Episode #160 – Customization, Cabinetry, Casework, Oh My – Gator

The Patty-G Show
The Patty-G Show
Episode #160 - Customization, Cabinetry, Casework, Oh My - Gator

What exactly is millwork? Don’t worry; Chad Foster, CEO and President of Gator, has you covered! At Gator, they do woodwork, cabinetry and specialty items for residential and commercial buildings. You can see their work in places such as Jinya Ramen Bar, the LSU Arboretum, LSU’s Communication Academic Center for Student Athletes, Walk-On’s, St. George Catholic Church, Pennington Biomedical and so much more. Randy Foster, Chad’s father, started Gator 28 years ago and named the company after his beloved dog, Gator. Chad eventually took over the business from his father and grew it to the point they needed more space. After some obstacles, he was able to move operations to a 78,000 sqft facility in Denham Springs, where they are today. In this episode, Chad defines Millwork, discusses the 2016 flood, and shares his thoughts on trades. 

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Sponsors: Fayala Real Estate, Gov’t Taco, Horizon Financial Group, Mercedes-Benz of Baton Rouge, & Lake Men’s Health Clinic

Patty-G Wardrobe by: McLavy LTD

The Patty-G Show Website: https://thepattygshow.com

Gator’s Website: https://gatormillworks.com/ 


Hey everybody, Patty G of The Patty G Show. Here we are back for an on-site recording of this week’s episode. We are here at Gator Millworks with Chad Foster. I am super excited to learn about his journey, his story how he got here. And more importantly, what all this high-tech gear is behind us, in his Warehouse production. We’re going to talk about all those types of things and kind of how he built the company from where he picked it up from his dad to where it is now. And just all exciting things across the board before we get to that want to give a big wonderful shout out and thank you to the amazing folks that make this show possible each and every week, we have Falaya Real Estate, Horizon Financial Group, Mercedes-Benz of Baton Rouge.

Gov’t Taco, and of course, you know, our outfit that we’re wearing today, is brought to you by McLavy LTD. Without further Ado, Chad. Welcome to the show. Thank you. Thank you for having me out of your facilities and to kind of witness how the secret sauce is made. Man, this is pretty intense. I’m not gonna lie.

It’s a little different than your normal cabinet shop.

Yes. I haven’t been to many cabinet shops, but I’ve been to like, one or two and it’s this is nothing like what you’ve got, you know, just within this facility. So for those that maybe, don’t know who Gator Millworks is and who you are? Who are you? And what exactly do you do, man, my name’s Chad Foster.

I am the CEO and president of Gator Millworks, and we are an architectural Millwork company that makes custom millwork items for commercial and residential projects located throughout the South.

Okay. So you covered just beyond Louisiana, all the South we do. And we’ve had other projects we’ve shipped off all the way to California before. So I mean, we will reach out and go distances, but it just depends on the project, okay. And so what exactly is millworks? And how is that defined? Well millwork is sometimes confusing to some people because they think of metalwork sometimes. But it’s woodwork is what we do. So millwork is sometimes related to doors windows. We don’t make doors and windows here. We do casework. Specialty items a little a little differently. But the millwork came from when the company started twenty eight years ago. Okay. So let’s go back those twenty eight years.

Yeah, I’m assuming it was way different than we’ve got behind us. So kind of walk us through that progression of how it was started. How was founded? And then kind of where we are today. My father, and a Gentleman. So my father, Randy Foster. And Gary Henson was the original founders of this company. Gary was a home builder and my father was a trade Carpenter and they started the company name to get a mill works. And I think some people may think it’s probably off of a gator but it’s actually not, it’s actually from a dog was the name. It was the name of a dog, so that’s how they named the company. Gator Mill works, but they started off in Central Louisiana. They were all small saw a residential Mill Workshop, that produce cabinets for kitchens and bathrooms.

And this kind of Grew From there went from about a year and a half and Central.

And then relocated to Denham Springs, right there on Highway 16. And that’s where we were until we moved here.

Okay? And so at the time, what type of work where they do in those early years at a, assuming a much smaller scale than where you are now much smaller scale.

But at the time, we know that was early 90s. So Market was was extremely hot locally and built a lot of cabins for you know custom home, builders in Baton Rouge area, Livingston, Parish surrounding all the parishes but State really into the residential market and not until we put it. Of grew into the commercial or this becomes where the needs that. Yeah. And I figure you know in that residential markets a whole lot easier to do that by hand. I’m sure it is but it takes a lot more skill. Yeah yeah. It’s more more hands on residential work is so I think that was a great thing for me to learn that first was important because we went from doing everything by hand which I am thankful for because this becomes easier with the technology.

Oh yeah. And I know, like just from doing some of my own kind of not necessarily millwork. But rez, like residential repairs and maintenance and just improvements in my own house, making a cabinet with proper fitting drawers. Proper fitting doors is not an easy task at all.

It starts with a cut list. So you make a good cut list and it will actually fit a little bit better. But ah, what a catalyst.

Yeah. Exactly. I’ve never never would use one of those. And it’s it shows when you don’t.

You just gotta break everything down. So you you start with an idea and then you you take it from material thicknesses and and everything else and and start making cuts.

So so how did you start getting involved with Gator?

So my father, um, I wanted to work with him in the summers. So when I was out of middle school summer times, come around and one of the good work when my Dad. So that’s how I got started in the millwork industry.

What made you want to go to start working on cabinets?

I don’t know, it was something that was interesting. I guess I’ve always liked I guess, like, working with my hands. I’m thankful for having that ability to do that and that into learning that skill but learned at an early age, I guess and just I like challenges so I think that it pushes me to do things differently because of that.

