From the June/July 2020 Issue  

Celebrate Family Business – Crown Point Cabinetry

Crown Point Cabinetry Dining

Maple cabinetry is clad in “Slate over Pitch Black” hand-brushed milk paint and burnishing and features Crown Point’s “Century” door style.

 

Norm and Deanna

Norm and Deanna Stowell in the early 1970s.

“When Norm started the family business back in 1978, it wasn’t really a family business,” says Brian Stowell, president of Crown Point Cabinetry, based in Claremont, New Hampshire. “Norm” is Norm Stowell, Brian’s father and founder of the company. “My father has always been very talented. He built his first home when he was 18 years old. Later, he worked nights, weekends and summers in construction to help feed the seven kids he and my mom, Deanna, had.” During those early years, Norm worked a day job as a teacher and then a principal. “When he decided to build cabinetry for a living,” Brian says, “he got a $5,000 loan from a local bank. That was the beginning of Crown Point.”

It was, as they say, a humble beginning. “He started to build cabinets in the garage of an old Victorian home,” Brian explains. “This was not a garage that was insulated and comfortable. To the contrary, it was the exact opposite.” In spite of the less-than-perfect working conditions, Brian and his brother, Scott, joined their father in the company. Over the next few years, the business grew, and Deanna came on board. Brian remembers, “When we got too busy to build cabinets in the garage, we started to build them in the family room. It was about that time that Mom asked if maybe we had outgrown the garage.” Indeed, they had, and shortly thereafter the company moved to its first “real” cabinetmaking facility. “We hoped we could afford the $300 a month rent!”

As the business grew, so did family participation. “At one point, all seven kids were working for Mom and Dad!” Brian is proud of the family dynamic. “I would note that Mom and Dad were very good at managing the family business, as all nine of us love and respect each other to this day.” It was clear that Norm had begun a family legacy based on a solid foundation. “He taught all of us that our business is about respect—respect for clients, for our trade professionals, for our employees, our vendors and for each other.”

Norm Stowell and the Family Garage

Left: Norm working on a personal project in his garage 1991. Right: The iconic Stowell Family garage where the business got its start.

That mutual respect paid off and the company flourished. In fact, in the ensuing years, the company’s biggest challenge was managing its rapid growth. “We were a little too successful for our own good,” Brian says. “We were growing way beyond what we expected or could effectively handle.” The swift expansion created hiring and internal quality issues. To address these concerns, Brian reworked the cabinetmaking process, instituting a quality-first approach while his wife, Rebecca, implemented a new team-based manufacturing operation. “These two programs helped save the company,” Brian notes.

Crown Point Cabinetry Kitchen

Cabinets: Square inset construction, White Flour on Maple with Newport doors. Island: Square inset construction, Tradewind on Maple with Newport doors.

Direct Sales Launched

In the midst of these changes, Brian introduced yet another modification; he convinced Norm to create a Direct Division to supplement the sales from the 75 dealer network on which the company relied. “This was quite risky at the time,” he says, “because the internet was relatively new and nobody sold custom cabinetry across the miles to people they never met.” Though fraught with potential peril, the plan worked. “My dad would tell you it was a good thing that it did, as we were having weekly meetings to discuss whether to shut down the company or hang in there another week. We worked countless hours. We made our share of mistakes. But with the support of Mom and Dad, we made these changes.” As always, the Crown Point team came together. “With an all-out family effort and the help of some fantastic employees, we made it through a time when many other companies would have shut their doors.”

Crown Point Cabinetry Shelving

“Honey with Van Dyke” glaze on reclaimed chestnut ensures a rich tone on these cabinets, which feature beaded inset construction.

 

Today, the company sells only direct. “The vast majority of cabinet companies have dealers that represent and resell their product” Brian notes. “This adds an extra layer that increases costs and puts the client farther away from the cabinetmakers.” Crown Point’s customers have a different experience. “They come to our cabinetmaking facility. They tour our 100,000-squarefoot shop and they meet the people who are going to build their cabinetry. Every member of our sales design staff works for Crown Point Cabinetry. We take full responsibility for design and crafting the entire project.”

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Maple Perimeter Cabinetry

Maple perimeter cabinetry has straight channel construction and Crown Point’s “Asheville” door style. It ’s painted in “Whitetail.” The island is painted in “Perfect Greige.”

Technology & Craftsmanship

Over the course of the decades, Crown Point has nimbly accommodated changes in the industry. “The cabinetmaking sector has become more dependent on CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machinery,” says Brian, who took the reins as president in 2001. While custom cabinetry will never be built without talented craftspeople, “the machinery that has been developed over the past 10 to 20 years focuses on producing highquality custom sizes in a way that was unthinkable 40 years ago.”

To ensure that Crown Point remains on the cutting edge of the industry, the company continually “acquires new equipment to make sure we are leading instead of following.” High-tech purchases include a state-of-the-art, million-dollar finish system that Brian says produces a consistent oven-baked finish that cannot be matched with hand-spraying and air drying. In addition, “we have invested in overhead routers that allow us to ‘nest’ different cabinet box pieces to be cut out of a sheet, avoiding the waste of valuable natural resources.

Frameless Construction

Frameless construction creates a sleek look. These cabinets feature “Candlelight” stain on sapele wood with Crown Point’s “Barnstead” door style.

While technology is important, it’s people who make Crown Point the success it is. “We have invested heavily in our employees,” Brian says. “We continue to run the team-based operation Rebecca launched over 25 years ago.”

As it has been for years, Crown Point is best known for “quality, service, style and keeping our word,” he says. “If we tell you we are going to do something for you, we will move heaven and earth to make it happen. We don’t make promises lightly. And the ones we make, we keep.” Brian’s goal for the company’s future is “to continue to build beautiful products for deserving clients; to continue to employ the best crew I could possibly have (I love my employees, truly); to share all of our success with my employees; and to do what I need to do to make sure my crew is happy at Crown Point. Employing a talented, committed group of people ensures that we always do right by our customers. Our core values of honesty, trust and going above and beyond to make clients happy have never changed.”

  • The lower cabinetry is maple painted in “Earl Grey.” The wall cabinet is Reclaimed Chestnut with a Natural finish.

     

  • Tung oil on reclaimed Hearty Hewn Oak gives this cabinetry a rustic look.