Wood-Mode was sold and reopened under a new owner almost 12 months after our initial post in 2019. The company was reorganized, downsized and reopened just before the Covid Pandemic. Wood-Mode seems to be doing well, but I still worry about their business model. Our original post is below:
Post Date May 17, 2019
I was surprised but not shocked when Wood-Mode Custom Cabinetry officially closed their doors and up to 2,000 Pennsylvania workers lost their jobs Monday afternoon. The unfortunate closure is not only a hardship for plant workers and management but also a blow to the regional cabinet dealers that sold Wood-Mode and their semi-custom cabinet line Brookhaven.
The reason for the Wood-Mode closure wasn’t such a surprise to me was that as the owner of a cabinet dealership I closely monitor our industry and try to make adjustments to how we do business almost on a daily basis.
Wood-Mode on the other hand was unchanging in their business model almost to the point of arrogance. When I heard the news of Wood-Mode’s closure, I shook my head and thought back 5 years to when we met with Wood-Mode representatives to discuss Main Line Kitchen Design carrying the Wood-Mode brand.
It was very apparent during those meetings that both companies were taking a very different approach to selling cabinetry. Wood-Mode had little interest in Main Line Kitchen Design’s online marketing strategy or in generating any kind of significant internet presence themselves. Time and efficiency were paramount for me but was not really valued by Wood-Mode. They felt that pricing and designing fine kitchens needed to be done in the systematic fashion they had used for decades and speeding up the process wasn’t needed.
I believe that kitchen designers showing customers what their kitchen will look like in three dimensions and determining how much it will cost as we make changes is essential.
This can be a problem with custom cabinet lines like Wood-Mode because they offer so much customization that using CAD software like 20-20 or ProKitchens to show and price their cabinetry isn’t possible. Pricing a kitchen in these custom lines can be a great deal of work and take a ridiculously long time.
Main Line Kitchen Design solves this problem by designing the highest end kitchens we sell in slightly less expensive cabinet lines and simply making a good guess on how much more the cabinetry in the more expensive custom line will be. We don’t actually know until sometimes weeks after we sell these very expensive kitchens exactly how much money we will make. We live with this problem so that both our time and our customers time can be spent effectively. This time is money concept was lost on the Wood-Mode reps we spoke with. They poo-pooed our technique believing that selling fine cabinetry didn’t require the speed and computer visualizations I did.
The custom cabinet market has suffered the last ten years as semi-custom cabinet lines have continued to offer greater customization. And the difference between fine custom cabinets and less expensive brands is not as obvious in the full overlay painted cabinetry that is very popular today. It is inset and beaded inset cabinetry and the fine furniture stains and other more complex finishes that distinguish the highest end cabinetry from less expensive brands.
The custom lines that will survive in today’s market need to change with the market and recognize that making their products more designer and customer friendly is essential.
This is why we carry and sell both Brighton and Wellsford custom cabinetry. Besides making beautiful cabinetry, both these custom lines make our design process easier. We may not find out how much the custom cabinetry we sell will cost us until weeks after our customers order their kitchens, but our designers and customers spend their time more efficiently and with fewer frustrations. Making the design process easier and more cost effective is one reason that Main Line Kitchen Design has grown over 20% each year we have been in business.
I’m hoping that everyone affected by this sad turn of events adapts and finds new work. Living in a time of rapid change can be both exciting and frightening. Often when something like the Wood-Mode closing occurs, I think of my grandfather who was born before automobiles and yet saw a man land on the moon. He worked for a single company his entire life, starting as a box boy and retiring as a CPA. Today this would almost certainly never happen.
As our society continues to change, I marvel at the changes and root for a better world…
… and as Julia Child a trend setter and culinary pioneer born a little after my grandfather would wish her viewers …
72 Replies to “Wood-Mode Cabinetry Closure Explained by a Changing Cabinet Market.”
I lived in Selinsgrove, PA, and would always visit Wood Mode Cabinetry, in Kreamer, PA, on the way to Middleburg, PA. My “Sista” and best friend lived in Middleburg and her father worked at Wood Mode. Every time I would head out to Middleburg, I would stop in the showroom and drool over the cabinetry. I could no way in heck afford Wood Mode but maybe could afford it now.
I want ultra modern, simple ” THE KISS METHOD,” Keep it simple stupid, and glossy white. I don’t want ThermaFoil and I’m at a loss as what to do. My husband and I live in Hilton Head Island, SC, and I want the modern look. There used to be a Wood Mode dealership in Savannah, GA, my hometown, but it closed down. There is one in Hilton Head.
What do y’all offer? Thanks
pmcalary[ Post Author ]
We sell Wellsford as the full custom brand we carry However we wouldn’t normally sell cabinetry far away. If you want Wood-Mode I’m sure the dealership closest to you will sell it to you.
Is the company Wood Mode still in Business or not ?
I just picked out a sample for the Brookhaven Cabinetry
Finish=Champagne Wood=Cherry Code=58 Stain Finish sample.
But due to the Corvus Virus everything been put on hold..
I wanted to see if I could find a kitchen done in this color/type to see what it would look like.
pmcalary[ Post Author ]
Woodmode is reopening but I would worry buying a kitchen from them.
Dear pmcalary…I’m in ct and love our wood mode kitchen…sent my sister in law to your showroom from haverford and her comment was your salesperson had an attitude her kitchen wasn’t worth her time… Sorry I used to live along the main line… typical attitude… Concentrate on your sales force other than worrying about what would mode may or may not have done correctly
pmcalary[ Post Author ]
Since we do not have a showroom and have no female designers that would meet with a customer in our offices without my speaking with the customer first to review their project, I assume your sister in law met with Main Line Custom Kitchens. She did not contact us if she met a female designer in a showroom. People sometimes confuse our two companies.
