Blanchard Woodshop’s business evolves
OTTAWA — There have been plenty of changes in the custom cabinetry business since Jay Rump first started his business right after graduation from Ottawa-Glandorf High School in 1999.
When starting The Blanchard Woodshop, located at 8395 Road 15, Ottawa, everything was done by hand.
“When we used to make a cabinet box, you’d get a sheet of plywood, cut all your parts and then put in a dado blade and cut your slots; drill in your holes and install your drawer slides,” Rump said. “Now you put the plywood on the router. You build the cabinet the way you want it on (the computer), then you send it out there, and the router will do exactly what you tell it to. That piece of machinery has been a game-changer for us.”
Technology is not the only change in the business. Wages have also increased.
“When I first got into this, $10 to $15 was a good wage,” he said. “An employee working now, you’re pushing double that just to get them in the door and then toward the $30 range to be able to keep them. We’ve got a great workforce, very talented, the most talented people I’ve had working for me. Now just keep them, and that’s a struggle too.”
Family-owned and operated, Rump takes pride in his company’s ability to manufacture a diverse range of quality products. Blanchard Woodshop cabinetry is the result of a blending of time-honored woodworking techniques and highly trained professionals with state-of-the-art manufacturing.
With the increase in the housing market, the cabinetry business has increased as well. The company worked through the COVID-19 pandemic, never shutting down production.
“We went down to a couple guys. I wanted a good safe environment. We got through all that. It is amazing how business is booming,” Rump said.
Jay estimated 95 percent of his business is in Putnam County. He says they will go anywhere and have done work in Chicago and Michigan.
“It’s been busy in Putnam County. Putnam County has been good to us,” he said.
Yet business is not back to normal. Acquiring materials has been a challenge. Drawer slides are hard to get.
“I’ve had drawer slides ordered since August. We normally order 40 or 50 at a time. I’ve got 700 ordered right now and have no idea when they’ll show up,” he said. “I’m not buying in the quantities that I normally buy because I’m buying in fear, just as every other cabinet shop. Everybody’s doing the same thing to make sure that they are still punching out cabinets. It’s a bad cycle for everybody. We got to get out of the fear part. Once people feel comfortable with that, they’ll stop buying, and things will return to normal.”
Jay summarized his experience.
“I knew what I wanted to do. I’ve been very fortunate,” he said. “We’ve got some very talented people that can bring the business to another level. Hopefully the demand for the end product doesn’t go down.”
By Dean Brown
Reach Dean Brown at 567-242-0409.