Steven Crook, president of General Woodcraft, says the New London specialty home-improvement supplier is looking to the West Coast for new business and expansion.
Tim Martin/The Day
Steven Crook, left, president of General Woodcraft in New London, confers with Chris Nolan, director of operations.
But Steven Crook, president of the specialty home-improvement supplier General Woodcraft, has been on the diversification bandwagon for some time.
As the local economy struggled to regain its footing after job cuts at the casinos and pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc., Crook
started to look west for new business and expansion possibilities.
"We're going where the action is," he
said last month during an interview at his
Broad Street offices.
has added five employees in California, where real estate is booming and calls for the company's specialty decking and wood siding is strong.
Crook plans to head northwest to Seattle and Portland as well, eventually setting up a network of dealerships nationwide to carry General Woodcraft products
"A lot of things we put into place last year worked," Crook
"We increased our volume by more than one-third - that's something that made us smile."
Reaching out nationwide has brought residual benefits, too.
Website hits that once totaled 5,000 a month have doubled during the past 18 months - and these are not just passing fancies, since potential clients have kept pace with Internet activity.
"We're getting almost double the leads we were getting before," Crook
is focusing its new dealership program for now on the West Coast, but intends to work toward the middle of the country as time goes by, with an eye particularly on the Great Lakes region and the Southwest.
said the company will work only with dealers that have a customer-centric philosophy similar to General Woodcraft's
"It's a select group of dealers," he
, celebrating its 65th year in business, is working with about three dozen established lumberyards and specialty stores in southern California, teaching the dealers how their products work so they can better serve customers.
Many of the projects, Crook
said, are started by architects familiar with the Mataverde decking and Climate-Shield Rain Screen Wood Siding for which General Woodcraft
is well known.
To better handle questions from dealers, architects and builders, General Woodcraft
has added a technical department that is equipped to explain the proper installation techniques as well as designing solutions to building problems and tricky specifications.
In addition, the company has added a kitchen designer to its team in New London, boosting General Woodcraft's
ability to execute remodeling work from concept to completion.
The idea, said Crook
, is to make General Woodcraft
a one-stop shop for people looking for a kitchen makeover, saving customers time and money.
"We know design, we know space and we know construction," Crook
"The initial response has been very positive."
admits that expanding during the region's economic slump may seem counterintuitive.
said it was the right move for General Woodcraft
to tap into the high-end residential and commercial customers that are largely driving the home-improvement market today.
Increased activity on the West Coast - along with the company's established market between Boston and New York - has allowed the company to grow while others in a hunker-down mode have faltered.
"The commitment and focus of our team has allowed us to expand into these areas," Crook
President: Steven Crook