I will warn you though that very intentionally we do not work on any project and only assist customers doing complete kitchen renovations or buying cabinetry for new homes. The size of the kitchen or price level of the cabinetry is ALWAYS OK so long as the job is a complete kitchen and is not ready to assemble cabinetry. Some companies will do anything a customer wishes for a price. That is not Main Line Kitchen Design. By only working on complete kitchens we can be very competitive for the cabinetry we sell. Less expensive than home centers for semi custom cabinetry and usually much less for custom cabinetry from other dealers.
I usually screen all of our customers before giving them to one of our designers and explain our companies philosophy. That there are only two strategies that make any sense remodeling a kitchen. Either to do very little and to spend as little as possible or to redesign the kitchen from scratch and do a complete renovation. The less expensive project might involve painting cabinets, keeping most of your appliances and possibly getting inexpensive granite countertops. That project we do not get involved with. The more expensive complete remodel we do and will help a customer happily with any size budget.
We believe spending a large portion of the budget required to do a complete kitchen without getting one is not a wise investment. So we do not get involved in those projects and encourage the people we speak with to make better investments. IE to keep it simple and DIY or to start from scratch. I would not help my own sister spend 10 to 13 thousand dollars to get a kitchen that would not increase the value of her home by the amount she invested when she might spend 25 thousand dollars and then increase the value of her home by far more than her original investment.
Most people understand our philosophy and appreciate my candor, although sometimes people can be insulted. So I wouldn’t want your sister in law to be upset at our not taking her job as well, if she isn’t doing a complete kitchen renovation.
Even when customers want to do complete kitchens we put their interests above the sale. We will not sell a kitchen that is dangerous or if I believe the design a customer insists on buying devalues their home then I will speak to that customer personally to make sure that they understand that we feel their money could be better spent. In that case, again most people appreciate my candor but occasionally some are annoyed and possibly don’t buy a kitchen from us and we refund them their deposit.
So if your sister in law is contemplating a complete kitchen renovation I would be happy to work with her personally. My cell number is 610-500-4071
The Wood-Mode plant is getting ready to reopen. See link below:
Hopefully the new owner Bill French will create a wiser and more up to date business model. He has a great deal to overcome. Among the biggest challenges will be getting back former dealers and bringing on new ones. Creating customer confidence. And bringing back the quality manufacturing personnel that made the line exceptional.
I think a simple preliminary test to Wood-Mode possibly succeeding might be whether they can move into the present and start addressing the fact that they have either no reviews or poor online reviews. If they can’t fix this then they still don’t get it. And there is no hope. Fixing their website and making it current and Google friendly would be a second good sign.
To control the cost of a custom product is merely impossible due to evolution of the learning process of clients which are way too involved in the renovation and the complete incapacity of designers and general contractors to lead the clients.
Beside the cost of the cabinets the horrific part is the cost to assist clients, designers and GCs.
We recently are adopting a more radical approach and we set ourselves out of the construction trades leading the cabinets design and production independently from the construction site. We released documentation to the GCs with clear requirements and we make them accountable for discrepancies. We request designers to provide only the limited aspects of participation to the design process which in 90% of the case is just an adjustment to the color tone of the doors, the handles selections, ADA requirements.
We handle the clients with a series of questions on accessories e organization. We cut the time that we use to spend to complete a project in 1/2.
We also refrain to provide too much info and control to designers at the design stage due to a very bad habit to steal ideas, know how and design concepts to motivate their design fees and then using a simplified version of a product buying from a small millworker.
I’m not sure I’m following you. Sounds like you primarily sell to builders and deal with new construction. I agree that that end of the industry is fraught with poor design and mistakes from the people that order. Holding the people placing orders accountable is always needed. However, as a cabinet dealer and kitchen designer our company is ordering the cabinets from the manufacturer. While we always are willing to pay for our mistakes we would not order from a company that tried to limit our input into our customers designs. In fact we don’t consider the manufacturers capable of assisting us in our designs and only require them to confirm and build our orders from our specifications.
Sounds like you are building cabinets from architectural plans which is always a problem as architects are not kitchen designers and so aren’t familiar with kitchen design and cabinetry issues. The builders we work with are required to accept our design assistance for this reason. Jobs never run smoothly when people that aren’t experts are running them without the assistance they require.
Speaking as a Brookhaven customer I need a showroom and wouldn’t feel comfortable buying cabinetry by looking at a Youtube video. Not for me ITSAdmin! If I can’t see and feel a good representation of the product costing thousands of dollars I wonder “what are they hiding”. I have to see and feel a sense of the drawer bottom thickness and door weight. I have to see the WC shelf thickness. I could determine the difference between a Brookhaven and cheaper cabinetry (Thomasville et al) pot drawer bottom just by tapping and listening. (This done without the brochures confirming after the fact.) Better drawers and pullout shelves don’t jiggle easily. A Youtube video isn’t going to show that. A customer spending tens of thousands for their items will have to live with these and that’s way too much money to be disappointed. Some customers need to “see with their hands”.
Yes MRENEE but a discerning person only needs to see and touch one cabinet in a given line to see how it is constructed. We show all the lines we carry under glass without countertops so customers can see the construction details that are not visible in most showrooms.
Some customers prefer to work with traditional showrooms where they can see complete kitchen and Bath displays, pay a little more, and also often get less constructive advice. Educating customers on both design and construction features does not require full displays so people that require them to make decisions are not listening or trusting their kitchen designer. These customers are especial hard to work with and are one reason that we will never have a large showroom.
Hi Paul, I love your blog, website and philosophy toward design. I just wish you were in my area! I stumbled across your company doing cabinet research as we are unfortunately in the process of having to reconstruct our kitchen due to mold and water damage from our refrigerator. We had Brookhaven overlay cabinets installed 10 years ago and have learned the company went out of business. It seems we were lucky to have loved them and had no issues with the company or product. I’m trying to determine a comparable product—the insurance adjuster’s consultant said Starmark but I’m told it’s not apples to apples. (Cabico was suggested by one design shop I visited.) Would love to have your input as an outside perspective. Thanks in advance!
