Friday, April 29, 2011

A tour of McKillican's new facility

Let me share something that happened a while ago, when I was still teaching for the University of Akron. At the end of each class session, I would pass out a large handout to help people set up their own woodshop at home. It included information about what tools to start with, shop lay-out, and several tool brochures from the main tool store that I used as my supplier. For many years, my students went to that supplier, buying everything from tablesaws to router bits.

Then the internet started growing like mad, and online retailers started giving that supplier some competition. So they opened up their own online shop. They grew and grew, and gradually, their customer service for walk-in customers suffered. They became less interested in selling one router to someone, preferring to focus on their larger customers - the builder who could drop thousands of dollars on nails and screws. For a while, they were the only game in town for tool repair, but they changed direction - preferring to sell new tools, rather than repair perfectly good tools that people wanted repaired.

Fast forward a couple years - you guessed it. They went out of business. Not just their one store, but all of their stores, I think there were three.

All of this is to illustrate how companies think they know how to serve their customer base. One or two bad decisions can cause catastrophic repercussions. In their case, many people lost their jobs and their customers were left scrambling to find a replacement supplier in the area.

Knowing your core customer is key. Knowing what they want to buy, and how they want to buy it is even more important.

So when one of my local lumberyards here decided to switch things up a bit, moving their location and radically changing their warehouse layout, I was curious to see if it was going to be for the better. Or was is going to be just another upper-management pencil pusher making decisions that were not an improvement.

I'm here to tell you that McKillican, here in Las Vegas, has made the right choice, and gone in the right direction. They held a grand-reopening of their facility this week, and let me say - this is the beginning of something great for woodworkers here.

Let's start by noting that their staff is friendly, helpful, and actually return your call! Drendia actually greets you with a smile and makes it a point to let you know about some of the new products they're carrying. I can't tell you how many of my students come back from a visit to McKillican raving about how they felt as if their business actually mattered when talking to Drendia. Nice.

Charles, their warehouse genius, goes out of his way to help you find what you need, whether it's pulling a whole load of wood down, so you can sort through it, or suggesting alternatives, if he knows of something that will work for you.

You'll find both at the new service counter, out in the warehouse. They're now going to be surrounded by row after row and rack after rack of lumber, hardware, supplies, and much more.

The display of Kirei Board, Kirei Wheatboard and Kirei Coco Tiles was very nice, showing some of the products that McKillican is going to carry. These products are manufactured from renewable or reclaimed agricultural byproducts and low-or no-added-formaldehyde adhesives.

The Kirie board is manufactured from reclaimed sorghum straw. Even cooler - the Kirei Coco Tiles are a new family of decorative tiles and panels manufactured from the reclaimed coconut shells left over after harvest. Effin' awesome, if you ask me.

At the open House, they held a drawing for an iPad. How nice - one of my students won it! (Congrats, Jim!)

The layout at the new facility feels comfortable to me. Someone put a lot of thought into it, making it easy to find what you need. The displays of adhesives shows the line they sell, and if you walk over to the display, you can find the glues in various sized bottles, from pints to five-gallon buckets.

Lumber that is on sale is displayed up front, as you walk in, so that you can browse through it. If you're looking for material, but don't really have something specific in mind, this is a great way to save some cash. Flexibility is always a good thing in a lumberyard.

Of course, the grill was a popular spot during their open house. They had a nice selection of food, and it sure seemed like everyone was enjoying the spread.

On a personal note, I'm starting to become a big fan of green materials, like the bamboo products shown here. I like just about everything about them - the appearance, the sustainability, and the products offered. For example, the parquet countertop panels are just gorgeous. My only beef? These products are only offered in a few different thicknesses. When I build furniture, I like to go with beefier panels, usually one inch thick, and the bamboo products aren't available in that dimension. OK, I have more than one beef - these products are a little pricey.

So - how about it, Teragren - any chance of coming up with a one-inch panel? I'll be willing to forego my beef with your prices if you come up with one.

Here is a nice display of the laminates that McKillican will stock. The metallic laminates, textured and available in everything from hammered copper to weathered steel. VERY exciting stuff.

I particularly like the layout of the moldings that allow you to browse through their inventory. People who work in my shop know that I'm very finicky about grain management, so allowing me to sort though all the sticks is very much appreciated. Having a good selection is even better! And this end-cap is filled with various items - from safety goggles to earplugs, edgebanding to stain pens. A very nice selection.

Let's not forget their FastCap inventory. I've been wanting a couple of FastCap's folding chisels, and ended up buying a set. Here is their display of FC's goodies - everything from personal gear like gloves and goggles to their specialty tape measures, and their "Third Hand" - very helpful when remodeling. I know, I have several! (Yes, confessions of a tool junkie.)

Just to clear the record, NO, I'm not related to McKillican, nor do I have any ties to the company. But as a local woodworker, I'm always excited to see new materials and facilities, and I think McKillican has created something very exciting here. Competition in the lumber market is good for woodworkers, and if you haven't stopped by their new place, I highly recommend it.

Tell Drendia & Charles that I said hello!


Paola R. Teragren VP sales said...

Great write up! McKillican is Teragren's distributor of choice in many regions, in part due to their great customer service and desire to promote 'green' products. Teragren does have the ability to manufacture oversized 4'x 8'x 3" panels. Thicknesses we offer are those most requested. Others are by special order. Minimum qty requirments apply. Please contact McKillican to review your needs ~ we're happy to offer a quote!

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