December 29, 2021 | Bill Esler
Freeburg, PA—William Penn Cabinetry, a start-up kitchen cabinet business that hired recently laid-off Wood-Mode employees during its 2020 launch, has been evicted from its plant in Freeburg, PA.
The Daily Item newspaper in Middleburg, PA says the cabinet shop’s landlord received a $12,000 court judgment against William Penn owner Maurice Brubaker after he fell $78,000 behind in his rent. Brubaker, who also owns two other area businesses—custom millwork firm Stanley Woodworking in Middleburg, PA and commercial cabinet maker Wood-Metal Industries in Sellingsgrove, PA—laid off 80 employees and stopped operations in October. The Daily Item reports the manufacturing equipment is intact and on the dormant plant floor.
Last year IWF Network News reported that William Penn Cabinetry was a beneficiary of a $500,000 loan from SEDA-Council of Governments intended to let it open a second shift and hire 150 people. SEDA-Council of Governments is a confederation of development programs at 11 Pennsylvania counties.
With receipt of the loan funding, Brubaker said, “This loan allows us to get the company the resources it needs to further ramp up our production much more quickly than our original estimate of a year.” Brubaker formed William Penn Cabinetry in July 2019 after he saw the abrupt closure of Wood-Mode, a prominent national cabinet manufacturer that has since relaunched under new ownership. William Penn Cabinetry began production in March 2020 with half of the first 30 employees drawn from Wood-Mode.
The loan was used to fund inventory, equipment, rent, payroll, utilities, benefits, payroll taxes, and purchases.
“It was hardworking people who lost everything in the blink of an eye,” Brubaker said. “I felt it was our duty to help the community and help these people to get back to work. I think it’s good to have manufacturing in the area and those are normally good-paying jobs with benefits. I understood the trickle-down effect of 900-plus people being out of work and possibly losing homes, not putting food on the table.”
Only days after opening, however, the COVID-19 pandemic hit hard, and the company had to close from March 19 to May 8, 2020 due to the statewide mandated business shutdown in Pennsylvania.
“Rather than retreat, we marched forward,” Brubaker says. “We hired a vice president of sales and a sales director. We took this as an opportunity to grow.” As a professional accountant based in Lewisburg, Brubaker had no prior experience in the cabinetry business, according to the SEDA-Council of Governments, and so he has relied on experienced employees to direct the business.
President of the business is Doug Lauver, with 22 years in the cabinet industry, including 22 years at Wood-Mode, Inc. Lauver oversees William Penn Cabinetry’s team, equipment, materials, and manufacturing process. Operations at William Penn Cabinetry are situated in a 150,000-sq.ft. plant in Freeburg, PA, outfitted with Stiles Homag CNCs, saws, and edgebanders.
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