Upgraded Starmark is a similar quality to Brookhaven. As would be Fieldstone, Medallion, Brighton, and many others. Woodmode full custom was a step up from these lines but not Brookhaven. And they are all great. Woodmode Custom just offered more customisation which almost no one’s kitchen takes advantage of unless they have a big budget and a very experienced kitchen designer.
pmcalary[ Post Author ]
Here is a link to our 2018 cabinet ratings.
Most of your lines we do not know well or rate but we have gotten good feedback from people buying TeddWood.
Thanks for the reply. I made a typo, it should be 3/4”, not 3/8”. I am using Ulrich inc in Ridgewood if we go with DBS or Teddwood. They have very good designers there. They installed our Wood Mode cabinets 20 years ago.
If we go with Honey Brook, the designer is with Home Supply, Inc and has a good reputation.
Are you familiar with Honey Brook Custom Cabinetry, Teddwood Custom or Dover DBS. I am trying to choose between the 3. I was planning on Wood Mode until they closed.
Thank you so much.
john c packard
I am currently planning a kitchen and was planning on Wood Mode. The designer is recommending Dover DBS, TeddWood, Craftmaid (NOT with a “K”), Wood Harbor, Wayneco or Adelphi. All semi custom/custom cabinetmakers. Someone else has recommended Honey Brook Cabinetry.
I am looking for high end cabinets. Framed, inset, beaded door (I have an old farmhouse I am renovating and adding on to). I want all plywood 3/8″, full height sides and backs, Ibeams in dado joint, double cabinet bases with center stiles. I have used WoodMode, and Heritage in the past, both closed now.
Please provide your opinion! Thank you!
pmcalary[ Post Author ]
We would not recommend 3/8″ sides. I suggest you focus on finding a good designer first and a cabinet line second. There are lots of good cabinet choices in your price range but few good designers. You don’t say where you are located but we recommend dealers around the US.
pmcalary[ Post Author ]
We can agree to disagree. Unlike auto dealers where I think customers understand what they are paying for the cabinet industry is far from transparent and customers rely on information from the designer to make decisions. When you only sell one line I think it is harder to have each customers best interest at heart.
I have little respect for the NKBA. And their standards of conduct do not cover many issues I see come up regularly. I find it troublesome that multiple CKD’s have expressed opinions on linkedin such as that as long as a customer’s design is not dangerous they should sell it even if cabinets are unlikely to fit or function. Or that measuring themselves is not needed. Or by having customers sign off on bad ideas and mistakes that they have covered their legal and ethical obligations.
Jerry Hankins, CKD
Paul, We can agree to disagree. I simply thought that your, “…and IMO were no great loss to our industry” comment was unnecessary and sort of mean-spirited. That’s all. If a businessperson chooses to sell only one brand, they’re forcing no one into anything. Homeowners have freewill and will purchase where they feel comfortable, from someone who delivers design results and where budget requirements are met. “Convincing” and coercion are sleazy. We present, they choose. Selling one brand has nothing to do with being a good or bad designer and certainly has nothing to do with “ethics”. Ethical refers to “Moral Character”. If you’re suggesting that auto dealers, cabinet dealers, the Sony store, Apple, etc., who perhaps sell only a specific brand, have issues with “moral character”, I’d ask how did you come up with that? Lastly…“First do no harm” (“do no harm”) isn’t even part of the Hippocratic Oath. That said, not sure how that statement has anything to do with a dealer selling one cabinet line? I think such a statement would be better directed to proper and safe design, safe and proper installations, or knowingly selling inferior product. As someone in the business for 30+ years, I believe our role is to be honest and forthright in all we do for our clientele, from introduction to installation completion, through to servicing any warranty concerns. I believe that the NKBA’s “Standards of Conduct” are pretty clear and say it well.
Jerry Hankins, CKD
“…dealers that only carried Wood-mode were doing a disservice to many of their customers and IMO were no great loss to our industry.”
Ouch! The last was just a bit harsh and professionally speaking, unnecessary.
pmcalary[ Post Author ]
When you only carry one expensive brand of cabinets you automatically force some of your customers into a brand that might be more expensive than a customer’s budget or their project requires. Because of this ethical issues arise. Designers must try to convince customers that spending the extra money makes sense for everyone.
To be a good designer and an ethical dealer I try to treat my customers like I would a family member. If they are on a severe budget or they are selling their home a less expensive brand makes sense. And if they want or thier design calls for custom cabinets or high end semi custom cabinets we also sell those. Whatever their needs we try to be able to help them. Occasionally we don’t sell what a customer wants or their project is one we don’t do and then we try to refer them to a competitor that we know has or does what they are looking for.
As a responsible professional, whatever your profession, the medical creed of “First do no harm” should apply.
Carrying one expensive brand of cabinets makes abiding by that creed next to impossible.
pmcalary[ Post Author ]
Possible glimmer of hope for former Wood-Mode workers. See link below:
I am so glad I did not go with Wood-Mode. I experienced the arrogance associated with the cabinetry primarily at the dealer levels. The showroom was elegant, but any question related to pricing was treated as “Well, if you have to ask, then you don’t really deserve Wood -Mode,” kind of tone. Their pricing for me was $45000 compared to other well-ranked cabinets (from your site) who came in around $21-28,000. That is quite a premium—either on Wood-Mode’s part or I suspect dealer parts who were used to only selling to the very well-heeled who don’t ask questions. And you are correct, Paul—my kitchen style is overlay, with door’s that have some embellishment, but not anything that required major stains and aging. Does this mean that Brookhaven is out the door also? Would be very interested in who you think will bite the dust next. It looks to me like MasterBrands (or is it MasterCraft?) is going to end up owning everybody!
pmcalary[ Post Author ]
Woodmode did make great cabinets but the design, finish, and door style needed to be one that required Wood-Mode’s level of customization for their pricing to make sense. That’s why dealers that only carried Wood-mode were doing a disservice to many of their customers and IMO were no great loss to our industry. Yes a Rolls Royce dealership only sells that brand but no matter what car you get the quality is at that high level. Their was little difference between a Wood-Mode full overlay painted white shaker door in standard sizes and other well made cabinet lines.
