Wood-Mode Cabinetry closure explained by a changing cabinet market.

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.

wood mode plant
Wood-Mode plant

The reason the 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.

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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 on line marketing strategy or in generating any kind of significant internet presence themselves. Time and efficiency was 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.

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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.

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bala cynwyd

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.

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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.

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Brighton Custom Kitchen

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.

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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 …

Bon Appetit!

Paul

72 Replies to “Wood-Mode Cabinetry closure explained by a changing cabinet market.”

  1. Dorothy Rockwell

    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

    1. 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.

  2. Audrey Stewart-Danka

    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.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Woodmode is reopening but I would worry buying a kitchen from them.

  3. Philip Palilla

    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

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Philip,
      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

  4. Paul McAlary

    Update:
    The Wood-Mode plant is getting ready to reopen. See link below:

    https://wnep.com/2019/08/08/snyder-county-cabinetry-plant-wood-mode-to-reopen/

    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.

  5. Moro

    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.

    1. ITSAdmin

      Hi Moro,
      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.

  6. MRENEE KENT

    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”.

    1. ITSAdmin

      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.
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      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.

  7. Amy Neary

    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!

    1. ITSAdmin

      Hi Amy,
      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.

  8. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

    Here is a link to our 2018 cabinet ratings.
    https://www.mainlinekitchendesign.com/general/kitchen-cabinet-ratings-for-2018-updated-reviews-for-the-top-selling-cabinet-brands/
    Most of your lines we do not know well or rate but we have gotten good feedback from people buying TeddWood.

  9. Daren

    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.

  10. john c packard

    well stated.

  11. Daren

    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!

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Daren,
      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.

  12. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

    Hi Jerry,
    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.

  13. 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.
    – J.H.

    https://nkba.org/info/about/standards-of-conduct

  14. 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.

    – J.H.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Jerry,
      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.
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      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.
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      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.

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