And so like, what were the the dinner table conversations? I mean, did you ever feel like it was not necessary like pressured him to go into the family? Family company. But was there ever discussions of how is this going to continue for the Next Generation? I mean, was that even a thought at the time?

At the time though it wasn’t the thought it was kind of like you take a day at a time and you kind of see where it goes. And that’s kind of still hot. It is today in one respect. So, you know, we we all learned the last several years had a pivot. So I think that

It’s no different. I was there just a little bit different of a pivot but you just kind of whatever works and you like it, you love it and you do it.

Yeah. I mean that’s I grew up in a family business household as well. And it was every dinner table is always talking about how the day’s work, how are the projects that are being done and it was that very much day-to-day mindset. But you know, it’s always looking forward at that point in time. How we pass on the Baton, you know, how does it continue as either a family Legacy or how do we pass it on to the next set of people? They’re going to take the company to the next. Next Level. It’s I’m sure is part of every family business history and part of their plan.

I guess I had two kids so I don’t have an answer to that but that’s up to them, you know. So yeah. They have to want it, I wanted it. So I think it the person has to really want to do it. The family may want that, but they really have to make sure that the person is going to take care of the company that’s been around for so long.

And that I think,

Is part of a family business element that is important, giving them the ability to kind of make that decision? Make that choice. Instead of telling people are telling your kids know, you’re expected to come to work when you’re sixteen or whatever age, you may be and take on this family legacy like I’ve built this for. I took this from my Dad. I grew it to where it’s at now and I expect you to come do the same and almost pulls like a bunch of pressure on the children to kind of have these expectations. I have to live up to. So I love the way that y’all are approaching. Yeah. I would never have that for my kids. I got two beautiful girls and they they do mention at times. But it’s it’s once again. It’s they have to put in that effort network. So so are they of age with a half calm like worked around or they just come and visit data. The shop they come visit the I have a sixteen year old and a ten year old to.

Yeah, not quite at the age of nine.

I love getting behind the song. Everything I’m trying to get my oldest one to come. Maybe work a little bit to summer, so there you go. Just do more like, you know, operation side of things a little bit. So you were talking before the show.

You actually were on track to graduate early and kind of go into your career in the at a university. So that’s kind of, I want to walk through that High School career and then the point in time, in which you kind of had to put your foot in the game and start taking this over.

So, I went to Central High School, I wanted to graduate A little earlier then I guess I should have. But I had friends that were older than me, they were in college and I wanted to be with them. So the same way, kind of learned that some things that I could take some correspondence classes with LSU took, some of those went to Walker High School to take a summer school English class. And that let me take English for as a junior by doing that and

I think quite accomplished it, the way I wanted to, I’d end up having to come back for my senior year for one hour, so, but it was experience to learn to change something so into to grow.

So stepping into a kind of, I’m assuming a pretty significant role at the time after high school and college, were you ever hit with people looking at you and not having the experience that your dad did? I know that Dynamic of always working with a father or a parent and then having to work with the kid there’s a shift out there. Did you ever experience that and how did you kind of work through it?

I guess I’ll talk to my dad, a lot, a lot of questions, he supported me a lot. Obviously he clients you got to realize when we were in the residential market. So strong early 90’s, early 2000’s, we

We’re we’re we’re doing projects for people. That’s our personal homes. Something they’re investing. What could be their life savings? It could be their forever home. So big decisions are being made about these customers. So they they do have a high expectation. So early twenty year old man coming through Mirza for cab and sometimes is, um, I did get some pushback. But but it also pushed me was about to say twenty year old man. I’m sure they’re like twenty year old kid at the time.

Why is this kid coming into my house? Taking measurements? Like what? Where’s your Dad? So on, you know how many times that you get that a lot?

Ah. A fair amount. But it’s okay. Like it. I think it helped push me who I am today. I wouldn’t change any of it.

And that is something that’s always going to be a challenge as that age perception, like it’s one of those components of being an entrepreneur that is not.

I guess talked about enough in that ecosystem is that if you start a company at such a young age, or you step into the position, similar to what you did with the family business, you’re going to have push back because of how your viewed based on your age. You’re going to be seen as lack of experience, or walking to the man shoes and just taking over from his parents or his dad or his mom, whoever may be. And you have to build up that credibility, almost instantly. Otherwise you run the risk of no no, just have your dad call me, man. Come on. Chad is have your dad call me and we’ll talk it over. Not you. That didn’t happen. Quite as much as it might have or could have, but it did happen. I’m I kind of always would try to resolve something myself so, and and also call him so yeah. And that ultimately is

The better move to do right as figuring out how you can resolve it yourself without involving the parent because I’m further, you can start that distancing. The more those clients and customers are going to say, chat knows what he’s talking about. We can work with him, he’s good.

I had a lot of training, I guess you could say for many years, I would take just rods to my dad. So I would I would go to job sites with him an early age and hold the, the dumb end of tape. I guess you could say, but it allowed me to learn and I wasn’t the one that just go to the job site and just kind of wait to leave it. Was I was learning. So I’m very thankful for, for, for that opportunity more than anything. So, it’s really made me who I am.

Yeah. And seeing who the clients are seeing you on the job sites, getting out there. And not just being the boss’s son, you’re being an active employee and active person who wants to learn. Once is eager to actually hone in that craft and develop something to the capacity and the level in which your father did. So I think it’s really incredible to see

It’s been a it’s been a journey. So walk us through. Y’all just went through three rough almost three years ago. A total transformation of your production facility walk us through where you were and what that looked like. And then we’ll kind of get into where we are today. So we’ve been in this facility now for in June. It’ll make three years. We went from a twenty thousand square foot. A facility with about three thousand square foot of office space to this facility, which is a total of about seventy five. Seventy eight thousand square feet. Sixty thousand square feet of bees gonna get you. I know. I heard that little buzzing around. Um. So we have well over fifteen thousand square feet of offices and and also so sixty thousand plus of the shop. And it’s it’s it’s a huge difference for us mean allows us to our quality goes different. So it goes up.

