‘We focus on a true custom design’

Published 10:53 pm Friday, January 19, 2018

Woodworking company transitions to a new owner

NEW RICHLAND — On a cold Friday afternoon in November, Solid Wood Products employees Steve Schulz and Jim Finseth work inside their shop to build new creations.

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Boards that will become a part of customer homes line the wall, and it is quiet — save for occasional tool work or light music.

The two men are in the process of changing owners while still delivering quality products.

Solid Wood Products is a custom woodworking cabinet shop, specializing in building furniture, cabinets, mantles, kitchens and buffets.

Finseth has been in the industry since 1974, starting in a building next to the current shop at 115 First St. in New Richland, which he moved into in the mid-1980s.

A couple years ago, Schulz, formerly a doctor, began working with Finseth, which came at a good time for the longtime woodworker, as he was looking to take a step back in the business.

Solid Wood Products is at 115 First St. NW in New Richland. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Schulz said he became aware of the open position when Finseth’s wife informed his wife, Jodi, of it during an appointment at the dental office. 

“That’s how it all started,” Schulz said.

“My hope is that I would find somebody like Steve — well, we found each other,” Finseth said.

“I’ve thought about it for years, going into the woodworking business professionally, and this opportunity came up and decided to go for it,” Schulz said.

The two have since worked together, and for about a year, Finseth conducted bid work.

“We seemed to work well together,” Schulz said.

The sale is expected to occur over a few years and will include the shop, equipment and inventory. Finseth will still help and be able to use products in the shop for his own projects.

“He says he’s going to keep doing it as long as he can, which is good for me,” Schulz said.

Finseth expressed confidence Schulz will do a good job of leading the company.

“He’s got the same eye and passion for woodworking as I think I do,” he said.

Schulz grew up near Duluth and is an Army veteran, serving for a few years in the early 1990s doing field artillery work. He attended medical school following his military service, and, after living out-of-state, moved with his wife to Minnesota about 10 years ago. He worked as a doctor until 2015, when he joined Finseth in the business.

“I’ve always liked to build things,” Schulz said. “I love to build things.”

Their market is split between the Albert Lea area and the Twin Cities. Though the Cities is a longer drive for the pair, it also provides the larger market. 

Jim Finseth, left, is still involved with Solid Wood Products after selling the business to Steve Schulz. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

“Our business comes pretty much from word of mouth and contractors,” Schulz said.

The process to build begins with a conversation about the style the customer is looking for. To complete a project, Schulz and Finseth take measurements at the house where the items will be, refine the project’s design, illustrate it, secure approval for planned work and receive a down payment.

“Once it’s done, we’ll take it to their house or whatever and install it,” Schulz said.

The pair problem-solve to quicken the engineering process.

As of November, the business hoped to add a few employees in the next two to four months and introduce new equipment.

After each project is finished, Schulz said he wants each customer to be satisfied with the project’s design.

“We’re a small company, and we don’t compete with the big shops that have dozens of employees and crank out hundreds of cabinets a week, so we focus on a true custom design that fits their space,” he said. “Delivering, I’d like to think, delivering better service in terms of spending more time with customers and refining their ideas, that kind of thing.”

Schulz said there are a couple of parts of his job that appeal to him, including coming up with the project design and working with customers to ensure a quality project is completed.

“It’s fun when the lumber truck shows up out here and we get a stack of raw boards, and they don’t look like much when you start out, but you start seeing things come together and get close to final finishing, like where we are with this project out here.

“And then you see that first coat of finish going on, and the wood just comes to life. It’s great — it’s a great feeling.”

Tools and equipment line the walls of the shop. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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