Character, technology drive growth at American Millwork

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Article Written by: Brian Pedersen

Article Forward From LVB

To learn to not only survive, but thrive in today’s business climate, it takes tenacity and drive to overcome adversity and willingness to embrace change. To do so, businesses need effective leadership, the desire to reinvest in themselves, opportunities for employee advancement and a steady focus on quality and customer satisfaction. These are some of the qualities that have helped American Millwork & Cabinetry Inc. of Emmaus succeed.

Today, the company competes on a regional basis with similar firms from the Midwest and Canada.
Founded in 2001, AMC produces architectural millwork for sectors that include medical, retail and institutional and fabricates plastic laminate and veneer casework, all at its
Emmaus manufacturing plant. The company started shipping
product in 2002 from its first home in Quakertown.
By 2005, it occupied 14,000 square feet and had 18 employees, founder George Reitz said.
AMC sought more space and continued expansion but plans were derailed when a devastating fire destroyed its Quakertown facility in January 2006. While the fire left Reitz, AMC and employees scrambling to survive, a lot of support from the local community and other woodworkers helped.
“All of the specialty machinery was destroyed in the fire,” said Daniel Smith, Certified
Public Accountant and chief financial officer for AMC.

Precise Graphix of Emmaus, a competitor, gave Reitz access at night to its machines so
he could still do processing, Smith said. By working with colleagues and friends in the industry, Reitz said, he was able to cut his product at night at Precise Graphix’s facility and assemble it during the day in a leased, 4,000-square-foot-building next door to his benefactor.



Just before the fire, Reitz had negotiated the purchase of a former Emmaus fish farm that had been vacant. The space required extensive repurposing of land and buildings. He retrofitted the property and, in October 2006, moved AMC into its new home at 840 Broad St., where it remains today.

Though the recession hit two years later, the company persevered. “It even astonished me, but it took a lot of tenacity,” Reitz said. “Not only did we survive, we grew. We went from 18 employees at the time of the fire to 63 today.”


AMC management credits employees for its success. The company places a high value on promoting from within, while each department has a team leader. It’s a way for employees to take ownership of their growth.

“We are organically growing our workforce,” Reitz said.  As an example, Reitz said, he hired a janitor, and the company will start incorporating him into production based on an understanding of his ethics and character.

In anticipation of growth, AMC tends to hire before it needs the employee.

“There’s a 60-to-90-day learning curve just to get up to speed,” Reitz said.


The company also looks to hire for character, rather than skill, he said.

“We can’t break an old habit,” Reitz said. “We need that reliability. “… We pay a very fair wage. That’s why we have a high retention.”

There’s room to grow at its 90,000-square-foot Emmaus location, where it is expanding.


Construction in the region’s cities is contributing to growth, said David Reitz, brother of George and AMC general project manager.

Most of the company’s work, about 25 percent, is in the

Greater Lehigh Valley, with the rest in the mid-Atlantic, George

Reitz said. The company is competitive on a regional level and works with customers from

Long Island to Virginia. In its first year, the company did $735,000 in gross sales,

Reitz said. From that point to 2012, sales grew to $3 million annually, Smith said.

Sales last year grew to $8.3 million, with an expected 15 percent increase this year. From 2013 to now, the company has nearly doubled revenues,

Smith said. A lot of that revenue was in place and allowed AMC to buy roughly $3 million in equipment since 2013.


The company has practiced lean manufacturing since it set up shop in Emmaus, enabling it to stay nimble and responsive.

“We can turn those shop drawings around in two weeks,”

George Reitz said. New technology is crucial. For example, several years ago

AMC installed a computer numeric control saw-and-robotic panel retrieval system which transformed a significant portion of the 65,000-squarefoot operations, Reitz said.

It makes the company more competitive and allows it to reassign employees from nonvalue- added jobs to value-added jobs, Reitz said.

“There is less forklift use, less damage to sheet goods and it gives us better time and inventory management,” Reitz said.


The company now is choosier about the work it takes on, allowing it to control growth,

Smith said.

“Our industry technically hasn’t grown as much as other ones, such as wholesalers,” he said. “With us, we are almost reinventing the wheel with every step.”

AMC now uses a project tracking system that offers quicker access to information so it can make decisions more efficiently. “Schedules are so compounded that almost every project is a fast-track project,”

David Reitz said. “Every contractor is at full-tilt right now, and it’s not going to change.”