More space allows you to see things better to do things bigger. So it’s a huge step. We knew there would be changed as us as a company, but who we are as a company still there. How did you know, it was the right time to kind of make that move in that transition, 2015 is, when I kind of started this whole process, we purchased a five and a half acre tract, we’re at and, and We had a little bit of the pivot moment in 2016, like many others did. Yeah, we had six feet of water and our facility, overnight flooded with tragic flood and 16, and kind of Paul’s on the whole process of building this place, which did allow us, though, to make it even better. Because of that pause, we able to purchase another five and a half acres. So we have a total of 11 acres here, which is allows us to even grow more and the years. So,

It’s been a process in the last three years but it’s been great because we can service our clients so much better here. Yeah and I mean probably making that switch was was a nerve-racking we discussed before you then became the the whole Contracting of this actual development and all this project. So walk us through going from dirt to where we are. So we started off as a I guess you can say a design build myself and others here. Kind of Drew something inspirational eyes and Drew the whole place out and brought it to To a local architect for their approval and for cope compliance. We hired a contractor to help build this this facility. And so, it was a process of learning from, you know, what happens with the sewer, what happens with power. So

Lots of things had to come through for from something from dirt to to where we are today. So that’s um, was an experience. That was was good to have for me.

Yeah. I’m sure you’re going from, okay. We just need to build cabinets. Now. Hang on? How do we build a facility that houses equipment? What do you need here? I mean, we were just recording and you had your machine go into the background. We’ll talk about and a little bit. But it’s like, how do you work for all these different pieces coming together to build a flow of a workshop? You know, at a much three times, the capacity which you were beforehand.

I was been a privilege to see a lot of other places over the country Mill workshops. I’ve been to many, and you never go to one and think that I want to build that exact building or that that exact shop you take pieces and and you put it together. And that’s what we did here. So slowly built our production line. So just start adding pieces of equipment into the mix we were able to.

Bring equipment in here before we move. So our transition was actually a little bit easier in one respect because we could we spun up a production line and and then moved our existing production line here. So that made the transition a lot easier, even though it was there in covid. So we moved in June of 2020. So you would ever you had already drawn out everything and where it was going to go black before the left before the first like I guess Stone was turned for this place, not so much with the Because we start with a shell, but the production line didn’t probably get really designed until I’d say six months into us having a structure that we knew we were going to build.

Gotcha. And so, going through all that, how did you know, I mean, did you have all this equipment beforehand or were you able to expand and get other pieces that you didn’t have at the other facility?

So we had some things, similar, Stitch a Machinery that we had before the tear but the big thing here is our store Tech and tell a story.

That’s it’s the only one in the state of Louisiana. So until we got that here, we had to take about 12 month, journey to get that brought overseas from Germany. It was a long process, you know, designed at the federal building, but it allows us to move materials in ways that we never did at the old place. So, that’s an amazing thing.

So, what what is that, what? Because it’s a very big piece of equipment that was doing things by itself. So, what the heck is it?

So basically, what Happens, is we receive our sheet stocks and it’s an infestation. So we can take a unit of material tell that machine that it came from this vendor it cost this much. We want to put a shelf life on it. Maybe 44, 30, 60, 90 days, just as a

Not that it goes bad. It’s just that it tells us that. Do you want to do something with it if it’s still in here? So it’s got a lot of ability to tell us data that we never had. It moves it for us to the Sol. So the operator never physically has to pick up a sheet to cut it. And we’re actually stacked material on top two wallets cutting. So it’s it’s very fast. So it’s bringing it to the solve it. It reduces injuries on our staff. Now it it lengthens their career because they’re not picking up heavy loads on their backs. So there’s so many advantages with this does of knowing what jobs that material went to. So a lot of data that allows us to do do it and and in the speed.

So I want to talk about the importance of like AI and all that intelligence and all that data and how it integrates into your company as a whole. I mean, that alone is like just a pure database of information. How does all that play into what the customer is going to see at the end of the day?

I said, I think they see it in our quality but because of the Precision is of the how we cut parts from sheets, taking it from a saw, taking it to an edge bander, taking it to a machining Center to an assembly line. All those steps and having the good Machinery to do, that allows us to have it so not that you can’t do it without it. It’s just, it becomes more challenging to do so well at this scale.

Yeah, I mean you get your Precision down like to I’m sure I’m micro rinse. Your my dad said he never thought we’d be dealing with thousands in woodworking so that was something I’ll never forget yeah if I’m going to get it like within a 16th like I’m good with that you know it’s do so y’all are able to literally get it down to the thousandth of an inch.

Yeah we mm so it’s these machines are precise so from a production output standpoint.

What did this facility? Do moving into it from like a volume

We’re still figuring that out. I mean, and the reason I say that is because we’re a custom shop, we don’t have a catalog that you make this one product and different sizes. We make different sizes, but it’s fitting your space. So we look for the flexibility to have to create something for you. So, allowing us to make things fast for the customer, and then also affordable. So having this ability does that, so Speaking on the customization and a customer input. Let I want to walk through like a customer experience of what they would get going to Gator. Millworks like from start to from first meeting to, they get the keys back to their, get the keys back to their house. What is that going to look like for them? Well, for a homeowner that’s going to look a little different than those for commercial job. So a residential client will

Sometimes have a design that they have in mind that they want to use. And sometimes they do not. So we can provide them with design services and basically start with a set of plans, you know, or our Pinterest photos, you name it most likely Pinterest photos. Let’s be honest. It used to be magazine. So when I started it so was just books and books that so when you take those ideas from the client and you make them real reality. So in what type of guest materials are offered within your services, if you can cut it on us all, we’ll usually cut it? So we we offer, you know, everything from plywood lumbers.

