reinvigorates Colecraftreinvigorates Colecraft
Commercial furnishings manufacturer
expands options and emphasizes customer
service to build business.
Most of the furniture manufacturing that was once a key industry
in western New York in the early 20th century has gone away, but
new owners of one manufacturer are bucking that trend. They are
showing that a custom approach with an emphasis on effective
product design and customer service can allow even a smaller
manufacturer to compete in today’s challenging economy.
Colecraft Commercial Furnishings was reborn eight years ago
when five principals took ownership of what was left of Colecraft
Manufacturing. Based in Buffalo, N. Y., the original Colecraft
emphasized commercial tables and meeting room furniture, with
relatively limited product offerings. The new owners, many formerly from Bush Industries Inc. ( 42 on the FDM 300), had a bigger
plan for Colecraft, and today, despite the slow
economy, that plan is showing success.
The main reception
desk at the
in Jamestown, N. Y.,
shows off some
of the diversity
done by Colecraft
The original Colecraft was already shut
down when David Messinger, Randy Jackson, Chris Friend, Ben Kozlowski, and Shelton Pitney bought the assets and launched
Colecraft Commercial Furnishings.
“When we purchased Colecraft eight
years ago, we recognized that we were
facing an uphill battle,” says Messinger, who
handles administrative duties, sales and
marketing for the new company. “Historically,
the business had been successful manufac-
turing mid-priced commercial grade tables
and related meeting room furniture. We saw
the increased commoditization of that seg-
ment of furniture. Price points were dropping
due to the increase in both domestic and
offshore competition. We recognized that we
were making essentially the same product
in a much smaller plant and with the same
materials as our much larger competitors.
We could not compete with the economies of scale available to
the larger manufacturers.”
After moving 26 trailer loads of equipment to a new location in
Falconer, N. Y., they were up and running in just three months. Of
course, that sounds easier than it was. Even though the new owners
purchased a business, they were largely starting from scratch. Only
Ben Kozlowski shows how Colecraft uses
sophisticated computer design tools to
efficiently provide custom products for
commercial furnishings customers.
Who: Owners Dave
Messinger, Randy Jackson,
Chris Friend, Ben Kozlowski,
and Shelton Pitney.
one of them, Chris Friend, who now handles
material management and purchasing, had
experience with the old Colecraft. In one
incident that has become legendary in the new
company, Shelton Pitney, who now works in
product design, had to go dumpster diving to
rescue important Colecraft records.
Expanded custom offerings
The secret to the new Colecraft’s success is an approach that builds more business from each customer by emphasizing an
intense focus on meeting customer needs.
A good example of how this works would be a public library
project. Whereas the old Colecraft might have sold a few tables
for the project, the new Colecraft offers reception desks, custom
shelves, computer stations, custom media storage, countertops,
and even matched architectural panels.