business operational as long as we can in hopes that life returns to normal in the near future.”

Kurt Echols of Cabinet Fever in Anchorage, Alaska (“Made in Alaska”, November 2019) has kept on working even though he’s had to close the showroom for walk-in customers.

“Our mayor has closed all non-essential businesses and apparently that’s us too. Although I’m going to keep the guys in the shop and keep them working, we’re going to close the store for a while per the mayor’s emergency order. That way I can still go to work,” says Echols, who remains as positive as he can be.

“You can’t let it get you down. We’ve all got to get through this together. There’s very much unknown. We’re a little short on money - cash flow’s a problem. Several people that we had finished jobs for have not paid for what they owe us. They’re hoarding their money just like they’re hoarding their toilet paper. But we still have a lot of work on the books. I’m backed up probably six weeks right now.”

Kevin Dean of Dean Cabinetry in Bolton, Conn. (“Hitting all price points,” September 2019) says his team is trying everything it can to keep business going and help the situation, in addition to stressing hand washing and staying home when feeling sick.

“The virus has definitely slowed things down. The leads have slowed, and people are hesitant to move forward with their projects. Projects already in motion and new homes still need cabinets so that is keeping us busy. We have cut back working hours to balance the workload. We don’t want to lay anyone off. We are lucky that construction and manufacturing have not been asked to shut down,” says Dean.

“We have started offering remote design consultations through video chat. These have been great so far. In fact, it is easier for our designers and saves time. We expect these types of meetings to increase even after the health concerns go away.”

Jim Shuffler of Exquisite Custom Cabinets in Portsmouth, Va. (“Where every day is Monday”, July 2019) says business is generally good, but uncertainty about the pandemic itself and state of the economy is always unsettling.

“It was a bit of a scare when the non-essential businesses were shut down here and I’m just praying they don’t shut us down. We entered this year with five large custom homes to work on, so we’ve been very blessed and we’re working on those. We’re doing our part to be healthy and safe. Our benches are distanced far apart, we’ve ordered cleaning supplies and we’ve closed down the breakroom. As a nation we’re in this as a whole so we’ll just hope for the best and do what we can to stay safe and help others,” says Shuffler.

Dave Grounds of Quality Cabinets in Jenks, Okla. (“At home in Oklahoma”, November 2015) says business has remained pretty much the same.

“We’re doing common sense social distancing right now. We’re a small, four-man shop so we’re spread out in the shop as it is. So, it hasn’t been too big a concern and we’re just trying to be careful,” says Grounds.

“It hasn’t really seemed to affect the overall demand and number of phone calls that are coming in. I think it will. I think the longer that it continues I think it’s going to have more of an impact, but it hasn’t really seemed to impact the number of calls we get a day. I think it really depends a lot on what part of the country you’re in. I think the bigger the population density, the more an issue it is and as you get out into more rural areas, Oklahoma of course we do have a number of confirmed cases here but our population density is less and I think that’s the big driver of how big an impact it’s going to affect any given part of the country.” 

This article originally appeared in the May 2020 issue.

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