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WallGoldfinger is a shining example of the spirit, quality and skill representative of fine New England manufacturing. Originally founded in 1971 in Warren, Vermont as Union Woodworks, WallGoldfinger has remained laser focused on creating beautifully designed and expertly crafted furniture for the last 41 years. Originally producing small-scale residential designs, the firm now specializes in high-end custom corporate furniture and has an elite list of clients including The White House, IBM, Microsoft and General Electric. Despite high-end list of clients, WallGoldfinger remains grounded in the original principles of Union Woodworks; quality, craftsmanship and design. Each project at WallGoldfinger is different than the last, with custom specifications coming from architects, designers or the clients themselves. Boardroom tables, which can be up to 50 feet long and cost upwards of $150,000, integrate high design with highly specialized technological features and remain the core of the firm’s business.

WallGoldfinger recently relocated to a new space in Randolph, Vermont after Tropical Storm Irene all but destroyed their Northfield, Vermont mill. The new facility is the former Ethan Allen furniture factory, a sprawling 58,000 modern mill facility. A recent visit to their factory and interview with founder John Wall revealed a tight-knit group of 40 employees, many of them 20-25 year veterans of the firm, making them a truly elite class of woodworkers. Small teams of two or three woodworkers are spread out throughout the manufacturing floor, working from start to finish for up to three weeks on one table. The factory floor is arranged in a linear fashion according to the production process: raw material, veneer, routing, assembly, finishing, re-assembly and shipping. The layout has been designed according to lean manufacturing principles, and the team’s 41 years of woodworking experience. With room for expansion and plans for growth, WallGoldinger is beginning to write an entirely new chapter in their history.

Q&A with John Wall, founder and CEO of WallGoldfinger

NEM: What were some of the founding principles when the company was started as Union Woodworks in Warren, Vermont in 1971? How much have those early principals changed in the last 41 years?

JW: It was always about teamwork, not the individual person. Quality has always been of the utmost importance. And we never would have survived and prospered if we did not work hard to please our clients.

NEM: Many of your employees have been with you for 20 – 25 years. Do you have any secrets for keeping your team engaged and motivated after working together for more than two decades?

JW: You know, I don’t think there are any secrets and that’s part of the reason people stay. I run an open business and because of that transparency, each employee has access to the same information and they know exactly where the business stands. Also, each day is different and each piece we build is different. The people who work here are problem solvers, they aren’t assembly line workers. The nature of the business, how diverse the projects are and the culture of openness all help to keep things interesting and engaging.

NEM: You work in a very traditional business - woodworking is one of the oldest trades in New England. But your products are actually quite innovative, both in how they’re manufactured and in the features they are designed with. Is the innovative side of the business driven by you, WallGoldfinger, or is it driven by the demands of your customers?

JW: Over the years, we’ve become known and recognized for our integration of technology. It’s a combination of the demands of architects or designers that we work with and our own desire to continue to evolve and change that has gotten us to this point. Each client has totally unique needs and requests and we have an amazing team that is committed to coming-up with a solution that meets their needs.

NEM: What are some of the greatest benefits about where the business is located?

JW: New England is such an inspiring place to live. We have amazing employees who are truly specialists in the field. We have amazing clients and we are now in a truly amazing building. Not sure it’s gets any better than that. We’re excited about our future in Randolph and looking forward to continued growth in the region and beyond.

NEM: What does New England Made mean to you?

JW: New England has so many great manufacturers – I think the common thread between them all is quality.

*Ross Evans is an advocate for the new Made in America movement. Ross has over 10 years experience in sales and marketing working for companies like New Balance, Reebok and Simon Pearce. He started NewEnglandMade.org as a vehicle for telling the stories of the makers at the center of the resurgence of domestic industry.
 
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