Merillat Industries Inc.

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Merillat Industries Inc.

5353 West U.S. Highway 223
P.O. Box 1946
Adrian, Michigan 49221
(517) 263-0771
Fax: (517) 265-4435

Wholly Owned Subsidiary of Masco Corp.
1946 as Merillat Woodworking Company
Employees: 3,100
Sales: $250 million (estimated)
SICs: 2434 Wood Kitchen Cabinets

Merillat Industries Inc., a subsidiary of Masco Corp., is the largest manufacturer of cabinetry for the kitchen, bath, and home in the United States. Merillat was launched in 1946 as Merillat Woodworking Company by Orville and Ruth Merillat. In the early days, the company manufactured custom kitchen cabinetry at a 2,400-square-foot plant in Adrian, Michigan. Merillats original product line, Merillat Kitchens of Birch, was sold mainly to local consumers. It was also available through two modular housing manufacturers based in nearby Toledo, Ohio.

By the mid-1950s, consumer demand for Merillat products was increasing significantly, as was Merillats market share. To cope with increasing demand, the company moved to a new, 15,000-square-foot, modular kitchen cabinet manufacturing plant, also located in Adrian. The firm also implemented several new marketing strategies, including a two-step distribution system designed to provide more efficient product delivery.

Throughout the years, Merillat continued to position itself as a leader in the manufacture of cabinetry. For example, the company instituted a mechanized assembly line that was able to manufacture its kitchen and bath cabinetswith self-closing hinges, high-pressure laminate construction, and aluminum drawer glidesmore quickly. In 1962, Merillat received a patent for its self-closing hinges, leading to a new level of industry awareness of the companys technological advances.

In the mid-1960s, Merillat introduced a product line with reversible doors and drawer fronts, featuring two different wood grain-designed Formica brand laminates. The company also developed a hollow core laminated door, moving away from birch and toward the lightweight, highly durable products that the market was demanding. To stay ahead of increasing demand for its products, Merillat expanded its Adrian plant to 76,000 square feet in 1964, and to 135,000 square feet in 1966.

In 1968, Richard Merillat, son of the company founders, obtained a design patent for the Romance cabinet line. Romance was awarded a patent for utilizing injection-molded plastic doorsan industry first. Prestique, a styrene material used in Romance cabinet production, provided the look and feel of wood, while being resistant to moisture damage.

In 1971, the 25th anniversary of the founding of Merillat Woodworking, the company was renamed Merillat Industries Inc. Soon after, the company introduced cabinets with solid oak, double-doweled front frames and vinyl-laminated particle board end panels. By the mid-1970s, Merillat had expanded its product line with the introduction of an oak raised-panel cabinet called Forest Oak. In 1976, the firm built a manufacturing facility in the town of Jackson, Ohio, for the production of solid oak front frames.

The opening of the Jackson plant signaled a growth period during which Merillat Industries became the nations largest manufacturer of cabinetry for the kitchen, bath, and home. By the mid-1980s, the firm had more than 2,000 employees in seven plants throughout the country: Adrian, Michigan; Jackson, Ohio; Lakeville, Minnesota; Culpeper, Virginia; Atkins, Virginia; Rapid City, South Dakota; and Las Vegas, Nevada. In 1982, the company moved into a new 21,000-square-foot corporate headquarters in Adrian. Three years later, Richard Merillat assumed the position of president of Merillat Industries, while Orville Merillat was named chairman.

The evolution of the company continued in 1986 with the opening of a door frame and veneering plant in Mt. Jackson, Virginia. In addition, the Jackson, Ohio, and Culpeper, Virginia, plants were expanded that year. In 1988, a 43,000-square-foot addition tripled the size of Merillats headquarters, enabling the company to better meet the increasing demands of the market.