Many of the comments were almost entertaining; mostly disturbing. It seemed to be a contest to register the winning complaint. My wife and I were introduced to Wood Mode by a Rickles sales person around 1980. The design we developed was fun to do. The delivery was quick. The quality was fabulous. The service of replacing a few hinges was free and easy. We recommended Wood Mode to all of our friends. I do not understand how this company was unable to continue. Our cabinets always looked great. They were easy to clean and showed no deterioration. It would be helpful to know why new management and new investors were not able to keep this company in operation.
pmcalary[ Post Author ]
I think that the failure was due to the reasons I gave. A failure to change with the times and to hold onto a business model that began to lose money. Wood-Mode got an influx of capitol to help but never addressed why they weren’t making money. And so when they continued to lose money without making the changes that might have been initially possible they were too far in debt to find anyone to bail them out a second time. The dealers and the reps that only sold Wood-Mode were similarly myopic and their shortsightedness made Wood-Mode’s failure twice as bad as it should have been. Putting all your eggs in one basket, and believing your way is the best way even when you are no longer making money your way is simply foolish.
Had my 4th. woodmode / brookhaven (2 and 2) installed in Nov – compared to the first 3 the quality was nowhere near what I had prior. The cabinets were a vintage finish and while I realize that’s hand done – I’ve had it 2x before with great results. This time the local designer is trying to refinish by hand to match – the cabinets are all different colors. The micro cabinet came in wrong 2x – I’m not suprised they are out of business. Very disappointed because at one time it was a great product.
pmcalary[ Post Author ]
I think that had Wood-Mode not gone out of business they would have taken care of the issues you have. The timing was unfortunate.
Elizabeth Gotthard Nathans
It has been very insightful to read all of these comments but extremely heartbreaking as my grandfather was one of the original founders of Wood-Mode (Charles G. Wall, Sr.). He named it Wood-Mode and fought to build and maintain the exquisite craftsmanship it became known for. Mr. Wall worked side-by-side with the employees teaching them how to make cabinetry. He would be heartbroken by what has happened and deeply troubled by the uncertainty the employees face. His family’s thoughts and prayers are with the families and customers who were left stranded. It really is not acceptable to treat people that way. I am fortunate to have a Wood-Mode kitchen.
If you cannot distinguish the differences between quality-made custom and semi-custom cabinetry (from materials, components, construction, finishing, assembly, design otpions), then you should reconsider your role as ‘educator’ of propspective cabinet buyers.
Their is no question that custom made US lines are the highest quality cabinetry. And that high end semi custom and custom cabinet lines have far, far nicer stained, glazed, distressed, and other specialized finishes. There is also absolutely no question that some less expensive US lines that import parts from Asia produce better quality and better looking cabinetry than the less expensive domestic lines. Particularly on painted full overlay cabinetry.
A consumer must spend about 25% more to reach the higher end of the domestic semi custom cabinet market to get as nice a painted cabinet and finish as is available in many US imports. This is just a fact and to believe otherwise is simply being in denial.
It’s interesting that the last few comments have touched on the protectionist thinking that is responsible for many companies not changing with the times. To be successful companies must understand their competition. Companies can not make sensible plans for the future without realistic evaluations of themselves and their competition. Just saying that “the world is going to hell in a handbasket” never helps and is possibly the sign that you are too old to change.
Customers’ spending habit also changing. I see Chinese cabinets in million dollar houses.
To be fair, the cabinetry you are seeing in million dollar homes is usually US brands that are importing cabinet parts and assembling the cabinetry in the US. Because full overlay painted shaker cabinetry is so easy to manufacture and popular, these brands can be nearly as well constructed and as nice as high end semi custom US companies that are not importing parts.
It’s not that people like cheaper things it is that less expensive imported US assembled cabinetry has leapfrogged less expensive domestic lines in quality. Tariffs have closed the gap some but factories are now moving from China to Vietnam and Mexico to continue to undersell strictly US domestic lines. Personally I am OK with better made less expensive products wherever they come from. Trying to stop and prop up failing industries is not the answer. The answer is being on the forefront of change.
Apple is a successful US company directly and indirectly employing 304,000 US workers but has almost all of it’s technology produced in Asia. Most of our clothing and other technology is also made overseas. I don’t think the answer is paying $2,500 for an iPhone or $150 for a pair of jeans by becoming a protectionist country. It is continuing to do what the US has been known for almost a hundred years – innovation! In the 1960’s Made in Japan was the threat now it is Made in China. We should be investing in the future not frightened and living in the past. The country that embraces solar technology and other clean energy sources along with new solutions to our changing climate will have the economic advantage in the future.
I am a small woodworking shop and contractor. I read all these comments and feel that yes things are changing in kitchen design and sales. Unfortunately what customers today feel is good workmanship is computer images and youtube videos. Gone are the days when quality work really means quality work. Successful sales and design to me is not where quality work shows in cabinetry. Yes I am older and have seen changes in the contracting industry, but also see a lot less QUALITY work being done out there. I agree that is what the consumer wants now a days but still don’t see it as any better quality. It is going to become the box store of home improvements.
pmcalary[ Post Author ]
Up to around 1950 most cabinetry was well made even if the designs were terrible. By the 1970’s most new and renovated kitchens were getting terribly made cabinetry except for the highest end homes that got custom cabinetry. Since that time cabinetry overall has only improved. In fact some inexpensive import lines use better tracks, hinges, and drawer boxes than some custom lines from 25 years ago. I see cabinetry continuing to get better in leaps and bounds for the lower price point cabinetry that most consumers can only afford. The best custom lines are still great but sold less and less not because people don’t value the difference but because the semicustom lines just get better and better and so choosing custom lines is sometimes not the best bang for the busk. Particularly in the popular painted finishes that make it almost impossible to tell the difference between the best lines and good lines in all dorstyles except inset and beaded inset.