AMC is continuing to narrow its niche market because contractors have more work and the economy is doing better,

George Reitz said. “We turn away 75 percent of what we are asked to bid, although we would love to bid on them,” Reitz said. Aside from woodwork, the company is increasingly picking up elements that are part of the projects customers want, such as metal, stone and leather panels, and is managing that aspect of the project as well, Reitz said.

“Our work is scrutinized more heavily than anyone else,”

David Reitz said. “The millwork is almost 100 percent custom.”

Crafting Innovation and Growth

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Welcome to the American Millwork Newsletter! In this issue, we’ll be talking about some of the projects we’ve been working on and sharing with you a little bit about our history of innovation and growth.
American Millwork has grown considerably since our headquarters moved to Emmaus, PA a decade ago. We’ve tripled in size, increased from 18 employees to 62 and have maintained sustainable growth at a pace of 15% year over year. American Millwork has always embraced new technologies and methods to deliver the very best custom architectural millwork and casework. That innovation has paid off.

Late last year, American Millwork was featured in Design Solutions Magazine for our role in restoring the prestigious Bayhead Yacht Club. The project included the fabrication and installation of extensive interior woodwork for a 15,000-square foot ballroom that had been ravaged by Hurricane Sandy—a project that was both intense and inspirational. We were also recently recognized with a Woodworking Machinery Industry Association (WMIA) award nomination for our Commitment to Excellence through Technology.

As our industry continues to evolve, American Millwork remains committed to promoting knowledge-sharing and providing leadership in the wider woodworking community. Since 2012, company president and CEO, George Reitz, has served as president of the New Jersey chapter of the Architecture Woodwork Institute, an international nonprofit organization that establishes industry quality standards. Reitz was proud to lead the New Jersey chapter to its recognition as Distinguished Chapter of the Year in 2016.
We look forward to sustaining all this momentum in the years ahead and serving our customers with leading-edge technologies to exceed the highest quality standards.

Bay Head Yacht Club Featured on Design Solutions

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The Bay Head Yacht Club in New Jersey was established on September 8, 1888 “to promote yachting and rowing and to foster athletic sports upon the water”. Bay Head was then emerging as a popular seaside resort that attracted prominent families from Philadelphia and New York. The first clubhouse was built in 188 on pilings at the head of Barnegat Bay. The modest building was surrounded by marshes and reached from land by boardwalks .In 1893 the clubhouse was moved 100 yards east to its present location and in 1928 the current clubhouse was built to accommodate a growing membership.

Bay Head Yacht Club’s campus is a key site in Bay Head’s historic district.
It includes two buildings separately listed on the National Register as “contributing structures” within the historic district: the clubhouse and the boat shed, formerly known as Dale’s Yacht Basin, on Lake Avenue.During Superstorm Sandy, the yacht club suffered significant damage. Following minor repairs,a renovation and restoration of the 26,000 square foot clubhouse was planned. Architectural work for the renovation was commissioned to Platt Byard Dovel! White Architects of New York City.Architectural woodwork for the public spaces was fabricated
and installed by American Millwork and Cabinetry,an AWi member firm located in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. The $700,000 project was finished in the spring of 2015.


Primary design considerations says Samuel White FA IA,partner in charge of PBDW Architects,the clubhouse needed to look good enough to satisfy long­ term dues-paying members with many fond memories of the building. It also had to meet a very tight budget and schedule and “achieve an institutionallevelof quality.” The aesthetic, he explains, is “seaside colonial revival. We used a lot of beadboard and standard moulding profiles,and in a few places we used clear finished woods to replicate the bright work on a boat.” The custom Commodore bar is Mahogany while the tongue and groove ceiling is Ash.

Woodwork elements for the clubhouse included the bar and back counter for the Barnegat Room, the bar in the Commodore Room, tongue and groove ceiling in the Commodore Room, a slat ceiling in the entry hall and acoustical Walnut veneer ceiling in the Barnegat Room. George Reitz of American

Woodwork and Cabinetry reports the firm also did wainscot paneling, column surrounds. coffers. base trim. chair rail and crown mouldings. plus glass trophy cases with doors and storage. Poplar was used and painted in many areas. The ceilings were highlighted with finished woodwork. Mahogany was stained and finished with clearl acquer was used on the Commodore Bar while the ceiling in that room was Ash. Red Oak was used in the Barnegat Bar, with Walnut veneer on the ceiling.

