Wood-Mode Closure, Trade Disputes Reverberate
authors Patrick O'Toole | June 10, 2019
The abrupt, unexpected closure of Wood-Mode sent reverberations throughout the kitchen and bath segment of the remodeling market, its ripple effect impacting dealers, designers, consumers, sales reps and others in the industry’s supply chain.
Last month’s closure of the iconic, 77-year-old custom-cabinet manufacturer dealt a blow to the company’s extensive network of 700 dealers, many of whom have multiple projects currently in the manufacturing pipeline.
Cabinet orders in various stages of production were left, at least temporarily, in a state of limbo. Suppliers coped with unpaid invoices. Consumers left in the lurch wondered about the uncertain status of their projects. Wood-Mode’s dealers in the U.S.—many of whom had long-term, exclusive relationships with the company—were left pondering the fate of their own businesses, with some contemplating potential closure and others searching for new cabinet vendors. Most lamented the fact that Wood-Mode, for decades an industry pioneer and long considered the gold standard for custom cabinetry in America, is out of business.
“Wood-Mode has been a yardstick by which an industry has been measured,” says Alan Zielinski, a past president of the National Kitchen and Bath Association and a long-time Wood-Mode dealer with Better Kitchens, Inc. in Niles, Illinois. “I’m attending an industry event out in California, and when I got off the plane, my phone just lit up with the news.”
Zielinski, whose connection to the company goes back more than 50 years to his father’s ownership of Better Kitchens, notes his immediate focus is on six projects in production with Wood-Mode, including one order in transit from the factory. From there it is the question of what to do with several other completed orders that are ready to be submitted.
According to Zielinski, other dealers he spoke with also had many orders in the pipeline, expressing the sense that the closure was not about a lack of demand. “Looking at this from a 35,000-foot standpoint, maybe there is the opportunity for someone to come in and purchase it now, or perhaps give it a shot of financing to get it started back up again. However, if that does not occur, then we have to evaluate what products we want to represent as quickly as possible so we can continue paying our bills and look to our survivability in the industry,” says Zielinski, who visited Wood-Mode last fall for training.
“Being part of Wood-Mode was being part of a family. We had family at the factory. We had family in the production area. We had family in the offices.”