As a designer, cabinet shop owner, once dealer of W-M (still a dealer of other lines) I, unlike you, was shocked, surprised and saddened by the closure news. That said, I haven’t been keeping tabs on them in recent years.
I feel bad for the dedicated employees, many dealers and for the communities surrounding the plant who’ll be impacted by the loss of nearly 1,000 jobs.
I can’t even imagine being a dealer who dedicated ALL to Wood-Mode, putting all their eggs in one basket. Shortsighted on their part for sure but, nonetheless I feel bad for them.
As far as “arrogance” … could be perceived as such by some, but I didn’t see it that way. As far as MLK not becoming a W-M dealer. Maybe it just wasn’t a good fit … for them either. Six lines IMHO is too many, but hey … that’s just me. I think 3 (maybe 4) is a good magic number that hopefully gives each Mfg a piece of the cake. Believe it or not, some dealers will bring on a line with intentions in capitalizing on who that line can bring though the dealers door … then perhaps move them into another brand.
That said, I’m also not a fan of “cost-effective” imports that are made “off shore” (er-ah China), that are flat-shipped, assembled in the US … in some instances promoted and sold as a US-Made cabinet. But again, that’s me.
As far as custom … yes, tough market given some Mfg’s promote themselves as “custom”, offering a more cost conscious product, not-so-custom than others. Smaller shops have also impacted the large custom Mfg’s eating into their market share as well.
As far W-M … unlike you, I have no crystal ball (kudos to you) … but do think complacency and bad choices brought them to where they are today.
I also agree with someone elses post re: 20/20. I tried it and a host of other PHD (push here dummy) programs that I opted to part with. I am AutoCAD and SketchUp. Total capabilities far more broad and non-limiting, other than no simultaneous pricing, which isn’t an issue. BTW… W-M’s pricing software worked well, transmitting the order to the factory and Wall & Walsh for review and acknowledgement.
With regard to not knowing how much you’ll make as a company until 2-weeks after signing a contract and ordering the cabinets. I’ve been doing this 30+ years (nope, not over 60 years old eithet) and can’t even wrap my brain around that practice. As a potential consumer, tells me you’ve padded the $$$ so not to lose your arse from not doing the necessary work on the front end. If it works for you, thumbs up. We work from a cost-plus basis, versus the shooting from the hip. I know what it’s going to cost me, in turn, clients know they’re not receiving a dart-on-the-dart-board price.
I am not confident the former W-M (as we know it) will live again. If I were a betting person, the creditors will liquidate it all and the Wood-Mode name will sold, to be resurrected in another, already established facility.
In the meantime, your savvy blog can continue to be relevant in Google searches for “Wood-Mode”, whereby driving traffic to your MLK website. Kudos!!
I disagree with most of your approach to designing and selling kitchen cabinets. That said it’s OK to disagree and there are many ways to be a successful designer and dealer. You are wrong about some things though. Our company is in fact very reasonable for all the cabinetry that we sell as a direct result of the way we do business. Using 20-20 and ProKitchens and pricing as you design is not “push here dummy”, I believe it is the most time efficient, cost effective, and design oriented way to design and sell kitchens.
Main Line Kitchen Design has increased it’s sales at least 25% per year for 9 consecutive years in an industry that has been stagnant for most dealers. This is because we are innovative and as you note use Google and our blog effectively.
I had my Brookhaven cabinetry recently installed in March. Due to a manufacturing problem that was considered very unusual all the panels and door fronts peeled paint. We reordered them through our dealer on a warrantee. They were scheduled for install on Jun 3, 2019 which did not happen, as the order was nearly finished but trapped in the closed factory. My dealer cannot get a response from Woodmode. I have not installed my appliances as the custom hood was defective and we were waiting for it to be replaced along with the cabinet faces and panels. So now I face having paid for the whole kitchen and have no way to complete it if the factory does not reopen.
I wish the management would allow the nearly complete order to be sent to me, if there was any way. I am without my kitchen and cannot move forward without the replacement parts. It affected my whole kitchen.
Sorry you got caught in the Wood-Mode Closure. I doubt they will ever reopen or even answer a phone call much less ship anything. You don’t say where you are but around here a company like Guardsman furniture refinishers would be a good solution. They could take away all the doors and refinish them
Paul , You make some good points about Woodmode possibly not keeping up with the times from a management standpoint, However, the product Brookhaven and Woodmode were amazing and very current and even ahead of he curve. If the designer ordered on time the cabinets were always ready in 7 to 9 weeks . The company had wonderful quality control and was stellar when it came to replacing pieces for warranty work. As one of their top dealers in the country, I found it very easy and helpful to work with the local rep’s office. Someone experienced with custom cabinets did not have to guess what it was going to cost after they ordered it. If we did have an unusual piece Woodmode had a help desk to give you pricing within 24 to 48 hours . I have sold over 2000 Woodmode and Brookhaven rooms in suburbs of Philadelphia and because of my experience I could ball park right when the client was sitting in my show room. Maybe that is where the sixty year old seasoned designer had an advantage! As a dealer you could set your teeth on the company: the wonderful employees and production people and talented designers who sold the cabinet line. The cabinets lasted !! We would go back into kitchens my father did 50 years ago and be able to replace doors, order appliance panels and get any replacements we needed— Woodmode was a wonderful company – and that is why true Woodmode dealers were “like a cult” as you put it. When something was so good .. why would we change it ? I think that the third generation upper management blew it – over extended themselves and certainly were not transparent with employees,
dealers and reps. Additionally, as a dealer we had a protected territory, so Woodmode typically would not give the line to someone without a showroom or who sold cabinets online. As a designer our showroom was paramount in showing clients not only all the accessories available but we could show them in a real space how their kitchens could operate. Just can’t do that with a drawing and a door sample.
That said, by selling without a showroom, you can keep your overhead down. Times are changing like you said. These are good debates and discussions.
