Molding men

Partners create niche business to serve home construction industry

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— Most people don't give the wood trim in their homes a second thought. But people building $2 million homes in snow country care a great deal about every detail in their new homes, and the last thing they're going to do is pay to install cheesey "case and base."

That philosophy is what two Steamboat Springs businessmen, Scott Glynn and Peter Elliott, are counting on. They are the owners of Mountain Molding, manufacturers of custom interior trim and wainscoting.

The term case and base refers to the casings around the windows in a home and the baseboards where the walls meet carpets. If Glynn and Elliott had their way, even more people would install crown moldings where the interior walls meet the ceilings in their homes.

"When people are building $900,000 condos and $6 million homes, they want things to stand out a little something to give it the wow factor," Glynn said.

Any molding profile an architect or interior designer can draw, Glynn and Elliott can transfer to wood. Elliott brings the custom touch to wood molding by grinding steel knives for his company's specialized molding cutting equipment.

Most customers never need to order a hand-drawn profile after they look at Mountain Molding's catalog of 1,600 patterns. When a customer orders a specific pattern for the crown molding that will dress up their formal dining room, Glynn and Elliott can order the plastic template and grind the necessary knives by the next day.

The two men have invested $90,000 in two pieces of machinery that grind the knives, then cut the wood to tolerances within one ten-thousandth of an inch.

The machines are imposing to look at, but Elliott explains them in terms of equipment you might find in any hardware store.

"It's like we have a fancy key cutter and a big pencil sharpener," Elliott joked.

The molding cutter itself has five steel cutting heads, one for each of the four surfaces of the dimensional lumber that will be turned into the finished molding, and a fifth for applying a smooth surface to the outside of the wood. The smooth finish Mountain Molding applies to its products represents a considerable cost savings for contractors, Glynn said.

"Most of the contractors who buy our work never have to hit it with a piece of sandpaper," Elliott said.

The two men acknowledge they still have work to do in order to convince customers of the economics of using their custom product. They say they can come within a few pennies per lineal foot of bids from bigger suppliers in Denver and Grand Junction.

"We might be a couple cents more a foot," Glynn said "We know that price is king in this business, but we think contractors will appreciate our service and quality. Just-in-time delivery is so key in this industry."

Elliott and Glynn are willing to jump into their delivery truck and bring their product to any job site in the county.

Their ability to provide quick turnarounds is also valuable in the case of builders who underestimate how much molding they'll need and require another 20 feet to complete a job.

When they order from a big Denver supplier, Glynn said they'll have to get back in line and wait three or four weeks to get their delivery. Mountain Molding will knock the little jobs out in less than two days.

Glynn and Elliott are hands-on owners; they operate every aspect of the business and bring diverse backgrounds to their company. Glynn formerly worked in the retail golf business in suburban Detroit. Elliott owned and operated a Michigan insurance agency for 20 years. They met through their wives; Glynn's wife Cathy and Elliott's wife Joni are cousins.

Elliott learned a great deal about his trade while he was an employee of Kevin Fedewa. Fedewa Custom Works is a local fine cabinet company that bids kitchen cabinetry and molding installation jobs for single-family, multi-family and commercial building projects.

Mountain Molding's shop is immediately next door to Fedewa's shop in fact there is an open door between the two businesses, allowing them to work closely on mutual projects. Mountain Molding is also beginning to forge relationships with local lumberyards.

Despite a predicted slowdown in the local construction industry, they are optimistic that the luxury home market, a key focus of their shop, will continue to grow.

Glynn said their services would be particularly attractive for someone restoring a historic home.

"We can reproduce molding that isn't being made any more and make it look like it has been there for 100 years," Glynn said.

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