Grumbles from the shop #2: Support your local cabinet maker

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Blog entry by dennis mitchell posted 03-28-2009 09:49 PM 1862 reads 0 times favorited 24 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Shaking my head...we'll never learn Part 2 of Grumbles from the shop series Part 3: Etsy update »

One more time someone told me I was too expensive so they got their cabinets at Lowes. Did they ask me for my price…No! They just assumed. The reality is every time I’ve bid against Lowes and apples were apples my bid was cheaper. I guess we can get brain washed. I’ve even seen that prejudice here at Lumberjocks. Yes most shops have gone after a high end clientele. It might even be hard to find a local cabinet maker who would do “low end” work. We even have a tendency to believe we can’t compete. I know I’ve been surprised at how much cheaper I am than these big box stores. Then again I don’t have that high over head. Heck I wont even charge you $50.00 to measure your kitchen.

24 comments so far

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4062 days

#1 posted 03-28-2009 10:24 PM

I know the frustration first hand

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View oldskoolmodder's profile


801 posts in 3642 days

#2 posted 03-28-2009 10:32 PM

I have a slight problem sometimes when friends and family brag about how much they spent at a big box store, instead of asking me if I’d like to offer a bid for whatever they need done.

I even have extended family out in Jarrod Zion Murphree’s (Eagle Nest, NM.) neighborhood that spent a ton of money on Hickory cabinets in the kitchen at Home Depot. When I found out how much and how long it took to get the cabinets, 4-5 months lead time, I smiled (on the outside) and told him, I could have made them to his specs, and delivered and installed them (1000+ miles) and saved him money. (on the inside I was cursing him for wasting his money and not offering me a chance). He’s been building this house for 2 years, while living in Manhattan, NY. and thinks because he HAD the money he should spend it all. Now the house won’t be complete until at least late summer, because he’s run out of money form over spending at big box stores.

-- Respect your shop tools and they will respect you - Ric

View buffalosean's profile


174 posts in 3349 days

#3 posted 03-28-2009 10:36 PM

I’ve recently purchaced older hand tools from two different guys who inherited them for their fathers. they told me there fathers were cabinet makers who, started losing business, and ended up doing trim carpentry and rough framing.
I find it amusing that many people think everything at home depot and lowes are the cheapest….. funny I’ve purchaced tools, material, and hardware cheaper from other places. I avoid going to the big giants unless it is an emergency.

-- There are many ways to skin a cat...... but, the butter knife is not recommended

View Brad_Nailor's profile


2539 posts in 3920 days

#4 posted 03-28-2009 11:34 PM

Its a sad story thats being repeated across this country for a long time now..giant conglomerates pushing the smaller competition out. What the average home buyer doesn’t understand that there is a measurable quality difference between your cabinets and the big boxes…even when you are bidding apples to apples. I don’t care what you are buying at the big is always in some way inferior to the similar product you can find elsewhere. That is how they get there profit margin..partly from mass quantity buying but also because they negotiate with the manufacturers to meet a certain price point and then they agree to move a certain quantity at that price…and to meet that price point manufacturers cut corners and use inferior materiels..plain and simple. Dennis I feel bad for guys like you and my friends and former employers that own cabinet shops here in CT that are taking it on the chin thanks to the big boxes. People are getting a product of lesser quality, and not saving any money in the process…


View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14171 posts in 3945 days

#5 posted 03-28-2009 11:55 PM

My advice is to make up a little homemade print out / or … that compares your features and competitive prices to Lowes.
Hand it to your next potential customer before they have a chance to get away.

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4123 days

#6 posted 03-29-2009 12:14 AM

that’s a great idea Dan! Give the comparison.. they go to the stores and get a quote and come back as a believer!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3707 days

#7 posted 03-29-2009 12:27 AM

Ditto what Dan said. But you know, Dennis, sometimes it’s a catch 22. I’ve had people not buy a piece of my furniture because the price wasn’t high enough. I would’ve had no problem adjusting that, but sometimes I think high end stuff is a “status thing”. I’ve had plenty of folks come by for an estimate on a custom built piece, and see something I’ve got made, that they just paid way too much for at a Stickley showroom, and say they wished they had waited. Rest assured though, there are plenty of people still around that know the value of handcrafted furniture, case goods, and cabinets. And they know that it doesn’t come from the “Big Box” stores.
Keep the faith, Brother. They’ll find you.

View gbvinc's profile


628 posts in 3909 days

#8 posted 03-29-2009 12:27 AM

Dan hit the nail on the head. Perception is everything in sales. If you have a price/quality comparison at hand and the same info committed to memory, you stand a good chance of turning a few heads your way. Just looking around in our market, I am surprised at how much the big boxes have slipped the prices up.