Of two Solid Surfaces materials, it just really depends. So, but nothing like stonework, we don’t do, but it’s a mixture man-made Stone, which is what this table is.

I was about to say this, this table, I’m intrigued, like, how did you get to the point where you knew this was going to be part of the production? I guess.

Like, with this particular table top, this particular table and top actually was, we were hosting an event here and we wanted some standing room tables. And so we came up with this, this idea to make this hexagon Able, and we had some material here and we did it. Very cool.

So, what does it look like from a larger scale production for a commercial or industrial size? How is that going to play into the customer?

So that it could look that could look differently to because they have budgets that we may work on for 12 months are. It could be something that calls here today that we’re picking up someone else’s capacity of not being able to perform. So it just really depends on what that is. But it’s usually defined more what they’re looking for. Because the architect has provided that information a little bit differently than off for a homeowner.

Gotcha. And so you actually, A cup capacity for some different Mill workshops in the neighborhood.

We do when that when that ability does have him for us, we get on big jobs. We just recently. Finished a 10-story multifamily project and New Orleans, it was for LSU Medical it was ten stories of

A four hundred and seventy three or four and seventy two units always smoke. It was almost six thousand cabinets in it. It was by far our biggest job we’ve ever done. So it was a learning experience but a very good experience for the coffee to half.

Yeah. Mashed. So I mean, that is just a massive project for anybody involved.

Yeah. We cut many, many sheets of material for this one.

Yeah. I bet. Well you machine was so how much did that machine help you for that project.

We couldn’t do without it. It helped drastically. I mean, when you’re when you’re cutting thousands of sheets of material in months of time, you have to get a move if I. Ah. So not saying you couldn’t do it without it. But you would need to be working twenty four hours a day.

Yeah. I mean, you’re you’ve ultimately.

Kind of shifted. What Mill working and being a cabinet builder. Looks like going from being, so Hands-On to now, you’re almost like an assembly line, pretty much for the cabinets that you’re doing, rather than having to do all the hand cuts. Now, it’s just so I guess automated, which is really fascinating.

Yeah, but a little more complex because now you’re taking more people to do that. So, now you have a, yeah, you have engineering Engineers that draw in produce the work to send to the production shop. And most of those guys have never worked in a shop sometimes. So when that has never happened, so your systems in your software, has to be on point because it’s what’s feeding the machines and if it’s cut wrong, it’s wrong.

So did you ever imagine you be hiring like a graphic designer, or an engineer when you first started not to come under work?

No, I did not. I couldn’t see that 20 years ago.

So how has that?

Landscape change, like the employees are looking for over the years. What does that just kind of morphed into in 2023?

I think it’s the same thing. I think the same thing we wanted and look for as a company years ago, which is desire effort passion. I think if people love what they do they’re going to be successful and they’re going to want to do it.

So yeah, I mean from like a role standpoint though, what have y’all kind of seen shift over the years?

Well, the trade itself has been I guess you can say he’d say dying. But, you know, we’ve had to change into technology because of carpentry work. Just not as just, not as taut as much as I wish it was.

So when I feel like most skilled labor trades are kind of dying.

You know they’re not. People aren’t going to trade schools as frequently as they were. They’re not looking to other become cabinetry. Workers become carpenters, painters. Whatever it may be, it’s like it’s the whole dynamic of a tradesman is. Yeah. Like you said, Stein. I mean, it’s crazy.

I think a lot of that too is on the trade. I think the trade itself needs to change. I think if they’re not willing to want to change that, it’s going to be difficult for you to keep up with what society.

So what are some things that you’ve seen? I mean, not only in the cabinetry world. But like, I guess I mean, you’re involved in construction from a to B now with your process and with Gator millworks. So what have you seen over the years is like an industry shift in the trades? And how are they kind of combating that from your perspective?

I think everyone has approached it differently. What we do is we work with and reach out to local high schools.

We have we go every year to Walker hi.

How about manufacturing Day event here sometimes and and host that and bring in students at a young age to show them, what is here and what they can do, I think that if you don’t do that as a business owner and show yourself, open your doors up, that it becomes harder.

So do they have like, A trade school that works within becoming like, a Cabinetry maker or something like that.

A few, there’s one, there’s one college actually, and Pittsburg Kansas, okay? We actually recruit there, it is a four-year-old architectural Millwork program and it’s a, it’s a small program, but they do teach what this is. Profession is so

Do they not have anything here in Louisiana? Not for not for like a two-year or four-year education. Now that’s crazy. I don’t do it and like you would think with the way that it’s a Dying Breed, I mean, here in the South especially like how you got to do something like that? You have to have some type of education system. It’s going to teach people trades. Yeah and I think some things are changing with that at the high school level. I know Walker High School is definitely doing some things with the trade school, getting students ready for life. They’ve done a well job, a good job with that. So have you had many students kind of, have you piqued, their interest enough to come and do summer like do you even offer summer internships here? What does that program look like from high school stage? We do, we’ve had students come from Pittsburg State University. We have had high school students. The

Two recently have graduated early themselves this year in December from Live Oak high school and are actually full-time employees here as we speak. That’s pretty cool. Yes. So in their work in like on the line becoming engineers, what. What is the opportunities available to somebody in high school listening to this thing? And they want to do some type of cabine entry work or become. You know, a hands-on trade service. So I mean, a lot times people start off in a production environment, you know, and we’ve had, you know, employees that started production environment. And as of today, we have senior project managers. We have long-term staff members that have started from a production environment to to an office environs. And so it’s really about the effort and a desire and your passion. And I think that’s where.

