American Heirlooms - April 2019


APRIL 2019


I like to let our woodworking speak for itself. When we’re asked to quote a prospective project, often we’ll include samples of our work and invite potential customers into our shop. Giving a tour of the place — letting someone see our precision workmanship and feel the smooth finish on each of our pieces — that’s the most effective tool we have. Recently I had the opportunity to quote a cabinet job. At first blush, I appeared to be up against some very stiff competition. From my perspective, the competing price was scary low while the features were scary good. There were a lot of quality elements that we would have included in our cabinetry, including soft-close doors and comparable framing. When I saw that list of elements (and the price), I thought, “Wow, this is going to be a tough nut to crack!” But when I investigated further, I discovered there was one component that had been deleted from this comparison: the craftsman. I was competing against a carpentry kit. It didn’t come with assembly. You know what they say: “There ain’t no free lunch!” This situation is actually fairly common, and it’s thought-provoking. For those who are not craftsmen, purchasing your own kit can appear on the surface to be a smart and frugal choice. Yet you end up paying more than you bargained for because that kit also comes with the inevitability of having to ask a buddy to help you, supplying refreshments and/or payment, and possible costly repairs

and rework later. When you don’t have the right tools or knowledge of the correct process, the chances for problems increase greatly. You could be missing some information, need to buy expensive tools, or have to source custom fasteners and other items. A craftsman is the “secret sauce” that pulls all of these disparate pieces together with great precision and experience.

Often, we’ll show the prospective customer

the difference in quality that we offer and try to educate them to make the best choice for their home. We always hope they’ll make the safe choice and go with the craftsman. However, all we can do is provide a customer with the facts and stand back to let them make their own decision. In this particular case, our prospective customer later received more information that reinforced my concerns about the kit. He already had doubts about its finish, but he then learned — from three other sources — that it often shipped with finish defects, which were a common problem with this specific kit. In addition, he discovered other cabinet sources that did not offer soft-close

drawers and appeared to be cutting corners in other areas. The shortcuts allowed for the appearance of an advantage when these shops submitted bids. In the end, we did our best to educate him about his project and what we could offer him. We do the same for every customer and their specific needs. The biggest thing you can learn from this is: Do your homework. Selling furniture keeps us in business, but it’s more important to us that our furniture and service are top quality. They speak for themselves, and together, they speak volumes.

–Ethan Zimmerman

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