I know your company and your reputation as an accomplished designer is well known. I am 61 and have been in the industry for 35 years. I can ball park a kitchen and and installation very accurately but using 20-20 or Prokitchens and showing customers changes in real time today is a must.
Even my experienced guesses are not going to be as accurate as upcharging a less expensive line in 20-20 and using a multiplier. And while Wood-Mode was a great product there are many custom cabinet lines equally well made. I also think you are talking about a Wood-Mode of old.
I find that having a showroom is not an advantage any longer which is why we work out of office locations not open to the general public. It’s not the location overhead that is costly it is how much time is wasted talking to walk-ins before even measuring their kitchen and so being able to discuss design possibilities. I can pull up a Magic Corner, Pantry Pull Out, Mixer base, or other accessory on line in a Youtube video and show it on a flat screen TV just as fast as walking across a showroom floor. And what I can show customers is as limitless as the internet.
We show each of the 8 cabinet lines we carry under glass so customers can see how the cabinets are made. We don’t feel we need to wow with displays that don’t represent the customers actual design. If customers wants to see styles or designs this is what Houzz.com is useful for with photos of half a million kitchens. We are fine only being able to show hundreds of door styles and finishes.
Working on the design itself in 3D is what we focus on. It’s the best representation of what the customers kitchen will actually look like completed. I find that customers that need more than this can’t see the forest through the trees and can be hard to work with because of this.
Change is inevitable. We can either oppose it or learn to live with it. Changes which doesn’t affect our core values are welcomes to change. And in business, to change with time is how one lasts. Wood-mode seems to have had a great history but couldn’t remain coz they couldn’t accept change. Hopefully, other companies learn from them.
I recently completed a kitchen remodel. When I walked into Wode-Mode’s showroom with my husband and two young children. We were spoken to in a rude manner and treated as if we did not belong in the store. I had informed the lady that we were in the process of starting a remodel and were interested in getting a quote. She took my information and surprisingly no one ever called me. I made no effort to reach out to them despite the fact that they were my favored company prior to my store experience. We had custom cabinets made by New Style Caninets in Chicago with no regrets. I am not surprised they are out of business if they treat potential new customers poorly.
pmcalary[ Post Author ]
Unfortunately along with a great kitchen you sometimes got “attitude” at Wood-Mode Dealerships.
I am Wood-mode!
To all who have commented on Wood-Mode, I was a valued employee, just as shocked as all of you folks. I worked there with pride knowing I was part of something special. As part of a 2000 plus workforce at one time. We are not just a bunch of dumb PA farmers just doing a job. We have the knowledge and skill that it took Wood-Mode to be a leader. Management had old-fashioned values and procedures which lead to our demise. Employee’s and dealers are devastated beyond fathom. To all people that own 100’s of thousands of cabinets with my hand print on them, I say. THANK YOU.. when I think of you getting up in the morning admiring your cabinets…it makes me smile.I AM WOOD_MODE!
pmcalary[ Post Author ]
I’m sorry about the plant. You should be proud that everyone in our industry thought of Wood-Mode as the highest quality fine cabinetry. And yes “You are Wood-Mode!”.
It is the people that create, either in making the fine cabinetry or in designing beautiful kitchens that can feel pride in their accomplishments. As dealers, reps, or manufacturers we are needed cogs in this creative process but we do not create and so are not truly responsible for the happiness that makes you and the people enjoying your kitchens smile.
I’m shocked that any kitchen dealer, would price out a kitchen with an inexpensive line, then guess what a custom cabinet line would cost, not knowing how much you will make until after delivery. I can’t believe you could stay in business of any kind if you are guessing at your costs and using price guessing to sell any kind of product. I have used Advanceware’s software for Cabinets By Nichols, which is a full custom line, as well as for Conestoga for parts when I build my own line of cabinetry, and there is never any guessing about cost and profits.
pmcalary[ Post Author ]
I guess the fact that the explanation is shocking to you shows how far apart we are as dealers. Far from just just staying in business our company has grown at a rate of over 20% each year for the last 9 years at the same time many of our competitors have struggled, or in some cases, gone out of business. We ARE good guessers which helps make this business model work. But we are innovative in so many ways that we are unique in this and in many regards.
The marketing theory called the Blue Ocean Strategy from the book written in 2004 by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne compares typical business competitors to sharks feeding in an ocean churned red in a feeding frenzy with the blood of prey. The theory is that it is actually harder to feed in the red ocean than in a blue ocean free of competitors. At Main Line Kitchen Design we try to be a blue ocean company and so if our competitors don’t understand our strategies it simply confirms to us that all is blue.
Paul, your article hit the nail on the head. We received perhaps one of the last Wood-Mode kitchens delivered. Our cabinets were delivered in two shipments, May 6th and May 13th, 2019. The design process was archaic, took forever, and showed no respect for our time. Now the cabinets are installed, and look beautiful, except for doors that were made incorrectly. My belief is that if Wood-Mode used a modern design system, these doors would not have been made wrong. Clearly they operated like they were still in the 1980’s and the world passed them by. A real shame for the 1000 workers and additional suppliers who will be adversely impacted. The owners clearly ran Wood-Mode into the ground by lack of vision and incompetence.
pmcalary[ Post Author ]
Certainly if the ordering process was more modern mistakes would be easier to catch and people’s patience wouldn’t be tried. With these complex custom orders mistakes or misunderstandings between the designer and factory can still happen, but thinking these things through and getting complex orders right is what makes our job as a kitchen designers challenging and rewarding.
As recent Wood-Mode and Brookhaven customers, my wife and I find it completely unsurprising that Wood-Mode shuttered. The company refused to provide great customer service with quick turnaround times (quick would be getting replacement parts and cabinets in less than 3 to 9 months). Wood-Mode also failed to properly comprehend their product lines as they intersected different pieces of Blum hardware and so in the end left an extraordinarily bad impression on us.
We are immensely pleased that we were able to finally finish the years-long after sale “fix” process before this debacle. Our kitchen, bathroom and built-in cabinetry is for the most part top-notch and attempting to replace the high-gloss and two-step hand finishes with cabinets from another vendor would likely prove difficult and expensive.