The Challenges

The entire building was built over water.explains White. ‘We had to remove it from its pilings,park it on dry land. install new pilings 11
feet higher. raise the building, resettle it on its foundations, and then finish the interior.” The schedule for finishing the interiors was also a challenge,he goes on to say. “We had to perform a huge amount of work before we could resettle the building on the new foundations, and we could only close the clubhouse for one summer.” Especially noteworthy to Reitz were the display cases between the dining area and entry hall,including the walk through entry,which were fully prefabricated at the woodworking plant. ‘The entire floor to ceiling assembly was buiIt in sections and shipped to the site. They feature Poplar framed locking glass doors and storage behind beadboard doors on the dining room side. They had to be built around existing structural columns.”

As far as technical assistance was concerned, he continues,American Millwork and Cabinetry “took the presented renderings and design drawings to an engineered reality, by figuring out all the materials and joinery to accomplish what the customer. architect and designer wanted to see in the finaI product.” “Our working relationship with PBDW was excellent. We were able to handle the changes. site conditions. and revisions with ease.
Communication was good and they were very pleasant to deal with on a daily basis.”


‘We pride ourselves on producing old world craftsmanship products using today’s new world technology. We will produce your proj ect conforming to the highest of quality standards.’

-George Reitz, President

New Panel Retrieval System Puts AMC “Cutting Edge”

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Emmaus, Pa. – A new high tech panel-retrieval system that has gone into operation within our AmeriCase line and it catapults the Emmaus woodworking manufacturer literally onto the cutting-edge of technological achievement within the national woodworking industry, as told by George Reitz, owner and founder.

_MG_4822_DxOThis Schelling Panel Saw and Retrieval System has transformed a significant footprint in Reitz’s 60,000-square-foot plant, where it is currently the first system of its kind designed for and installed an architectural millwork/casework plant in the United States. It will make our AmeriCase line much more efficient, allowing us to increase our ability to meet tighter deadlines, while achieving expanded production demands and competitive prices, Reitz said.

The system was featured at the International Woodworkers Fair in Atlanta from Aug. 20-25.

_MG_4829_DxO“It makes us more competitive,” Reitz related of the system produced by Schelling Inc. of Austria. “It allows us to re-assign employees from non-value added jobs to value-added jobs. There will be less forklift use, which means less damage to sheet goods, and it gives us better time and inventory management.”

This Schelling panel saw and retrieval system encompasses a computerized number control (CNC) rear-loaded panel saw, with the ability to cut plywood or composite sheet goods up to 5 by 12 feet into smaller panels, or cabinet components, automatically to aid the fabrication of cabinetry, woodworking, and countertops. The retrieval system reduces the need for human intervention to load the saw, thereby significantly reducing possible damage to the sheet goods in handling as well as any potential injuries to workers.

It also requires less manpower to operate, and it will accomplish a significantly larger throughput than any saw without a retrieval system. In addition to all those benefits, this retrieval system keeps a perpetual inventory system of all sheet goods in the entire facility, which offers management greater control on material usage and purchasing cost. _MG_4830_DxO

According to Reitz, his engineers can program the retrieval system in the evening before the plant shuts down, and it will work through the night retrieving, sorting and stacking the panels necessary for following day’s production schedule. It can store and retrieve materials from stacks 80 inches high, up to 4,500 sheets in total, and maintain inventory of up an infinite variety of raw material SKUs (stock-keeping units). It can also retrieve and sort up to 300 plus panels in an eight-hour shift, or overnight. Optimally, it takes approximately one sheet to make one full cabinet, so it compressing dramatically the fabrication timeline for the successive day.

_MG_4831_DxOSimilar systems, which have been in use in Europe for many years, were originally designed for much larger production facilities than ours. Recently, Schelling has begun to target companies, such as AmeriCase, with new versions of the Schelling systems. They have been working with Reitz and his team, to design, build, and install the system in Emmaus, to train our employees to operate the saw and retrieval system to its most efficient capabilities, and to promote its acquisition & use at AmeriCase to industry and our Nation, Reitz acknowledged.

“It offers us greater material utilization and makes us even more competitive on price,” Reitz toned. “It enhances the concept of on-time deliveries. We will be able to do more work, in a much more efficient and proficient manner.”