In 1991, Merillat opened two additional manufacturing plants. The 75,000-square-foot plant in Atkins, Virginia, was opened to manufacture door panels. A new 225,000-square-foot plant in Loudenville, Ohio, was built to manufacture the Amera cabinetry line. Amera was introduced to provide product alternatives in the expanding remodeling market, which was becoming increasingly populated by sophisticated and upscale consumers. The Atkins and Loudenville plants brought Merillats total manufacturing plant count to 10 facilities and more than 2.5 million square feet. Merillat also had distribution centers in Denver, Colorado; Orlando, Florida; and West Palm Beach, Florida. The company sold its product through a network of 100 distributors and specialists who worked directly with major building contractors and individual remodelers.

In January 1992, Merillat introduced six new oak raised-panel cabinetry styles with full-overlay design into its ready-to-install cabinetry lines. Alexis and Alexis Arch provided a light finish, Bristen and Bristen Arch provided a medium finish, and Cambric and Cambric Arch provided a pickled finish. The products were all available with optional mullion doors with glass inserts.

The following year, Merillat introduced four new frameless maple raised-panel cabinetry styles: Kingsley and Kingsley Arch with natural finishes, and Rockingham and Rockingham Arch with pickled finishes. Also introduced at this time was a new generation of Merillats traditional overlay light, medium, and pickled-oak cabinetry with the addition of full-concealed hinges, a new edge profile on doors and drawer fronts, and Merillats own dual captive WhisperGlide drawer and tray system.

In 1994, Merillat introduced the Premium Woods, a line of three new wood species in traditional overlay, raised-panel cabinetry. The Premium Woods included Preston Cherry, which was available in Nutmeg finish and red-toned Paprika; Darlan Hickory, which was available in Nutmeg and honey-colored Cider; and Shetland Maple, which was available in natural finish and oatmeal pickled finish. At that time, Merillat offered more than 40 traditional and contemporary cabinet styles in cherry, maple, hickory, and oak. In addition, Merillat cabinets were offered in three oak finishes, two cherry finishes, two hickory finishes, and two maple finishes. They were also available in one vinyl and four melamine laminate colors. Cabinet doors in the ready-to-install line had a variety of style treatments, including raised center panels with square, arched, and cathedral styling, square recessed panels, mullion doors with glass inserts, and flush contemporary doors, some with sculptured oak pulls and trim.

Merillat also offered more than 100 Customizes accessories for the kitchen and bath. The Customizers program provided builders or remodelers with a wide range of accessories. For example, the Appliance Garage provided a convenient stowaway area for appliances, and the swing-out pantry helped make the homeowners kitchen accessible but not cluttered. Other accessories included drawer dividers, tip-out hampers, and a hutch. The program was supported by a full package of marketing materials and trade publication advertising. William H. Ficken, Merillats vice-president of marketing, told Professional Builder & Remodeler that he believed the customized package of accessories was very important to the builder as well as the buyer. The Customizers Program addresses the fact that there is a need to properly accessorize the kitchen and other areas of the home, he said. Builders who upsell will have a good sales margin opportunity in these option packages.

Amera was another Merillat cabinet product line that offered customization and attention to detail. Amera kitchen products came in more than 50,000 combinations, including traditional framed and European frameless construction, 21 traditional and contemporary door styles, four wood species, six wood finishes, five laminate colors, and a full range of storage features.

By the mid-1990s, Merillat was well-established as an upscale manufacturer and marketer of high-quality products. An article that appeared in the Detroit News noted that Merillat kitchen products were used in the 1994 renovation of the Manoogian Mansion, the traditional home of Detroits mayor. Merillat attributed its success to its focus on brand awareness, according to Professional Builder & Remodeler. We have the highest brand awareness of other cabinet makers, a Merillat representative stated. Our customers recognize that our name creates a quality impact and awareness.

Further Reading

Colborn, Marge, Masco Is Making the Most of the Manoogian Facelift, Detroit News, September 24, 1994, p. D20.

Kuhl, Helen, Introducing Merillats First Frameless Line, Wood & Wood Products, November 1988, p. 68.

Merillat Americas Cabinetmaker Fact Sheet, Adrian, Michigan: Merillat Industries, 1994.

Merillat Means Cabinets and So Much More, Professional Builder & Remodeler, November 1, 1991, p. 121.

Pamela Berry