In addition, we are saddened to hear in the days leading up to the shut down, Wood-Mode cashed huge checks from their distributors (ours included) for cabinet orders not yet in production. That move is completely unethical. Many lawsuits to follow for sure.
pmcalary[ Post Author ]
I hadn’t heard about the checks. We did hear that dealers got no word, warning, or even after closure any comunication. Sometimes dealers make errors that get blamed on the cabinet line but in Wood-Mode’s case making the ordering process overly involved could have even contributed to dealer delays.
Ready RTA Cabinets Store
Cool Blog, you give awesome renovation tips. Thanks to you I only work with an RTA Cabinet Store for my kitchen renovations.
pmcalary[ Post Author ]
While you may have been reading our blog, you have missed the most important advice that we give.
Namely that much like a defendant who represents himself at trial has a fool for an attorney, a homeowner that designs his own kitchen has a fool for a kitchen designer. The best investment in a kitchen renovation isn’t saving 20% on RTA cabinets and then having to put them together yourself. The best investment is always finding and working with a talented kitchen designer from beginning to end.
What a waste spending $25,000 and up renovating a home and saving possibly only $1000 on the least expensive cabinetry that has to be assembled, and so assuring that your kitchen design is created by and coordinated by an unskilled amateur. Worst of all, nearly all accomplished kitchen designers will tell you that a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing in our profession. And so, the absolute worst designs we see come from architects, contractors, real estate agents, interior designers or novice kitchen designers who firmly believe that they don’t need any help. In fact how sure someone is that they don’t need any help is directly proportional to how much help that they actually need. See this video..
Using RTA cabinetry is always a bad investment in my opinion even though several RTA cabinet lines can be well constructed if done correctly.
The RTA designs we see are worse than poor they are usually laughable. A bad kitchen design and a disorganized renovation almost guarantees that a homeowner gets very little financial return on their investment while a well designed kitchen and professionally run renovation can increase the value of a home multiple times the amount invested.
The key to the success vs the failure is finding a talented kitchen design professional. The best part is that Kitchen Designers usually work free of charge for you because their time is incorporated into the assembled cabinetry that you buy from them. In buying RTA cabinets you not only saved the cost of an experienced factory worker building your cabinets but you also eliminated the design and renovation help available to you free of charge.
If you think saving 20% on cabinets and losing all these advantages and having to build your own cabinets is a good idea then please stop reading our blog – it is not helping you as nothing we say seems to be getting through to you.
I was wondering if it is sometimes “weeks” before you know how much money you make on a kitchen is due to the fact that after delivery there can be changes, re-orders of damaged cabinets etc. Knowing the total profit isn’t known until the project is 100% completed?
That has been my experience anyhow!
pmcalary[ Post Author ]
No ordering very high end kitchens with a great deal of customizations means that pricing can’t be done easily. Hand drawings are often needed to email or fax back and forth with the manufacturer to make sure very specific details are agreed upon and it sometimes takes weeks for the cabinet company to give us a final price before we know what the cost will be. We have already sold the kitchen before we begin waiting on all of these details.
You are right that most kitchens have reorders and sometimes damages or mistakes after delivery that can cost money. But that is a completely different issue.
Peggy O’Rourke, AdvanceWare, Inc.
Thank you, Paul, for mentioning our company, AdvanceWare. A little known fact is that WoodMode signed on with us in 2014, but never found enough value in putting forth the effort to implement. They moved forward at a snail’s pace often not making the implementation a priority. I think, as long as orders were coming in, they didn’t see changing to our system a priority. We tried for many years to gain momentum with the project, but always felt it wasn’t a priority with those at the top. I’m not saying our software would have made a difference, but I think it’s an example of exactly what you are saying. If, you don’t roll with the tide, you will be swept away.
pmcalary[ Post Author ]
Yes I spoke with a designer that sold Wood-Mode and she complained that the Wood-Mode pricing system was a pain and that the 20-20 catalog for Brookhaven was not even close to the actual pricing you got with the Wood-Mode pricing system. She also found Wall and Walsh to be difficult to deal with as I did. The fact that Wood-Mode didn’t change to AdvanceWare is symptomatic and I wouldn’t be surprised if when Advanceware tried to help implement your software if you got a little attitude along with the foot dragging.
Interesting perspectives, but in some quite incorrect. Having personally worked with Wood-Mode for many years, yes in many ways they were old fashioned, but in others very on the mark with color, style and product trends.
The biggest one Paul that you have wrong, is any dealer could utilize any means they desired to create they kitchens they sold. Second point incorrect, they had an extremely efficient web based computer pricing program for dealers, so any dealer could know exactly how much that design would cost them. Thus allowing them to be in control of there profit margin.
Do not speak of what you do not know. Not saying there were not some issues obviously, but check your facts before misinforming the public.
pmcalary[ Post Author ]
I disagree cabinet girl and I think that you aren’t aware how dealers working with customers is normally done outside of the Pennsylvania Custom Market.
Some examples of how backward Wood-Mode was:
We are a small company and our company got far more web traffic that Wood-Mode.
In our area all cabinetry was sold and priced thru a third party middleman rep named Wall and Walsh and since cabinet pricing wasn’t done thru 20-20 or Prokitchens you would not know how design changes were affecting pricing in real time. The sophisticated software you speak of is in fact quite antiquated and not the preferred method to price kitchens for the people who design them. Pricing systems like Advanceware are used by many custom lines and by older designers many of who don’t use 20-20 or ProKitchens. Wall and Walsh also priced out many of the Woodmode kitchens for their dealers and they never hurried.
You apparently work for the Wood-Mode exclusive third party rep for the central US so I think you are biased. Most reps today are independent reps and so wouldn’t be out of a job when one of the lines they represented went out of business. This same myopic approach was unfortunately also copied by many Wood-Mode dealers so that when Wood-Mode went under they had nothing else to sell.
