Volume 7 | Issue 6 | Year 2004

Most companies in industry claim to offer the best lead times, the best quality, or the most competitive prices. “If companies didn’t offer these services, they wouldn’t be in business, the benchmark has been raised and we are responding,” notes Todd Warner, director of marketing for Decore-ative Specialties, a California-based cabinet door and drawer maker. Warner says his company can offer much more than that.

“We are a family-run business, and the owners take a very active role in the day-to-day operations,” Warner says. “Because of that, we can offer our customers solutions they need to make their businesses grow. They can rely on us to be sensitive to changes in the industry.”

The business was founded as a cabinet shop in 1965 by Jack Lansford, Sr. Soon after that, the craftsman began to get numerous requests for cabinet doors and drawers. The need for specialization eventually required Lansford to move to a larger location. Some 15 years later, the first plant was opened in Irwindale, Calif.

Decore-ative Specialties now boasts five locations: four in California and the latest manufacturing facility, a 90,000-square-foot building in Monroe, N.C., that marks a move across the country for Decore-ative. Warner says this move helped to expand the company’s sales, with the East Coast facility now accounting for about 35 percent of total sales.

A physical expansion to the Monroe, N.C., plant – from 90,000 to 190,000 square feet – also allowed for more growth. “That facility now has two separate buildings that are connected. We added space for growing the manufacture of wood doors,” Warner notes, adding that this expansion will give the company enhanced capabilities and the capacity to continue to grow in the industry.

Expansion also came in the form of family members working for the business, which included Lansford’s two sons, Jack, Jr. and Eric; each has added his talents to the mix.

“Jack, Jr., our president, an engineer by trade understands the machinery and shop flow,” Warner says. “Eric, our executive vice president, works on the information systems end, and makes everything run.”

Decore-ative’s current employee base of some 1,500 workers also includes a sales force of 45-50 representatives who sell the product, and about 80 customer service professionals that provide service to its customers and process orders.

A cut above the rest
While it has become a leading supplier on many fronts, Decore-ative is seeking to expand into other complementary markets; in particular, the production of closet accessories, identified as a growth market in the face of a savvy homebuyer who wants convenience in every area of the home, right down to the closet.

“New homes, no matter how large or small they are, are often being built with walk-in closets these days,” Warner relates. “It’s something that homeowners see value in. With that has come the increase in popularity of custom closet makers, the folks who design storage spaces for the inside of closets. We’re beginning to sell to them now, and finding that it’s an industry that is really taking off.”

The company also works a great deal with cabinet refacers who perform relaminating, and give cabinets new face frames, doors, drawers and hinges.

Explains Warner, there are many ways in which Decore-ative Specialties is set apart from its competitors, but two highlights include the fact that the company will make cabinet doors or drawers out of “basically anything wood species.”

“We have about 250 door styles, and we can make them out of almost anything a customer requests,” he notes. Materials used include various woods, RTF, laminate and veneer. Decore-ative also makes doors in many designs to meet the needs of customers, Warner says.

A process that gained popularity in the late 1980s and is currently employed by Decore-ative is known as therma foil. Most common in the automotive industry, thermal foil involves routing out MDF and pressing the material over the cabinet door. Decore-ative was one of the first companies to apply this process to the manufacture of custom cabinet doors. Says Warner, it started as a great alternative to a painted door. “Thermal foil now makes up about 28 percent of our business and we now offer a wide variety of woodgrains,” he adds.

Another area in which Decore-ative Specialties stands out from its competitors is in its online order processing system. “Through our Web site, customers can place orders, view orders in production and make payments,” Warner says. “Our customer base is mostly two- to five-man cabinet shops, and we believe in doing anything we can to make their jobs easier,” he adds.

In addition, the company offers a custom-designed order processing system that was built specifically for its use.

“Once the order is placed, it is typed into a program built specifically for our company,” Warner says. “Within hours, the order hits the floor, which is a tremendous boost to our lead time.”

Customers are key
Finesse at cabinet-door making aside, it has been the company’s commitment to customer satisfaction, and working with the customer at every level, that has kept its business strong for many years.

“When I first started working here 10 years ago, I was truly amazed. This company has such a commitment to its customers and employees,” Warner says.

For example, he adds, it’s not uncommon to see upper management sitting out on the loading docks and having lunch with employees. Warner recalled that, while at a trade show, Jack Lansford, Sr. began chatting with a cabinetmaker who also was attending the show. “The next thing I knew, they were working with tools and trading ideas,” Warner says. “That’s how this company operates – it cares a great deal about its customers, and makes every effort to show them that.”

Decore-ative Specialties, he explains, also has a continuing commitment to investing in state-of-the-art technology, and uses only the best quality materials and machinery, as it works alongside architects, designers and cabinet makers to produce aesthetically pleasing and functional products. The combination of technology, homespun craftsmanship and employee respect has carried the company for 39 years and will take it into the future.