Charlie Meyer, vice president of sales at Ferche Millwork, based in Rice, Minn., retired after 27 years with the company. DWM spoke to Meyer yesterday to gain his insights into the changes in the millwork industry and his retirement plans.

DWM: What will you miss most?

Meyer: I am excited but I will miss the industry. I spent my entire working life in the millwork industry–it has been my family. I got to know a lot of people around the country and a lot of my friends are the people I worked with through the years. Some are gone, unfortunately, and some have retired.

DWM: What has surprised you most in your career?

Meyer: In some ways this economy has been an unwelcome surprise. I went through the economic downturns of the 70s and 80s, of course, but this one was more than people could handle. It has made the industry more difficult. There are fewer family-run organizations and that has changed the way you deal with folks, etc. The people are still the same but the structures have changed through the years.

DWM: Talk about some of the changes that have occurred in the industry throughout your career?

Meyer: A few weeks ago, I took a look back at the companies we served in the mid-80s and there are only a few of them left. We had a lot of Huttig locations that closed, Ashton Wholesale, etc. Jeld-Wen is still there but it has a lot different look. It is a whole different bag full of folks than it was then.

We have also seen more building material distributors get involved in millwork distribution and they have broadened their product lines. Andersen Windows really changed–our biggest customers were Andersen distributors.

DWM: How has Ferche survived through all this?

Meyer: We continued to work on new customers all along–our customer mix is very good. Again the sales are down due to the economy but we have done well. As far as distribution we just moved on to other people.

 DWM: What has surprised you throughout your career?

Meyer: One of the things people told me in early 70s was that for two-step distributors their years were numbered and now I think it is as strong as it was then. So I am glad that prediction didn’t come true.

DWM: What do you view as your biggest accomplishments at the company?

Meyer: I would say through the late 80s and until 2005 I am proud of how we manufactured a very high quality product and through all of the margin pressure we were able to continue to have the highest quality moulding in the country. We made more than 11,000 different products last year and for a moulding company that is unheard of. We really have been able to expand.

DWM: What do you look forward to most about retirement?

Meyer: Being with my family, hunting and fishing–and we love to travel. The first thing we want to do is spend time with our daughter-in-law who lives in the D.C. area with her two children. We also plan to take a road trip out West.

Ted Willoughby will take over Meyer’s role and he brings experience in the coatings industry and 10 years with Milgard Windows to Ferche, according to Gerald Grider, president.

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