Wood-Mode was not in the opinion of many kitchen design experts on the mark with color, style, or certainly in product trends. This coupled with old equipment and debt load is why they couldn’t be sold.
It seems there are several design perspectives in evidence here. Most clients in the market for a custom or semi-custom kitchen just want a good-looking, well-crafted, well-functioning, and durable kitchen at the lowest price and as quickly as possible. Hence the persistence of the current fashion for paint finish.
But there will always be a boutique market for ultra-high-end work whose design and creation qualifies as artwork that reinvents the medium and tolerates no limits to time, expense, or other limitations on process. In such a setting, a rendering of the installation in watercolor or meetings with a silversmith regarding hardware might not seem peculiar. I suspect this might be the realm inhabited by DesignerPlus.
Different strokes for different market sectors. However, if you are running a shop that does several hundred sets a week, you don’t have time to involve yourself in the “spatiality” and “materiality” of someone’s “built environment”. You need to get good quality product built precisely to order and shipped before the beginning of the holiday season. And for that, you need to have your foot to the floor on the latest tech.
I know central Pennsylvania. It’s a very backwards area where most people just want to do what they have always done in the past. So I’m not entirely surprised that things went south for Wood-Mode.
pmcalary[ Post Author ]
I think you are right about the highest end of the cabinet market thinking that way however I don’t find the best designers at the highest end of the market. Often sales people that talk to the very wealthy are most interested in selling themselves and the most expensive products over creating the best designs. This is also why many don’t even know design software that takes a very short time to learn. The best designs are always arrived at when kitchen designers are willing to say no to bad ideas and steer customers towards the best investments in their overall kitchen. This is true whether the kitchen costs $20,000 or $300,000. The best designs also require more than just money, they require the investment of the customer’s time. Only customers can decide what things they want to splurge on and what they want to save on when we show them both samples and 3D renderings.
This very high end market with champagne meetings and 100K+ cabinet orders is more about convincing the customer that you are sort of like a fashion designer for kitchens then knowing about cabinets, kitchen design, and the construction needed to truly be a great designer.
That market was also not Wood-Mode’s customer base. That market gravitates towards the frameless European contemporary styles popular with the architects that usually are the contact point between the wealthiest home owners and the kitchen designer.
I was shocked… I felt like they were a solid cabinet company with a huge following. I am relieved to have 8 cabinet lines to sell from so no risk of having a showroom filled with discontinued product.
@Designer Plus – what sort of renderings do you show your clients? Are you using any kind of software? I am only familiar with 2020 and the improvements over the years have made the program quite good for showing kitchens in 3D. I have no experience with anything else, so I am just curious..
pmcalary[ Post Author ]
Yes it seems so sensible having several lines to work with across all price points. Why so many Wood-Mode dealers only carried Wood-Mode is sad but short sighted. One of our reps that reps several different lines said the vibe he got when he stopped into some Wood-Mode showrooms was almost cult-like.
Usually designers that don’t use 20-20 or Prokitchens sell only custom cabinetry and do floor plans and elevations by hand. Some will use Sketchup or ChiefArchitect but even if they do they are not pricing the kitchen as they design. Many custom lines use Advanceware software to price kitchens or simply do everything by hand. The designers that sell this way can pride themselves (as Designerplus does) on not using the technology that any kitchen designer that sells semi custom cabinetry must use.
Of course only selling custom cabinets this way limits you. Being proud that you are limited is exactly the mentality that killed Wood-Mode in my opinion. And thinking that software that costs a fraction of the price of 20-20 or Prokitchens is better or that not using any software at all is some how more sophisticated is taking pride in your lack of versatility. That mentality frustrates me and it’s why I was so harsh with Designerplus.
Wow, couldn’t be more wrong!
Dear writer, As a designer with and seller of high-end cabinetry for over 22 years now I feel I need to say that I couldn’t find your article any farther off base. A truly high-end kitchen design is almost always cheapened by the use of hack software such as 20-20. True designers and real salespeople don’t need the support of slam together programs like 20-20. I am also shocked at your comment in regards to the fact that you don’t understand your profit margin sometimes for weeks after you have sold a project. That sounds like a recipe for disaster if you ask me. My advice to you is if you want to be successful in the truly high end cabinetry market that you need to slow down, understand your client and your project before letting a wham-bam program like 20-20 dictate your design so fast that you don’t even have the time to u understand the cost of any given project. Caution my friend!
pmcalary[ Post Author ]
My magic eight ball believes that you are over 60 years of age and could fall victim to the same kitchen design philosophy that sunk Wood-Mode. You are 20 years behind the times, but the last 5 has brought the issue to a head.
Magic Eight Ball says “Prepare for retirement”.
As a former owner of a Wood-mode dealership myself, none of this surprises me. I dropped them a year ago and never looked back.
pmcalary[ Post Author ]
Good for you Stuart. One thing that really surprises me is how many Wood-Mode dealers only carried Wood-Mode and so when the company went under they had no other cabinetry to sell their customers. And they now have expensive showrooms with all the displays in a line that no longer exists. So the dealers themselves were just as short sighted as Wood-Mode. We have always sold at least 6 cabinet lines for precisely this reason. It is crazy to put all your eggs in one basket so to speak.
Paul ~ Very thoughtfully written article and bravo to you for having the foresight Wood Mode did not. The list is long of companies that won’t adapt to our changing times. As an example, the mall in the town where I live is a mere shadow of its former self. It sounds like you have what consumers are looking for – I wish you the best!
pmcalary[ Post Author ]
It actually isn’t that uncommon in the cabinet world. Pennsylvania has many custom cabinetry manufacturers. Most make high end very beautiful custom cabinets. But manufacturing expensive high end things can breed a superior attitude that you are smarter, more sophisticated, and know better. This attitude is dangerous in a industry that is changing rapidly because by believing your own hype you are less likely to reconsider how you do business. The smartest person in the room is often the one humble enough to admit that she or he doesn’t know.