Volume 48, Issue 4 - June/July/August 2009

feature

Millwork Runs Deep

Company President Makes His Own Mark in the Building Industry
by Samantha Carpenter, editor of Shelter magazine.

It was only natural for Dudley Schaefer Jr. to open a millwork dealership in suburban Memphis. Millwork was in his blood. He had run Schaefer Sash and Door in Cordova, Tenn., with his father, Dudley Sr. for nearly 20 years before being bought out and attempting to make his own mark on the millwork industry.

“It was about 16 months in between [when I left Schaefer and started Grandview]. I had looked at some other things, but this was all I’d ever done, so I kept on coming back to the millwork business,” Schaefer Jr. explains.

Four of the six people who originally started Schaefer Sash and Door left that millwork distribution business to start Grandview, nine years ago. Today, the company has expanded to 25 employees and moved into its current 30,000-square-foot location at 3400 Brother Blvd. in Bartlett, Tenn., in September 2004.

As with any company in the millwork business, Grandview has seen its share of hard times in this down economy, but Schaefer Jr. feels they have been fortunate compared to other dealers around the country who have had to close their doors.

“We’ve only laid off one person, and that was last year and the person offered to take leave,” Schaefer Jr. says. “The guys in the back have cut back from 40 hours to 36. They’ll work four 9-hour days. We’ve just cut back everywhere else we could. We try to keep everybody working.”

Grandview did recently up its employee count, when Schaefer Jr.’s father’s business closed in February of this year. It added three salespeople from Schaefer Sash and Door as well as Dudley Sr., and Schaefer Jr. says he wishes he could have hired everyone from there, but the slow economic times would not allow it.

Schaefer Jr. says his father has been a real asset to the company.

“Everyday, he either goes out to lunch with [a customer] or goes to their jobs. He also takes our salespeople out to meet people he knows,” Schaefer Jr. explains. And in July, Grandview spanned three generations when Schaefer Jr.'s son, Michael, began working at the company. He runs the warehouse, receiving and handles the local buying functions.

 

Stiffer Competition
“Business has improved over the last three months, but it has a long way to go,” Schaefer Jr. says. “The starter market is still terrible. In the high-end spec market, they have started a few homes and the custom market is okay. The problem is that when somebody starts something, there are probably still eight people selling millwork in Memphis, and all eight are out there trying to get the jobs. When times are busy, you might just be competing against one other guy, but now, you’re competing against everybody.”

But Schaefer Jr. does have a strategy for dealing with this competition.

“I like to think that we can beat them on quality and service,” says Schaefer Jr.

The company has a turnaround of one to two days, and he also says the fact that his company buys from family businesses is a benefit to him and his customers. “It keeps business consistent,” he says.

But what is Grandview doing to get new customers?

Schaefer Jr. says it’s mainly through old-fashioned pavement-pounding—calling on slabs, calling on builders, calling on referrals and calling on current customers. The company also gets a report of daily permits.

“We’ll call on them that way, and if it’s an individual building a house, we’ll call on them, too,” Schaefer Jr. explains.

Grandview’s employees believe in going out of its way for customers. “It’s nothing for us to make deliveries if somebody needs it, we’ll do it—if it’s after hours or before hours,” Schaefer Jr. says. “The whole crew is pretty good about that. They’ll deliver something on their way home. Whatever it takes.”

And Schaefer Jr. isn’t just boasting that his employees do these things. His customers recognize it as well.

Jimmy Lovitt of Wright-Lovitt Custom Homes in Lakeland, Tenn., has been buying from Grandview since it opened.

“We are delighted to have them as a supplier. We’ve done business with them for many years. They have excellent products and an excellent staff; their deliveries are always on time. Our experience with them has just been outstanding,” Lovitt says.


An Up and Down Market
Schaefer Jr.’s current strategies seem to be working; the company’s revenue for last year was about $3.5 million.

“I think it will be back up next year, and I’m hoping we’ll be up at least 15 percent. The last few months, we’ve been up a little more than that, but it is still kind of up and down.”

He’s says the ups and downs of the market are the most frustrating part of business right now.

Despite the hard times, Grandview is just doing business as usual—which includes focusing on service and high-end products.

“It’s only natural,” Schaefer says.

Company Name:
Grandview Window and Door
Location:
Bartlett, Tenn.
2008 Sales Revenue:
$3.5 million
Facility Size:
30,000 square feet
Transportation:
Five company-owned trucks


Shelter
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