Employers can get over that. Hump of losing. The trade is that in-house training that, you know, you don’t label it as a universe as Gator University. But I mean it’s ultimately what you’re doing, right? You’re teaching these people the craft over the years and move them up and their position rather than just saying you’re going to assemble cabinets for the next 20 years. That’s correct.

I mean, we are our production environment. Here is a float more like a utility knife, you know it’s you have to have that I feel and and when you say years of training it takes that in This profession, you know it’s in a reason for that is as opportunities if they don’t present themselves sometimes to teach. So if this particular product that we’re making today doesn’t present itself again for three more years. I mean

You know, you don’t get to teach that sometime.

So right we’re Custom Shop. Yeah I mean being cuss exactly your you could build the table for an event one day and the next day build out somebody’s kitchen or bathroom and just that happens always altering what projects you’re on that and we have to be able to Pivot to do things. So and on that how much I guess are y’all not from a dollar standpoint but like how important is that for Gator to just totally invest in getting people?

The understanding of the process from beginning to end.

To end and I guess the process here does change. So everybody wants the process and we have them but those process will change with the work. So I think that comes with patients more than anything from people. You know, it’s one thing that I know I struggle would have times, I think we all doing in the world but

It’s it’s being patient with the process and knowing that it will change. And and it will work itself out. So what is the hardest thing about doing like custom work with what y’all do patients, because you’re gonna run into something that you didn’t see, and you’re gonna have to remake it? You know that. Just way it works sometimes. But you had to Google and make sure you’re wanting to do that because of the quality. Yeah. Well I mean, and ultimately, if you’re like we said, when you’re building something for like a residential home, you’re coming into their safe space. Right there. Spacious. They’re going to raise a family. They’re going to have countless meals around. And so they ultimately need it to be perfect because you’re servicing them directly, whereas commercial or industrial. You may not be servicing the person that signing the check. You may be servicing a bunch of people that that person is gonna serve. So you don’t have that.

One-on-one connection with the end-user possibly, but as for a residential like, yeah, I mean, have you ever had to go and completely change what you made on a job? Because the customer was like, yeah, we want to move the sink here. We want to do this in that.

Yes, we have more times than you can imagine. And sometimes it’s us, sometimes it’s a desire for the client to change something. And if it’s if it’s achievable and affordable will do it.

Yeah. And that’s the other part affordable, you know? Because at the end of the day, if it’s a change, that’s at the last minute, those are hard conversations to have with residential customers is. Okay, we got everything done. We’re going to go to install it and they say, we want to move the sink, you know, six inches to the left. We want to have the cabinet’s a little bit wider here. That’s got to be, I reckon. Yeah. Nerve-racking as a business owner, I mean, cuz then you either have to say, okay, can we absorb this

Or if not I mean, you’re going to have a difficult discussion of the client who’s probably already pushing up against their budget of, it’s going to cost X Y & Z more because now it’s essentially remake your cabinets and with being custom, it’s not like you can take that and go to the next job with it.

You know I use it in nowhere else. Usually. So and so what do you do with that with what?

Like with if somebody says we want to change X y&z I first installed what happens to it.

Usually we usually keep it, put it in a garage for storage or something like that. Sometimes we can repurpose it, but it’s rare. So it’s kind of important to try to get it right the first time.

You know, what does it measure measure twice, cut once, yeah, cut twice. Yeah, it don’t. Yes. So do y’all end up actually finishing the products that you are making. Like, I know that table that we’re sitting in front of is an unfinished. What’s the technical term of this board? Is it unfinished?

That’s a raw raw thing. That’s unfinished but same thing, but we do finish work here to we’re actually in the process of

Upgrading our finishing capabilities. Here we just put in a new flatline spray line for spring coatings for paint stains. And then next week we’re actually an installing it. What is a what they call a shoe box? Which is a microwave? I guess you could say okay. And what? This machine does or microwave Eve is a you can spray a product with coatings and put it into this box. And within twenty minutes, we can remove that product, a cabin door cabinet itself and in stack three hundred pounds up on that product, because it’s completely dry. Because the technology is drawing that coding from the inside out, which typically dries from outside in because it’s air surface, you know, you know, takes it first. And it’s a slower process which is usually around twenty two days to get a hundred percent cure on paint when we’re we’re going to achieve that. Starting sometime next week in about twenty minutes.

20 minutes.

Holy smoke. So that’s, you know, acceleration. So now we’re looking at when we’re QC in a project that may be shipping tomorrow morning and this afternoon, we realized that there is a damaged product. We can take that recoat, it put it in a booth dry it and put it in that truck and have it there tomorrow. So are y’all at the capacity now where you can have like next day turnaround projects somewhat that it always depends on size you know the scale of it. But as a rule is something you 400 and something rude, not doing that. We’re not doing 6070, 6000 cabinets, tomorrow that takes Minds. Yeah but I mean like I think I mean do you see the technology getting to that point where you become like an Amazon of cabinets? If a homeowner says, I want a kitchen set.