View pommy's profile


1697 posts in 3654 days

#9 posted 03-29-2009 12:31 AM

I have a toy shop(tool shop) just up the road from me and i only buy from him second hand i have never brought new tools i like to think that a better craftsman than me once used the tools that i now own and one day someone will feel the same as me so big stores never see my money LOL…........ as for trying to get people to change thier buying ways forget it they all like to think that they got abargin instore but never understand that the price is high in the first place and they think because its handmade its going to cost an arm and leg so my friend all i can say is keep trying …........


-- cut it saw it scrap it SKPE: ANDREW.CARTER69

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4090 days

#10 posted 03-29-2009 12:52 AM


Don’t waste another minute in complaining about the “new economy” – unless you are trying to host a pity party.

Here’s my chant: “They (insert Walmart, Lowe’s, HomeDepot etc.) can’t compete with me.”

Do what they can’t do.
Do it better and charge accordingly.
More importantly, pursue the kinds of clients that won’t do business them.

The artisans that I network with have proven that there still is, and perhaps more than ever, remains quality-seeking clients. Find them and give them the quality and pampering they want.

Rise to the opportunity and do what it takes.
After all, you are a member of the best – a LumberJock!

Get busy…

-- 温故知新

View SawDustnSplinters's profile


321 posts in 3744 days

#11 posted 03-29-2009 01:03 AM

It Is funny I have customers who do not balk at a price and some who do. I tend to take it on the chin alot and just wait for the next appreciative customer to come along. There are clients who are extremely knowledgeable about woods, grain, figure, joinery, etc and I do not have to tell them anything. Then there are those that ask what wood is in every piece. I have got to where I can tell by the look in a customers eyes that they know quality and then there are those that have that “deer in the headlights” look. It is funny I remember at the last show some other vendors and I were talking and I mentioned I was going to make a wood sign for my booth that says something like, “IKEA we ain’t”, or “IKEA not spoken here”...or “You better call your better half and get permission before I tell you the price…hehe. Hang in there my friend..

-- Frank, Dallas,TX , , “I have a REALLY BIG chainsaw”

View kiwi1969's profile


608 posts in 3404 days

#12 posted 03-29-2009 02:41 AM

Don,t forget the word “convenience” . Most people like to see what they,re getting in the flesh before purchasing. you walk in, you see it, you lay down your cash and you walk out. Then it turns up at your house and someone else does the hard work for you. Simple.
Don,t know what marketing or promo stuff you have, but maybe a change of tactic would be in order? Can people get to you easily? can they see what you do? I,m just guessing at your set up so these are just my thoughts.
Maybe I could set up a factory here in asia for you if you really want to compete!

-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand

View Rustic's profile


3253 posts in 3558 days

#13 posted 03-29-2009 03:01 AM

I found that true as well, I had someone look at some birds I had made that i was selling for $4.00 a pair. They said to my face that they could find them cheaper elsewhere. I told them no you can’t. These are hand made. So I told him to go ahead. People just don’t understand.

--, Rick Kruse, Grand Rapids, MI

View Woodchuck1957's profile


944 posts in 3726 days

#14 posted 03-29-2009 03:28 AM

I learned my lesson at Menards when I priced out boards for a 6 ft cedar fence in the back yard. The 1” X 8” X 6ft boards were half the price at the local well established lumber yard, the boards I didn’t like they exchanged with no problem. The same can be said for antique furniture, I’ve restored alot of it mostly for us and my sister, a few for other people, and they got a deal because I didn’t want to be looked at like I was robbing them. Some people think antique furniture is junk. Well if you go by what Antiques Road Show preaches by leaveing the original finish on it, in most cases it probably is junk until it’s restored. If we are talking a museum piece that is in good condition, by all means leave it alone, but most pieces aren’t. I find it odd that people are willing to buy imported furniture at a fairly steep price, but won’t spend the money to have an American made piece that is solid hardwood. Antique furniture restorers in this town have dried up, at one time there were around a half a dozen of them, now I’m not sure if you find a bussiness that does it anymore. I guess in all fairness though, I have bought some imported furniture that were solid hardwood cheaper than the materials would of cost me, but I know what to look for, I don’t think the majority of the public has a clue about what is veneered and what is solid, they just know it looks good.

View BethMartin's profile


111 posts in 3340 days

#15 posted 03-29-2009 05:00 AM

Hiring a cabinetmaker is intimidating. I imagine a lot of people are afraid to ask because they assume that they can’t afford it and would be wasting your time asking you to come by and give a quote. I know that I think that way. That’s why I do a lot of work myself! Definitely do as previous posters have suggested – price out a setup purchased from the big box stores and have your price for a comparable setup and say why yours is better. The more information you can give out without a person asking, the better! If you have a website, put your comparision up there. (if you don’t have a website, definitely get one.) I would love it if people not only showed pictures of their work, but also were upfront about how much that you charged for it. If you don’t give me any chance to “assume” anything, I won’t!

-- Beth

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