Zeeland Cabinet Maker Expanding

June 6, 2008
| By Pete Daly |
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ZEELAND — They must be doing something right at Woodways Inc.

Or maybe the Michigan economy is improving.

Or maybe it's a combination of both.

The 17-year-old cabinet manufacturing company, which has relied on home construction and remodeling for about 75 percent of its business, is expanding despite the serious slump in new home construction.

Tim Waterway, founder and co-owner of Woodways, said Lamar Construction of Hudsonville is building an 11,000-square-foot addition to the plant, located south of Zeeland off Adams Street. Waterway said the addition is scheduled for completion by the end of June but is ahead of schedule.

When finished, the addition will "about triple our manufacturing space," he said. He anticipates increasing the current work force of 10 people to about 15 within the next 12 months. The expansion will also increase the size of the plant’s showroom.

Waterway, who manages the plant, owns the business with Volker and Suzanne Rudnitzki.

"We have seen a decline in new construction in the residential" category, said Waterway, and he conceded that the last few years have been "difficult." But he said Woodways is busy now despite the weak Michigan economy and the drop in new home construction, because the company is versatile in a number of ways, and has its own niche.

"Our niche is our custom cabinet capabilities that allow us to build a 'wow' kitchen from zebra wood or European ash, as well as a simple laminate-faced laundry or mud room, all in our shop," he said.

He also said that remodeling orders have picked up, which compensates for the drop in new home cabinetry orders.

Woodways has developed its own cabinet line specifically for builders that is less expensive than custom cabinetry and "compares with some of the name-brand cabinets out there."

Waterway said his company can produce cabinets that compete with those sold by the "big box" stores. One way it has kept costs down and quality up is by expanding its machinery to include a CNC machine, which has boosted production and efficiency.

The big boxes really haven’t been that much of a threat, he said.

"We have always been in kind of the mid- to high range for our clients, and the builder series is where it's getting us more competitive with them. But we are able to offer any color, any door style and any size, and usually with less lead time. We're right here."

Woodways is also "going in the direction of an all green" product line, noted Waterway. He said that includes involvement in commercial construction projects that are intended to qualify for a LEED rating, using wood that is certified by the international Forest Stewardship Council.

The new addition to the firm’s facility will provide a much larger and very efficient finishing department, Waterway said. The company is switching to water-based finishes and less use of solvent-based finishes that can reduce air quality through the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). "And it ends up being a nicer finish, harder than the solvent-based products," said Waterway.

Of the cabinet shops located in or near Holland, Woodways is one of the larger ones. All employees are considered woodworking craftsmen, Waterway said, even though in general that career specialty is "a dying breed."

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