Safer & More Efficient: Stamford’s Catskill Craftsmen
Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, and Duncan Axtell, President, have strived to keep the company local, competitive, and renowned for its customer service.
They buy regionally-harvested yellow birch, hard and soft maple, black cherry and American beech. Once on-site at the Stamford plant, their workers rip, mill, dimension, dry, glue, plane and fashion the wood into one of dozens of beautiful end products. When Smith and Axtell came to the Watershed Forestry Program for a grant to improve their company, the decision to lend a hand was a wise one.
The Forestry Program’s grants initiative is a USDA Forest Service-funded economic development program targeting wood-based businesses in the New York City Watersheds. Its goal is to ensure that forestry – a preferred land use to protect water quality in the region – continues to be a viable industry in the Catskill/Delaware and East-of-Hudson Watersheds.
The grant from the Watershed Forestry Program financed two crucial projects to increase safety and efficiency at the company’s Stamford headquarters. To reduce heating costs and the risk of fire at the factory, Axtell and Smith decided to return the air from their dust collection system to the factory. “The grant money helped us purchase and install new spark detection and extinguishing networks to improve safety inside our dust collection system,” Axtell explained. All totaled, the Catskill Craftsmen factory houses four separate dust collection systems. With upgraded safety mechanisms in place within each one, the company installed fresh duct work to establish a return air network to efficiently reduce factory heating costs. “This winter, we should save at least $20,000 in heating costs just by conserving the air from dust collection,” Axtell added. In addition, the new system controls humidity levels inside the factory yielding a more comfortable work environment and less cracking in standing stock and completed wood products.
The second part of the Watershed Forestry Program grant targeted retaining jobs and sharpening the company’s competitive edge. When the grant money enabled the company to purchase tools to produce raised panel doors for its butcher block-style kitchen islands, they made their move. “Last fiscal year, we purchased our doors from a manufacturer in Pennsylvania. This year – because of the grant – our employees are using native hardwoods to manufacture the raised panel doors in-house and we’re saving over $20,000,” Smith said. With 60 people on the Catskill Craftsmen payroll, they’re maintaining their status as one of the top employers in northeastern Delaware County. “We’ve always preferred to pay our own people to manufacture our own component parts,” Smith said of the business’s philosophy.
The company used the remainder of the grant funds to hire a technical expert to help the company streamline its processes and incorporate soft maple – an abundant and traditionally undervalued species in the region – into their production line. “The Watershed Forestry grant and the additional help we received from the Catskill Watershed Corporation in Margaretville have really helped us keep the business competitive,” Smith said. Catskill Craftsmen’s products can be purchased online at sunnykitchens.com and at the company’s headquarters on West End Avenue in Stamford – Monday through Friday, 8:00 am until 4:00 p.m.