Closet to Cabinetry: Crossover Trends
07/27/2012 3:16:00 PM
In the push to find new business, closets firms have long branched beyond walk-in and reach-in home storage. Well established in the pantry, home office and garages, closet firms have increasingly been called upon by clients to build libraries, buffets, even kitchen cabinetry.
It's not a stretch, since basic resources — panels, hardware, and accessories — readily lend themselves to the task.
Perhaps the most stunning example of crossing over into full interior wood- work projects is the effort by Closet Factory Hampton Roads, near in Virginia Beach, VA. Owner Jeff Bruzzesi has teamed with construction firm Joey Corp. two years in a row to build an entire house. In 2011, it was the award-winning Organizational Home, including a number of crossover projects by Closets Factory, including the built-in dining room buffet. Bruzzesi completed the 2012 Logical Living Home with crossover projects including a TV den, butler's pantry, the custom built dining room china cabinet and upstairs children’s study area.
The past four months have seen two cabinet-making companies – Greenberg Casework and Lami Wood Products – move into the custom closet space, while storage specialist Tailored Living has moved into the custom cabinet market.
In Greenberg’s case, after getting its feet wet with garages, the South Beloit, WI firm decided to migrate into new home storage cabinet offerings. “We saw the rapidly expanding market for storage and organization … and felt we could do better,” owner Troy Greenberg says. Leveraging existing cabinetry and surface coatings capabilities, it has launched RedLine Closet Systems.
For more than 25 years, the Greenberg cabinetry and millwork shop con- centrated on building commercial and institutional custom casework such as reception desks for hospitals and banks, working with CNC routers and cutters in laminate, metal and solid surface, as well and wood, panel and veneers. It also offers GCC Coatings, manufacturing components and powder-coated parts for OEM manufacturers and store fixture shops.
In June, the Tailored Living independent franchise in East Tennessee ac- quired SpaceMakers, a custom cabinet company in West Knoxville, TN. Established in 1997, SpaceMakers “The Get Organized Store” specializes in custom cabinet design and closet and storage installations. SpaceMakers’ products have been featured on the DIY network, and the company is a member of the Association of Closet and Storage Professionals, according to its website.
KCD Software, well established in kitchen cabinet design and production software, supports closets and crossover cabinetry work in its latest Cabinet, Closet and Doors Plus software suites. They feature an open architecture for CNC manufacturing. CNC Cabinet/Closet Commander takes a project from on-site design, pricing and cut listing directly through either automated CNC cutting and routing or traditional to manufacturing process. KCD’s 3D Closet Design Studio also creates specialty rooms (pantry, craft, wine, laundry and mudroom, left) entertainment centers, garage storage solutions, offices and Murphy Beds, allowing organizational designs in any room in a client's home or office. “The software is really loaded with options,” says Leslie Murphy of KCD Software. “And for the designers that really get into creating custom cabinetry, and want even more options, we also have the combination Cabinet/Closet Designer” (available to try on their website: KCDsoftware.com “Both companies have great reputations in the local closet and cabinetry industry and … bring together valuable experience, traditions and complementary, high-quality products,” said co-owner Travis Carbaugh. Specializing in custom storage solutions for the home and garage, Tailored Living was formed in 2010 following a strategic alliance between Premier Garage and Home Franchise Concepts' Closet Tailors' brand.
And from Cabinets to Closets Again
Meanwhile, Missouri-based Lami Wood Products Corp. in April became a California Closets franchise owner, opening two new showrooms in the St. Louis metro area. The manufacturer of custom cabinets for builders is the parent company of Signature Kitchen and Bath, which offers custom cabinetry for the residential market. According to Dan Heath, Lami Wood Products controller, expanding into the custom storage business was an ideal way for the company to increase growth and keep its manufacturing lines moving.
“Like many businesses in our industry, we were heavily impacted by the economic recession,” Heath says. “We found ourselves with excess manufacturing capacity and were looking to add a product that would use that capacity and increase our top line growth, while complementing our existing product lines.” He notes the custom home organization business was ideal for a number of reasons, including the fact that the company’s Signature Kitchen and Bath business shared similar demographics with the custom closet and storage customer.
“With the two operations sharing space, we can operate more cost-effectively and also increase our showroom traffic,” Heath adds. The combined displays also allow customers to see the available options offered by the company beyond its typical kitchen cabinetry lines. Featured showroom vignettes highlight 15 different styles of home storage solutions, ranging from kitchen pantries to garage storage, media centers and custom “His and Hers” master bedrooms.
The home organization line has dedicated design consultants, separate from the kitchen cabinet designers, Heath says. “The initial customer meeting with kitchen design consultants is typically in one of our showrooms, while the closet design consultants have their first meeting with the customer in their home.” As for software, kitchen cabinet designers will use 20/20 Technologies design products and closet designers will use California Closets proprietary software.
Although Lami Wood has its own custom cabinetry line, which it sells to the commercial builder and residential market, the company decided to go with California Closets as its first foray into the home organization market because of its long history and experience.“We felt the backing of California Closets would ‘jump start’ our entry into the custom closet and storage solutions market,” Heath explains. Particularly appealing, he adds, was the brand’s national support network and capacity in the areas of marketing, technology and manufacturing.
Started in 1978 by then 17-year-old Neil Balter, California Closets has grown into one of the largest home organization companies in the country. Sold in 1990 to Williams-Sonoma and then acquired in 1998 by The Franchise Co., the custom closet firm is known for its franchising and property service management. Rebranding as FS Brands, the company owns a number franchises besides California Closets including, Paul Davis Restoration, BrandPoint Services, CertaPro Painters, College Pro Painters, Pillar To Post Home Inspection, Floor Coverings International, Handyman Connection and TLS.
Lami Wood Products will manufacture the California Closets line, along with the company’s custom cabinet lines and laminate countertops, at its 80,000-square-foot facility, located in St. Peters, MO. Very few changes were necessary to incorporate the new products. “We only had to add a vertical boring machine to press the Häfele Rafix connectors to accommodate the line,” Heath says.
Crossover Cut Centers
CNC cutting machinery maker, Thermwood Corp., has launched YouBuild, an online order system aimed at getting cabinetmakers into closets and office furniture markets. Thermwood’s YouBuild project uses Columbia Forest Product hardwood plywood sourced at local Home Depots under a special order program.
YouBuild.com has a locator to identify program participants. It offers thousands of design combinations for home and office furniture and closets, some by renowned furniture designers, according to Jason Susnjara, Thermwood marketing director. In preliminary release as Thermwood promotes it to potential cut centers over the next 60 days, initially YouBuild cut centers will be drawn from registered users at Thermwood's eCabinet Systems. Susnjara says there are about 10,000 registered eCabinet users.
Proof Is in the Show
As evidence of this growing trend, the 2012 IWF show in August will feature a day-long symposium, conducted by members of the Association of Closet and Storage Professionals (ACSP), titled “Closets - Your Niche for Growth.”
Also, making its debut early next year is the Cabinets & Closets Conference & Expo (CCCE), set for February 27-March 1, 2013, at the New Jersey Convention & Exposition Center in Edison, NJ. The “Total Storage Solutions” event will build on the inherent similarities and synergies of the dynamic closet and custom cabinet markets, say organizers, while paying homage to the distinctive differences that make each of them unique. The event will also capitalize on custom cabinet companies that are crossing over to win closet business and vice versa.