The below article originally appeared on the front page of the York Daily Record/Sunday News on Thursday, February 2, 2012.
Click here to see what Wolf Organization CEO Tom Wolf said on his blog about the story, and the future of his private label cabinet business.
Also, here’s a 360-panoramic photo of the company’s warehouse that I took and tweeted out using my iPad.
By LAUREN BOYER
Daily Record/Sunday News
The Shaker-style line of cabinets in the Wolf Organization’s West Manchester Township showroom bear the name of Tom Wolf’s alma mater.
He dubbed it “the Dartmouth,” but, really, he could have named it anything.
This time, it was his to name.
“Instead of being creatures for somebody else, we’re going to be masters of our own destiny,” said Tom Wolf, chairman, CEO and sixth-generation leader of the York-based Wolf Organization, which started in 1843 as a lumber, hardware and building materials business.
The 168-year-old firm — formerly a traditional wholesale distributor of building products — is reinventing itself as a brand, contracting with Kountry Wood, an Indiana-based Amish manufacturer, to produce three styles of private label, WOLF-branded cabinets.
WOLF Classic Cabinets — priced below brand name competitors — are distributed throughout the company’s existing network of independent dealers.
“No one else can really do this,” Wolf said. “We’re big.”
In fact, Wolf is the largest wholesale distributor of kitchen cabinets in the United States.
It’s an industry at the mercy of building booms, new-home construction and remodeling projects, which haven’t bounced back to pre-recession rates.
Still, in 2008, Wolf said, $400 million in cabinets, imported from overseas, were sold in major cities in the Northeast.
The gears began to turn. WOLF-engineered products, it believes, will edge out international competition.
“We’re not waiting for the economy to come back,” he said. “We just want to take our fair share of what business is there.”
Other companies, based in Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland, are producing other WOLF Home Products, including deck, trim and molding.
All are made in America — bearing the country’s flag on the hundreds of cardboard boxes neatly stacked in the 320,000-square-foot warehouse in West Manchester Township.
Meanwhile, the company continues its core business of pushing products made by outside manufacturers — names like Aristokraft and Norcraft Cabinetry.
But those companies have competition now. Wolf can’t keep his branded products on shelves. Kountry Wood is tripling the size of its manufacturing facility to keep up with demand for the cabinets, which come fully assembled with maple fronts, dovetail drawers and half-inch plywood sides.
No particle board here.
“You don’t give up anything,” Wolf said. “Would I put them in my house? Damn right I would.”