WOODSTOCK – After a fire and subsequent financial problems in 1996, Woodstock-based Dava National Commercial Custom Cabinetry was set to close.
But the company’s employees and the McHenry County community didn’t give up on the business. Woodstock native Sandra Pierce made a deal with the bank to buy the company’s equipment and called the shop to arrange a meeting with employees.
When she showed up, every single employee was there.
“I told them there was some wonderful potential,” she said recently, after being named a 2013 Business Champion by the McHenry County Economic Development Corp. “We went around the room and everybody gave an opinion about what had gone wrong and what could be done better. I told them ‘I don’t know how to build a cabinet, but I do know how to run a business.’ I knew if I did what I did and they did what they did, we could be successful.”
During the transition that followed, the employees volunteered their time to make sure all the orders were complete. They also came up with an appropriate name for the new business, Phoenix Woodworking Corp.
“These people had heart,” Pierce said. “And they had skills that were very unique, they were very skilled artisans.”
Pierce brought industrial engineering, computerized processes and automation to the manufacturing process, where previously pieces had been made one at a time.
At first, the work was slow.
“People were hesitant at first to work with us because we were so new, people wanted a company with a reputation,” Pierce said. “The reason we are in existence is the McHenry County community gave us a chance.”
Phoenix Woodworking Corp. soon was employed in custom woodworking projects for banks, country clubs, restaurants and boardrooms throughout the region.
The company’s work can be seen throughout the county in projects at Follet Library, Medela Inc., Curran Corporate offices, several Home State Bank locations, Turnberry Country Club, the McHenry County Administration Center, McHenry County College and the Kevlar-lined red oak inside the courtrooms at the McHenry County Courthouse.
The company also did the interior renovations of Northern Illinois University’s Cole Hall, the site of a 2008 shooting that killed five students, and the Todd M. Beamer Center at Wheaton College, which was renovated in 2003 and named after Beamer, a graduate who “died along with others on board United Airlines flight 93, while preventing terrorists from destroying a target in our nation’s capital,” according to the college’s website.
Affrunti Design and Management in Crystal Lake has worked extensively with Phoenix Woodworking.
“They hold their standards high,” said principal Peter Affrunti. “They always strive to do a better project. They are our first choice for their quality and the workmanship they produce.”
Pierce said the company maintains an extensive training program for employees and tries to hire local candidates. It has 15 to 19 employees during at peak times.
“It’s a matter of survival for us,” she said. “It takes years to learn this trade, so if we don’t have people in the pipeline, we can’t stay in business.”
The Business Champion award from the MCEDC was a boost for employees, said Phoenix Woodworking Corp. operations manager Dale Benson.
“The guys in the shop were excited,” he said. “They are craftsmen. They take a lot of pride in their work, so it was nice to know their work is being recognized.”
Phoenix Woodworking Corp.
What: A Woodstock-based company that makes architectural millwork, cabinetry, furniture, lockers and store fixtures
Where: 2000 Duncan Place, Woodstock