AmeriCase is a subsidiary of American Millwork and Cabinetry and it was formed several years ago to highlight and differentiate the strengths & capabilities of the two distinct operations. While, American Millwork specializes in high-quality architectural millwork, such as wainscoting, specialty desks, wall panel systems, standing and running trim and custom cabinets which often utilize a unique design element, such as the type of wood, veneer, materials or color and stains, the AmeriCase line produces a more standard, or semi-custom, product primarily for targeted for the institutional, educational, retail and medical/healthcare users.

Founded by Reitz in 2002 the AMC group is now a multi-million-dollar corporation, working with architects and contractors from Long Island to Virginia, and areas east of Harrisburg to the Jersey shore. AMC now operates with almost 50 full-time employees, and the company has experienced strong annual growth despite the challenges of a regional economy struggling from the recession. _MG_4824_DxO

AMC products are featured in places such as the new Freedom Tower (WTC) in New York City, the Endless Mountains Hospital in Montrose, in Susquehanna County PA; the Lehigh Valley Health Network facilities, the Lehigh Country Club, Bay Head Yacht Club in Ocean County, NJ and the L.L. Bean store in Center Valley PA.

Reitz has a strong background within the woodworking industry. Prior to beginning American Millwork & Cabinetry, he gained experience through a career in cabinet-making that included roles as an estimator, plant foreman, and general manager for some major manufacturers in the eastern parts of Pennsylvania.

To learn more about AMC and the technology used in its operations, contact Reitz at, or call 610-428-5907.

Millworking for Resorts – Kalahari

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Kalahari Resorts on tap for early summer opening

Artist rendering of the planned African-themed resort. Nine months from now, visitors are likely to take their first steps inside a massive $350 million resort project in the Poconos that began construction last fall. Construction on the first part of the project should be finished and ready to open by early summer, said Travis Nelson, spokesman for Kalahari Resorts & Conventions. The company, which owns African-themed resorts and water parks in Ohio and Wisconsin, is bringing its first destination resort to the Pocono market off Interstate 380 at Exit 3 in Tobyhanna Township.

Kalahari Resorts & Convention Center – Poconos will be built in two parts and include a safari outdoor adventure park, hotel with more than 800 guest rooms and suites, convention center, spa and salon, golf course, retail shops, three full-service restaurants and indoor and outdoor water parks. “We went through a nice spring and summer season, which is nice for construction,” Nelson said. “We caught up after a long winter.” All eight floors of the hotel are built, with walls and ceilings up and workers completing framing and drywalling some of the guest rooms. Workers are installing walls for the indoor water park, which will have a retractable roof that Nelson plans to have in place soon so workers can begin on the interior.

“That’s a big milestone, that’s a heavy roof,” Nelson said. The lobby for the hotel is almost enclosed, with workers starting to drywall the interior and the layout of the three restaurants is starting to be visible, with workers starting to frame some of the walls, Nelson said. Kalahari Resorts used American Millwork and Cabinetry of Emmaus as the millwork contractor for the entire project, according to George Reitz, president of AMC. Kalahari will also build a 65,000 square foot convention center off from the hotel wing, Nelson said.

By the first half of next summer, three full-service restaurants, a spa and fitness center will all open and the hotel will open with 457 guest rooms, Nelson said. Kalahari Resorts is taking reservations for as early as July 15 for the hotel and some have already started trickling in, Nelson said. The company has hired about 10 associates so far, but will hire about 1,000 by the time the first part of the resort opens. Out of these 1,000 employees, about 600 will be full-time and about 400 seasonal and part-time, Nelson said. Guests and visitors can also expect to see authentic African artifacts displayed throughout the resort. On Oct. 1, the Nelson family and several Kalahari marketing associates will take a trip to several African countries to purchase and bring back authentic African coffee, stonework, woodwork and beadwork made by the people the company visits. A film crew will document their journey and interactions and these stories will be shared with guests and visitors through videos shown at the resort. “Everything we do really starts with the African theme and how rich the culture is,” Nelson said.

Though the harsh winter called for overtime on the project, Nelson said the construction has moved forward at a good pace and the land looks a lot different now from when it was a golf course last October when the company made a formal groundbreaking announcement. “From what is was then to what it is now, it’s pretty incredible,” Nelson said. The second part of the project will include building 400 additional guest rooms to the hotel, bringing the total number of rooms and suites to 857. Also in the works are a 100,000-squarefoot addition to the indoor water park space and a planned expansion of the outdoor water park by two to three acres.