Steve Mosley started a one-man shop out of his garage and turned it into
an eight-man business that grosses nearly $1 million annually
BY JENNIFER HICKS / STAFF WRITER
Handcrafted Cabinet and Furniture Co. is a custom woodworking operation based in Phoenix that was started in 1984 by Steve Mosley. With the help of eight employees, the shop designs and produces freestanding furniture, doors, millwork, residential and commercial cabinetry and more. The shop’s market extends north to Flagstaff and Prescott and, despite the dismal economy, it’s been running recently at full capacity.
“Right now, we’ve never been busier. We’re in a depressed market, so we tend to be very competitive with our pricing. We know how to charge in order to make it work. Obviously, our margins are down, but we’re grateful that we’re busy and I’m able to keep my guys busy,” says Mosley.
Mosley grew up in Blanding, Utah, and moved to Phoenix at age 7 with his family in 1969. “My impressionable years were in the big city. I loved the neatness and order you find here relative to living someplace rural, so I got my degree in building and construction management from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. All of my elective classes I got to choose were in woodworking and that’s where I sort of gained the love for it. Afterwards, I moved back to Phoenix and went to work for a homebuilder, Continental Homes, the largest homebuilder in Arizona at that time. I was with them for about seven years.”
Mosley started doing custom residential woodworking projects on the side and began working for himself out of his garage. His early client base was small, but business quickly picked up enough for him to justify a move to a large property with an acre of land where he built an 1,800-sq.-ft. shop. Six years later, he moved to his current 8,000-sq.-ft. building, of which he rents about 25 percent to other tradesmen.
The Southwest region has proven to be a good location for his business. “Having grown up in Utah in my younger years, I hated the snow and cold. That’s one of the reasons I moved here. Now I have a large geographic area with a nice climate and a large client base I can handle,” says Mosely.
Mosley says that a vast majority of the company’s work — about 95 percent — is and always has been for the residential sector. The small segment of commercial work is for a contractor who does hotel renovations in Las Vegas and California.
“Our clientele is the high-end residential market. We got there by successfully doing one job at a time, paying attention to all of our clients’ individual needs. We have tried advertising in the past, but our best advertising is through word-of-mouth from satisfied customers.”
The shop has had some high-profile clients through the years, including professional athletes; Dan Harkins, owner of the Harkins Theatres cinema chain; Stephen Rizley, CEO of Cox Communications, and federal judge David Campbell.
Mosley says the company has also enjoyed a solid relationship with the area’s builders because the shop has the skill set and track record of getting the job done. Its annual gross is $800,000 to $1.
Mosely tries to keep prices reasonable to keep clients happy and manage the moderate competition.
“We don’t have a whole lot of competition and we rarely have a bidding war. I always make sure and ask up front how many others I’m bidding against. If there are 10 or more, I won’t even waste my time because it’s better spent doing other things. If there’s someone who’s willing to give away work, it’s not worth it.
“Our range of products includes just about everything having to do with custom woodworking for the entire home. Someone could call us and want something unique, like a door matched to the furniture in their home. We’ll do it.”
Most clients seek raised-panel cabinets with moderate ornamentation. But the shop is capable of producing modern designs and there are plenty of styles to choose from in the showroom attached to the shop.
“What we see the most is what You would call traditional or Old World style. We have gotten involved in some contemporary designs, which make up about 10 percent of our work,” says Mosely.
The company also offers lines of framed and frameless cabinetry, which can be given a custom touch. A range of hardwoods are offered and clients tend to select species with darker, richer hues, such as cherry and walnut. All pieces are finished in-house in the shop’s custom spray booth. Mosley says finishing is where clients tend to express their true tastes. A client recently wanted nine different finishes for nearly every room in his house.
“Finish preferences are really all over the map, though colors tend to be a little darker now. We’re doing one cabinetry package for a couple right now in pure white. It’s really all over. I’d say we’ve done the most finishing in the Old World, stain-through, distressed style.”
While his multi-skilled employees remain busy in the shop with everything from cutting and sanding parts to final assembly, Mosely works in the office doing estimating and preliminary designs. The designs are then passed on to the shop’s in-house CAD/CAM programmer with an architect’s background. Also essential to the shop’s daily operation is the Onsrud CNC router the company purchased about eight months ago.
“There’s really no limitation to what you can make once you have an automated setup like this. Anything you can draw with geometry, it will cut it out for you. It has revolutionized our shop. It took us from driving a Pinto to driving a Lexus.”
Right now, Mosley says braving the economy is at the top of the list. “Survival in this economy is one of the things we strive for. If we can make it through this, there shouldn’t be any mountain we can’t climb. We’re going on three years of a bad economy now. I recently visited a wood supplier here in the valley who said 85 percent of his accounts were gone, and a number of shops that competed with us before have since gone out of business. I’m glad we have what we have.”
Mosley says he would like to grow the business and he has the space to do so.
“I’ll probably expand the shop in the next couple of years when I know things have picked up enough to merit justifying it. We’re also thinking about moving into a new facility that’s designed a little better than this one. It’s all in the works.”
He says his most challenging task is managing the finishing department. He says that while offering an unlimited amount of finishes is attractive to designers and builders, following through with their requests usually takes the valley who said 85 percent of his accounts were gone, and a number of shops that competed with us before have since gone out of business. I’m glad we have what we have.”
Mosley says he would like to grow the business and he has the space to do so. “I’ll probably expand the shop in the next couple of years when I know things have picked up enough to merit justifying it. We’re also thinking about moving into a new facility that’s designed a little better than this one. It’s all in the works.”
He says his most challenging task is managing the finishing department. He says that while offering an unlimited amount of finishes is attractive to designers and builders, following through with their requests usually takes more steps than expected. Still, he wants to, continue offering a wide variety of finishing: and other services to keep the appeal and give, clients several options.
“The best part about woodworking is that you’re making someone else’s dreams coming true. If you take somebody’s design concept which is relatively easy to put on paper, and you create that into something that is 3-D, that truly a creation. Some products made in the building trades are not visible to the eye, but everything we make is, particularly in the kitchen where the family spends a lot of time.”
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