Seeing how many businesses start with only one hardworking individual and, through continued growth, become solid enterprises is something that never ceases to amaze. Gaithersburg Cabinetry & Millwork of Warrenton, Virginia is just such an entity. It was founded in 1981 and has become a specialized company that has garnered multiple awards for its stellar performance on unique and difficult projects.
Four years ago, a new facility sprang up to help with the continued growth at Gaithersburg Architectural Millwork. This is aided by ultramodern machinery that enables Gaithersburg to perform work that many other in the same field cannot. It separates itself with the best possible customer service and a team of skilled professionals, but the challenge going forward is in finding good replacement workers. We spoke with Kirk Vetter, its executive vice president and general manager.
Stephan Smith was the one-man show who started as Gaithersburg Cabinetry & Millwork. The company began with mainly casework and countertops. It was a tough slog, but through hard work and perseverance, eventually the company began to grow. The company’s annual sales are now approaching $20 Million.
Gaithersburg’s specialty is unique, custom millwork projects, and it has the design team and facilities to create high-end millwork. Commercial casework is also a major part of operations here. “We enjoy doing a varied mix of casework and high-end custom type of millwork,” says Vetter.
Some of the work performed by Gaithersburg includes reception desks, teller lines and corporate lobby entrance pieces, projects which vary widely. There are usually many materials incorporated, like stainless steel, marble, glass, granite or synthetic solid surfacing. It could also involve wood veneer, plastic laminate, solid wood, and a variety of other innovative and new materials including stone, plastics, and composites. One new trend these days is for wood live-edge slabs.
“One key goal of the company is convey to the Architect or Designer that we are here to assist them in turning their vision into a tangible reality,” explains Vetter. It takes a lot of hard work to attain this unparalleled level of service. A huge part of this is a result of the company’s long-time employees who follow the Gaithersburg way of doing things. Management stresses to employees that each job needs to be fabricated to the quality specified.
“We also ensure that if we set a date, we do everything possible to stick to it. We strive to be on time and produce quality product at a fair price. This is the quality of our service and how we developed that reputation,” says Vetter.
”We embrace new technologies and continue to stay agile in an ever changing business environment, “says Vetter.
As this is specialty work, employing the right skilled workers is quite the challenge. The company is looking for people who can do what it does, the Gaithersburg way. These craftsmen need to be comfortable doing high-end work. Says Vetter, “We are implementing an in-house Apprentice program as there is little vocational education for our trade and none in our geographic area. We are reaching out to area high schools to explain what we do and are encouraging Guidance Councilors to have students consider a career in Commercial Architectural Millwork.
“If you are good at what you do, this occupation pays very well,” he says. Gaithersburg also promotes from within. One of the current partners began here by sweeping floors over twenty years ago. He is now an executive [vice president] as well. Past truck drivers are now project managers. They grew up in the business, learned it and have become the next generation of management here,” says Vetter.
“Suppliers and supply chain management are crucial in enabling us to successfully complete projects within the time frame needed by our customers. Our sources are ever-changing and evolving based on client requests and specified products,” says Vetter.
He cited a project from 2016 at the PNC Diamond Club at Nationals Park as an example of a particularly challenging project. The time frame within which to work was tight, and there were many finishes involved in that restaurant. In the end, the company got it done in time for opening day.
“Success was achieved through planning, and the project manager did a fantastic job of getting the materials. The general contractor also deserves credit for getting the project ready to measure to achieve the goals the client set out,” says Vetter.
Other projects that showcase the kind of work that Gaithersburg does include work at Marymount University, which had a large volume of casework. Another challenging job took place at 625 H-street, a residential condominium project. Again, the effort was in dealing with so many finishes. There was plastic laminate as well as reclaimed wood, steel and live edge material, along with other finishes.
These accomplishments have really put Gaithersburg Cabinetry & Millwork in a position to be recognized. It won the Washington Building Congress (WBC) Star Award for Visual Excellence twice, once for the Presidential Library for George Washington and once for the Jefferson Hotel. The award is given to the company responsible for the most outstanding project of the year in the metropolitan area of Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC,.
“This award is not just given out for millwork, but all trades within construction such as electrical, stone, and miscellaneous steel. It runs the gamut. That was the number one project for any subcontract jobs performed that year,” says Vetter.
The Presidential Library for George Washington also won Architectural Wood Work Institute’s project of the year. “It is a high honor, and these award recognitions are used in garnering new business. Having a new facility helps, as it is state-of-the-art,” says Vetter. The new facility has been operational for four years. As Vetter says, “We continue to implement change to improve our efficiency in the plant. We try to work smart, and we work hard. The new technology gives us an advantage as well. This new equipment helps us to do the job faster, better and with less labor.
“Our continued success will depend on our commitment to providing what our customers need and when they need it. Future growth will be dependent on our ability to train and develop a new generation of workers who will embrace our commitment to excellence.”