From the Basement to the Bid Time
Woodtronics Millwork Corp. grows from one-man shop to major woodworking enterprise
Jan Efraimsen, the President of the Woodtronics Millwork Corp. (Woodtronics) of Yorktown Heights, New York, has long enjoyed woodworking and electronics. More than 30 years ago, Efraimsen found a way to combine both his passions in his work. From humble beginnings, his company has grown from a one-man shop in his basement to a sophisticated operation housed in a 7,000-square-foot facility. Employing nine skilled woodworkers, Woodtronics manufactures all manner of custom cabinetry, wood moulding, wall units, windows and doors for commercial and residential customers, primarily in the New York metropolitan area.
Growing Little by Little
Originally from Norway, Efraimsen moved to New York in 1974, where he worked as an electronics engineer for a Norwegian company. He continued in this role until 1986, when his company laid him off during a period of downsizing. Finding himself out of work, Efraimsen turned to his hobby, woodworking, to see if he could make a living. But he relied on his electronics background as well.
“I always liked woodworking,” Efraimsen says. “And I like electronics. So I called my company Woodtronics.” Working alone in his basement and later in his garage, Efraimsen started out making jewelry boxes before moving on to larger projects. “In the beginning, I did a lot of wall unit cabinetry,” he says. As part of a typical cabinetry job, Efraimsen often would install a customer’s television and speakers. “I would do the whole package.”
As is often the case for many new businesses, Woodtronics did not succeed overnight. “At first, I didn’t sell a lot,” he says. His company grew “little by little,” Efraimsen says, as he learned more about the construction industry and developed relationships with local contractors.
“I worked with a contractor to learn the business,” Efraimsen says. “I did a lot of construction at the beginning. Then people asked me to make more and more cabinets.”
About 25 years ago, Efraimsen accepted his biggest job up until then, making 200 doors for a commercial project in New York City. The work enabled him to move his operations out of his house and into his first workshop. Continuing to grow over time, Woodtronics moved 14 years ago to its current location in Yorktown Heights.
Today, Woodtronics focuses mainly on the commercial market, though it also serves residential customers. “Seventy-five percent of our work is for commercial customers,” Efraimsen says. “The rest is residential.” For example, Woodtronics can create kitchens, bathrooms, wine cellars, raised paneling and countertops, in addition to custom cabinets, moulding, windows and doors.
On the commercial side, Woodtronics frequently works with hospitals, medical offices and schools. “We try to focus on the commercial market,” Efraimsen says. “I think that is what has kept us in business all these years. During the recession 10 years ago, we didn’t have a problem.”
The company’s positive relationship with numerous contractors contributes to its success, as Woodtronics now obtains much of its business on the basis of referrals from its partners. “I don’t go out on sales calls too much anymore,” Efraimsen says. “Everything comes in the door now.”
Good Workers Make a Good Company
Woodtronics also benefits greatly as a result of the hard work and allegiance of its eight employees, many of whom have worked with Efraimsen for more than 10 years. “It’s been many of the same people for many years,” he says. “That’s a good thing.”
What Efraimsen’s employees have in loyalty they match in skill. “They are true cabinetmakers,” Efraimsen says. “Everybody is a good worker. You tell them what to do and they do it. I have an all-around good crew. There’s no question about that.”
As an example of the dedication of his workers, Efraimsen recalls how they went above and beyond the call of duty to help complete a large job on time in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Two contractors hired Woodtronics to assist with the renovation of between 40 and 50 Chase Bank outlets “up and down the East Coast,” Efraimsen says. “We had to work at night. We had to get this done before they opened in the morning. Everybody chipped in to work. They’re very good people.”
In particular, Efraimsen relies on Lukasz Mul, the Project Manager and 18-year Woodtronics veteran. “He’s a workhorse,” Efraimsen says of Mul. “When I’m not here, he takes care of everything. I don’t think I could have done it without him. He’s a fantastic worker. He knows everything about everything.”
Along with their expertise in cabinetmaking, design staff at Woodtronics have extensive experience in the use of computer-aided design (CAD). In fact, any jobs involving the use of the company’s computer numerical control (CNC) machine include detailed shop drawings, and the manufacturing process does not begin until all parties involved in the design effort have granted design approval.
For Efraimsen, the high number of repeat customers enjoyed by Woodtronics offers perhaps the best sign that his company is doing something right. Frequently, Woodtronics will perform a “little job” for a customer, Efraimsen says, only to be called back later for another, larger project. “That happens many times,” he says.
Customers can count on Woodtronics to ensure that a job is conducted to their full satisfaction. Although patrons rarely have a complaint, Woodtronics is quick to respond to any concerns regarding a finished project. “We don’t get too many call-backs,” Efraimsen says. “But if we do get one, we take care of it right away.” As a result, “everybody’s happy,” he says.