You can potentially make it in a day. I don’t know. I think that it kind of takes away a custom, you know, I think that I think the client wants that flexibility to make such decisions. No, that’s what we’re looking to. That’s the client we’re looking for is what we like to do. So to have something that’s a product line, I do see is doing some things. But ultimately we want to serve our clients and most of our clients are custom so we want that creativity to do. So will you ever look at like, doing a lot? Like, I line of Gator cabinets that are Standard set and you can run them like that. We’re looking at some things right now. One thing is a custom furniture line. So that’s a product line that we really feel like we can support on a national level from office furniture. We’re excited about what’s coming potentially with this. Yeah I mean because once you get to this, the standardization of

Just cabinetry or even furniture like then you started looking at home depots and Lowes. And you know how to you then start servicing all of those that just have built to order items or even like IKEA?

I don’t think that’s our market. I really don’t see us going to that end of the spectrum because that is a very competitive market. And it’s really not custom. So it would be challenging for us to I think the Pivot to a direction.

Yeah. I mean, the custom like you said, still keeps that element of creativity within both the designer and the customer, they’re not limited to have this size cabinet with this cut. And these finishes, it’s. What do you want from start to finish?

If you dream it, we usually can build it. It’s one of the things that.

And we look forward to in the next several months. We have a showroom here that we’re we paused on it when we moved in because we wasn’t ready for the foot traffic through here yet. So now we’re at that point looking to continue our growth here in this new facility. So, and the few next few months, we’ll be opening up our showroom here that we’re very excited about.

So, how did you know you were at that point? Ready to start pushing forward to the showroom? I guess what, what peace is needed to align to make that happen. I think just work flow. So as work you know changes Market changes pivoting.

So you know to do commercial work and residential work is not usually seen it. Yeah. You’re usually doing one of the other. So that’s a great thing that we wanted to stick to Our Roots. You could say of the residential market and we still do that well today. So it’s it’s important to us to do both and allows us to. I think stay that custom web.

Yeah, I mean, it’s generally. I know for some trades. It’s you start in your residential because it’s easier to go and find the customers and then you go to the commercial because you can have bigger margins and then some people will end up in that industrial space where it’s just, you control the price, right? But staying in that residential is tough. I’d imagine to stay within their stay profitable and stay able to provide the same level of quality and product that you are for your commercial customers.

I think it’s hard to grow sometimes than that. Direction. Yeah, you know nothing. That’s you know, if you’re looking for growth, it can be a challenge. That’s why I think the different product mix is good for the company because during the downturn of markets commercial can be strong and then it cannot be so strongly time. So I think for us, it’s been, it’s been beneficial having both because it allows us to continue with, you know, keeping our staff, growing the company.

Challenging ourselves with different products. Was there ever a point time in an economic downturn? We all got where you’re going to have to end up closing shop. Know. Um. I guess the our our moment we’ve been the twenty sixteen flood. You know, that was a moment that you know you wake up one morning and you lose everything. So you all lost everything in the Floyd? Six feet at war we had in our building. Oh my gosh, yes. Now? Was that this building or no? That was before we moved here in twenty sixteen. So you know, it was a tragic moment. We rebuilt it. That’s when we paused on this whole process here because we were about six months away from starting this building when the flood happened. So I mean, what did y’all do? How did y’all get Pat? What did y’all do to get past that and work through it work every day? Um. We took our staff every day. I think it was on Tuesday when we got back into the facility and, um.

It was a lot to do. Obviously, we had machines that were completely covered with water and had to be replaced and I guess you can say bad timing for us, at that time. Was that our would show which happens in Atlanta every two years was two weeks away and a market that was actually tight on equipment. But we were fortunate enough to have a good strong relationship with this Machinery supplier. And they took care of us in a way that I’m, I couldn’t be thankful for because we were cutting cabinets out again. Primitively in nine days, nine days business, our nine calendar days.

Nice not even okay.

So my calendar is six feet of water.

Nine days later you’re back up and I’m not 100%.

But yeah, with them think 35 days. We had our panel, saw a edge bander and are key things. We need it. Within 45 days of this flood that took place in

So you mentioned that would show, what is that?

It’s the international woodworking Fair it happens every two years and Atlanta Georgia and it’s literally some material suppliers, Machinery companies from all over the world. Come here to show what is the latest and greatest products, okay?

And so is that where y’all kind of learned about the? I learned a lot through that.

The years my first office? Yeah, I went there in 2004, my first year, ever with the intent to buy a CNC lathe which would Like do like a foot for cabinet or a post for a, you know, a turning and I stumbled upon a CNC router and it was I still remember like it was yesterday and seeing that machine run and seeing what he can do for us as a company. It was like, it blew a mine. I remember calling my father, he was somewhere in another part of the building I said, you need to come check this out.

And he saw it. And he’s like, this is this is a game changer. So what’s a CNC router for those that don’t know? So a CNC router allows us to take a sheet of plywood. So a full by HG or something that could be bigger than that. And we take your parts for your cabinets and we nest those into those sheets for best yield. So it’s like puzzles like taking those pieces and putting when we don’t physically do it. It’s an algorithm. Yeah. It does it. But it it’s amazing to see how it it creates those patterns and allows us to be efficient with our work. So it what it does is it does it for us. And then it. We may actually load the program. Put the material on those on the machine and cut the parts out and prints. A label puts to light. We put the label on the part and it identifies that through production. Yeah. I mean, that’s.

When I’m when I whenever a typical person and a weekend project is going commit to make a cabinet, they’re not going to probably mentally do that. The, the average Joe won’t, they’re going to say, okay, I need to cut, you know, two feet off here, four feet off here, and then you get down to it. You have like so much scrap wood left over. Now, what do I do with this? That happens here too.

