Before Neale and Susan Hergenrather opened the doors to H2, their Springfield, Va., company, in January, the married co-owners knew that they wanted to offer customers at least one high-end cabinet line. Specializing in kitchens and bathrooms, the Hergenrathers perused trade magazines looking for the best candidates, judging them mainly on their Web presence and ability to produce custom work.
After making dozens of calls to manufacturers, Neale says the pair chose to represent Superior Woodcraft, in Doylestown, Pa. After a 90-minute introductory conversation and four months of communications, during which time the remodelers were in “semi-serious discussions” with six other cabinetmakers, the Hergenrathers added Superior Woodcraft's products to their lineup.
Neale says the high-end option, combined with the firm's stock line of cabinetry, allows him to work with a broader range of homeowners. “We need to be able to reach all kinds of clientele,” Neale says, “but our primary goal is to work with [the] high-end. Without the proper product, it just doesn't work.”
So far, the relationship between the remodeler and the cabinet company has gone smoothly. Recently, Neale called on Superior Woodcraft to build a custom cabinet storage unit and bookshelf for a town house remodel. The piece, which had to be inserted into a wall, was designed by Neale from the “ground up” in an unusual shape. “It was a one-of-a-kind that Superior Woodcraft will never create again,” he explains. “We installed it last week and it's perfect.”
POSITIVE RESULTS Deborah Magano, owner and principal at DMI Development Group, in Silver Spring, Md., is also hoping for positive results from a recent decision to add a high-end cabinet line. Specializing in contemporary and interior remodeling, the firm recently expanded its services to become the Washington-area distributor for Italian kitchen maker Elmar Cucine.
Magano says the impetus came after she saw Elmar Cucine's cabinets in an unusual furniture store while on a business trip in Florida. “I'd never been interested in carrying a cabinet line because they're all the same in some form or another,” Magano says. But her attention was captured by an array of pull-out and sliding elements, such as tables that extend from counters and then fold back in and disappear, which the Italian company incorporates into its counters and cabinets. “We thought that was pretty amazing,” she says.
Including those “amazing” products in DMI Development's lineup took some elbow grease, according to Magano, who says it took about six months to get in touch with the right contact at Elmar Cucine, which was going through a restructuring process at the time. A week-long visit to the company's Italian headquarters followed, as did “many months of exchanging e-mails,” says Magano, whose company finally sealed the deal last September.
The effort is already paying off for the remodeler, whose customers are “absolutely thrilled” with the line's price point and unique designs. With two kitchens already sold and in production, DMI's only challenge so far has been grappling with the time difference between the East Coast and Italy. “We're just waking up when they're closing,” Magano says.
CUSTOMIZATION COUNTS With 18 years specializing in luxury custom houses, renovations, and mill and finish work, Rosenthal Homes, of Potomac, Md., has worked with a few high-end cabinet lines over the years. A recent addition, says company director Josh Rosenthal, involved a $300,000 finished basement project for clients who wanted a contemporary European look.
“Working with the homeowner, we found a local craftsman to do the custom wooden cabinets,” says Rosenthal, who has since worked on other projects with the high-end cabinetmaker. Rosenthal says the only obstacle is that many of the high-end lines are European and use metric measurements. “In one instance,” he says, “the cabinets came off the truck and were ready to be installed, but they couldn't be until someone ran to the hardware store to get a metric tape measure.”
The reward for the effort is having the flexibility to exactly meet customer requests. “You're not bound by a traditional supplier or lumberyard,” Rosenthal says. “If you want your pantry doors designed to not look like a pantry, then that's what you're going to get. On the high-end lines, you're working with builders who are experienced at dealing with customization requests, and, as a result, you can offer more to your customers.”
Bridget McCrea is a freelance writer based in Dunedin, Fla.