KCMA CHARTER MEMBER
WOOD-MODE LOOKS BACK ON 62
YEARS OF INDUSTRY EVOLUTION.
Ten years after the end of World War II, the wood cabinet industry was in a state of flux. With market share
rapidly shrinking in favor of lower-cost
steel cabinetry, something had to be done.
It was under this backdrop in 1955, that
38 companies joined to form the National
Institute of Wood Kitchen Cabinets, known
today as the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association. The goal: To promote
factory-built U.S. wood kitchen cabinets.
Wood-Mode Inc., then known as Wood-Metal, was an active charter member in
the association. Founded in 1942 by T.O.
Gronlund, C.G. Wall, R.E. Nellis and Cas
Holloway, the company produced wood and
steel cabinetry until the war forced a change.
Those years, and the ones immediately
after, “were a transition time, not only for
Wood-Mode, but also for the cabinet industry, as we moved from steel to wood,”
said Robert Gronlund, chairman and CEO.
Membership in the association gave
Wood-Mode and others a collective voice
in the industry and help spur the growth
of wood cabinetry. It also provided Wood-Mode with opportunities to network,
obtain knowledge and resources to grow.
And grow it has. Today the Kreamer,
Pennsylvania-based manufacturer produces 700 to 800 frame and frameless custom
cabinets a day under the Wood-Mode and
Brookhaven brands. The firm posted sales
of $145 million in 2016 and employs 1,200
people at the 1. 3 million-square-foot plant.
Frameless cabinetry currently accounts
for approximately 65 percent of Wood-Mode’s business. The company was one
of the first adopters of the 32mm system in
the United States, and has been producing
frameless cabinetry since the early 1980s.
“Frameless cabinetry was probably
one of the major revolutions in my time,”
Gronlund said. “The cabinets were being
brought over from Europe and gaining
popularity – they were stylish, practical
and had a lower price point.”
Faced with the competition, Wood-
Mode made the strategic move to manu-
facture frameless cabinetry in-house. “It
was a big decision for us. We made the
commitment and in 1982 retained the
services of [German engineer] Hermann
Lechner, to assist in the design, engi-
neering and manufacturing process.”
The company was also tasked with
training employees on the new process as
well as the metric system. “It was one of
our biggest challenges – that, plus all the
machinery we had to buy. All I could do
was close my eyes and grin and bear it.”
Soon after, another paradigm shift
would hit the cabinet industry, and Wood-
Mode would once again take a leading
role: environmental/VOC regulations.
As finishing regulations were hitting the
industry, Wood-Mode was in the midst of a
plant expansion. To ensure regulatory approval for the new finishing system, Wood-Mode installed a regenerative thermal oxidizer (RTO) at its plant, using transferrable
technology adapted from the automobile
industry for woodworking. “We were the
first kitchen cabinetmaker in the U.S. to use
this technology,” Gronlund added.
A sustainable manufacturer, Wood-Mode also was one of the first companies to be certified under the KCMA’s
Environmental Stewardship Program.
As Wood-Mode celebrates its 75th anniversary, Gronlund credits the strength
of the company’s’ employees, dealers
and independent sales representatives.
He also gives credit to KCMA, adding it
“provides an excellent job” of keeping Wood-Mode, and the industry at large, in touch with
important news and information. ‹
Above: Overview of Wood-Mode’s 1. 3 million-square-foot facility. Right: The crew at Wood-Metal, now known as Wood-Mode, circa 1950s.