Sometimes, I mean it’s inevitable. Yeah, it is one. Good thing we have here with that to help with that is all fall management. So when we cut these parts and it is a Drop it will inventory that drop as a usable drop and it gives it a I guess you can say a unique number and really. Yeah, so when production sends out another job, it may it’s going to recognize that that parts available and tell the operator you know to pick and use that part instead of bringing a new piece. So it

All this technology allows us to do these things. I mean some of the stuff I can’t do but because I’m not involved in the day-to-day operations. But these things as why we built this place is to be efficient and to better help train and teach this trade.

Yeah, you may have a puzzle piece that doesn’t fit on this puzzle.

But they do fit on a different puzzle correctly or you can cut it out for the other puzzle that your build. And sometimes it could be six months before you use that drop again, but knowing where it’s at, you know, that’s the great thing about what we can do.

That’s crazy. Pretty different. And so is there like a capacity or a limit for the amount of storage or I guess brainpower this machine can have and how long it can store piece like that.

Yeah. So it mean it’s about it’s not about the thickness of the material like inside the store. Would it keeps its about the overall height of a stack. So you know it’s about 6 foot overall Heights is what it can have and I don’t think we’ve even got close to the Max and the capacity out on this. Now, what is unique about it?

Is that it learns the behavior of where you put materials? So by placing this stack of material here in this location it may, you know, two months from now go, okay. We’re gonna start storing that here because it’s more efficient and faster to cut it from this location and retrieve it instead of where it was. So it learns. It’s it learns your behavior. I guess you could say, oh, wow. And and will help identify where you can improve that. That little scary for you somewhat machines learned. Yeah. Machines learning who you are. I mean, this industry is a little bit behind. I guess you could say, always from like the manufacturing of cars and and things like that, um, but robotics is coming for us in this industry. It’s it’s here literally.

Robotic machine can come and pick up a stack of parts and bring it to the next machine. So a person doesn’t have to do that but that’s a long ways out. I think for some, how about to ask you that, how long do you foresee needing a staff to like a symbol and put these cabinets together before it’s replaced by machine? I don’t see that. I mean, I don’t see that here, you know, people are important. So I think that, you know, technology here is to help lengthen, someone’s career. Is the biggest thing, safety your health Machinery is not to replace people and I don’t see it that way because it’s a trade. It just helps. You do it. It helps you helps. You get rid of the

The pain point of maybe cut something wrong because of the old way, right? Yeah. And that’s kind of where I was getting like not necessarily eliminating the people what shifting their roles, right? You know, making sure the machines and programming the machines to do the work and kind of assist with that, you know, like bring like you’re saying if it’s a cabinets, too heavy to lift using the machine to help them. So they’re not pulling their back, you know, and given longevity in a better Source of Life. Yeah, we have a lot of those things that throughout here just for Um, you know, helping longevity for everyone because it’s you have to have people. So, but not having those things in place. It’s it, does I’ve seen it where Carpenters at their bodies hurt. So, oh yeah. I mean, that’s anytime you have a manual labor or manual trade, you’re putting significant wear and tear on your body.

And without proper recovery or time off, it’s just you’re deteriorating everything over time. And you get to the point where you can no longer, you know, maybe pick up a four eight sheet of one inch thick plywood by yourself at that point. And you just lost the ability to do so because of how much wear and tear you have without a doubt. So where do you all see kind of Gator making? It’s next step within the industry. I think. Just keep an open mind of changing serving our clients, the best we can. So I think we’ll continue to grow nationally as we have been doing for years supporting, um, you know, more challenging projects, too. We we we seek those. So it’s something that we want to be challenged on a daily basis.

Now, within those challenges, have you ever come up against something, y’all just literally couldn’t handle, maybe we thought that in the beginning, but we usually have always, I don’t know of anything. We’ve walked away from and said, you know, during the middle of a project since we can’t do this. So there’s been jobs, we’ve bid and and, and taking on that we’ve probably didn’t know quite how we were going to do when we started. But I think that’s part of the process sometimes. Just figuring it out.

Yeah. Not necessarily faking it till you make it.

But But you know it’s definitely not tell you man. Yeah, but I think it goes back to the experience and Equipment you have I think and the people you know, having the knowledge of putting your heads together, it’s a very collaborative company. You know, it takes a lot of different Minds to do we do.

Yeah. I mean, I’m also recognizing that you’re doing something similar than you probably. You’ve probably done it before in the last 25 years. Just not to the scale in which his client could be asking you to do, correct. I mean, especially now being in the career, as long as you have been, you’ve probably seen for the most part just about everything, unless it’s some creatively new design that’s just never been seen before. We do see a lot of different things and I’m challenged with that. And we were challenged a lot. So, and that’s a good thing. So it’s not everything’s the same. Same. So it’s good, which I feel like is also kind of an incentive for hiring, you know, telling people you’re not going to do the same job every single day, even with in this profession. Some people look for that, though. I mean, but yes, I think that the growth opportunities is what allows that to happen. So giving people that growth of the ability to do that, but there are people there looking for that spot to go in. There’s nothing wrong with that. We do need that so at times. So I think it’s a mixture here.

So whenever y’all are selling like for somebody’s cabinets, are you all doing all the assembly in house or I’ll do it on site. So everything usually assembled here unless we can’t get an inner room. So there are times where you know, going up to three story are two storehouse that you sometimes can’t bring parts and pieces up there. So you have to dissect it. And that’s the good thing about some the machines we have. Is that how we when that does happen? It gives us the ability to assemble things in a field that it it, really. It doesn’t make a difference. So having components that snap together makes things a lot easier. So in in you really can’t do those things without machinery. That’s precise. So on that machinery ELAM.

The snap in pieces. Are you able to within it? Tell the space you have? And so it’ll tell you where the brakes need to be or is that still kind of man? Calculated that’s still got to be done by a person so it’s not generating that based off anything else. So there’s some metrics with that, that’ll do some things and break it. But as a rule, that the engineer or the project manager is making those decisions. In the beginning, God says about say that’d be pretty, pretty incredible. If you could put the whole house within the system and say, okay, here are the doorways, hear the breeze ways and it’s calculating The Angles and showing you basically how to install it in that house or in that building and then what size pieces have to go to fit through those doorways. You must have watch The Jetsons. I didn’t but I mean I just I’m thinking like at this point with how you described in the technology to me it’s like okay it’s got to be able to do something at least close to this with like maybe a new construction or something, where you get the plans and everything is laid out already on paper or within cat or a design. Like to me, that would be an organic

Yeah, I think a is common with some things to do that. I don’t know much about that end yet but I do see some things like that coming. We do a lot of 3D work so we’re kind of gearing towards some things but I don’t know about. That’s goes back to the creativity, we like to create so to give that away to something else. I don’t know that we want to do that you know.

You don’t want to advance technology even well not in that way. No yeah I understand. So I mean as we kind of start to To wind down and wrap up the show. We have like a set list of questions, we typically like to ask everybody. And so for years being in the business for 25, you know, years and being having to go through some challenges initially and taking the family and taking the family business over. What are like three lessons? You’ve kind of learned along the way.

His more theory. Give us a list. What are some lessons you’ve gathered in your years? Um. Learn to listen. I think that’s important for for people to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. I think if you can’t do that, it’s gonna be a long road. Love what you do. I think if you don’t find that, it’s gonna be painful, very painful. And it. I guess a third one would be as, um, be willing to change. You know, if you’re not, it’s going to be another rural, long road. So and I think you just gotta be willing to change. And you know, not necessarily completely changed. But like a pivot, you know.

Recognizing when the change is necessary, Shawn trying to, you know, continue pushing through something, that’s just it’s not budging but then making that pivot and moving around and ultimately get into the end goal is definitely something is going to be important. Yeah we don’t want to reinvent the wheel, that’s for sure but I mean that there’s no reason to change up or reinvent how something is done if it’s already at a very efficient capacity, I agree. So what is something you did as a kid. You wish you could still do today. I’m still a kid.

So I don’t know that answer, I guess. I don’t know. That’s a tough one.

Okay so what is something you did Growing Up.

Like whether it was with friends or family, what is kind of some good childhood memories enjoyed playing baseball? Okay, I did it was a challenging sport. You push yourself through it. So I think that sports are great for that and makes people who they are. And even if you’re not a pro star, it doesn’t have to be. I think that it in sports, in general. It’s great for that environment to learn to be around people. Yeah, it gives you that team building effort most definitely especially in baseball, and his team sports. It gives you the lessons of collaborate, you know, learning how to collaborate learning, how to give and take and learn how to deal with a variety of personalities in a tense environment. Yeah. And listening to a manager. Yes, learning to take advice and where to change and mix things up. Yep. So what is something you love about, Louisiana? The people

It’s um, I think what I’ve heard and seen in my life of forty three years. I think that the people here are just amazing there were different. I think that we most here will step up and do anything that they need to do to help someone. So I think that’s a huge thing.

So I completely agree with you. There the people are always eager to help out, you know, with y’all going through this twenty sixteen. Flawed. I’m sure you were firsthand witnessing what some of the people will do. You know, I was I was right there with a lot of people going and helping people tear out sheet rock, pull out their cabinets to then be replaced. And it was like a testimony me of how powerful and willing to help people are in Louisiana. You know, we band together through good times and bad, and it’s.

It’s like everybody’s family here. You know, most of them, we did that same thing. You know, we divided our staff up for months, every morning. After that flood and took half our staff, and send them to family members homes and help them clean up their homes to get back to life. So it’s what we do. Absolutely. And so, for the final question for you, is, what can I do to help you, man? I would say keep being you spread the word. I think this is an amazing place here. I think that the technology here in our industry is something that it’s not seen obviously much and we’re open doors. Like I said earlier it’s I think that more people could can come and see this place and be inspired to be something different, not to be this place. I mean, you don’t have to be, but you can be yourself, right? So,

What is the easiest way for somebody to get ahold of y’all reach out to you and kind of explore some different products that you all are able to create for them?

We got a lot of social media account so I think you can see a lot of our work through it, our website as well soon. Our show room will be open and we look forward to seeing Baton Rouge people come and see absolutely man. Why appreciate your time today?

Chad and welcoming me into your insanely. Just I’m blown away by this production facility. I’ll have over here. It’s absolutely incredible. So thank you for your time today, man. I really appreciate it but thank you for coming out. Absolutely. And thank you. Everybody else for listening or watching to the show? Whatever form you’re consuming us. I’m very appreciative.

I know the guests are as well.

If you’ve got a cabinetry job that you want to have some custom cabinets made make sure you reach out to Chad and his team. And they’re definitely gonna take care of you every step of the way. And thank you also to the amazing folks that bring you this show each. And every week we’ve got a little bit more about them right now.

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Thank you all. So very much for listening to this episode of The Patty G show brought to you by government Taco. They’re located on the corner of Government Street and Jefferson Highway J is always slinging up a new Taco of the month. So if you’re a frequent or to government taco, let us know in the comments what you thought about this month’s Taco of the month. If you’re not a frequenter, maybe trying out this month’s Taco might just convert. You big thanks over to them a government Taco, for making a Patty G show possible.

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