My visit to Allegheny Wood Works in Lake City reinforced the importance of partnership.
It was partnership that brought the current owners – brothers Steve and Mike Kraus – together in the business.
Both men bring unique business skills to their enterprise, and are thus able to complement each other. Steve Kraus, who has a background in retail, oversees the human resources, sales and accounting side of the business. Mike Kraus, who has a background in finance, now oversees the production and the shipping. Both left their previous careers to buy into the business, which is tucked away on a quiet street in Lake City.
“We’re the biggest manufacturer that no one knows is here,” Steve Kraus jokes.
As the owners since January 2014, the Kraus brothers are now proud to call themselves the largest manufacturer of solid hardwood doors in the country – or at least the largest that they know of.
During a tour of the Lake City facility, the care and craftsmanship that went into every door is apparent. The company prides itself on the quality of its work, starting with the quality of its lumber. We saw the door-making process from start to finish, culminating in the finishing touches applied by workers from Elk Creek Painting.
That brings me to another partnership: Allegheny Wood Works leases space to Elk Creek Painting, which in turn handles finishing work, such as wood staining. It’s a relationship that serves both companies well.
“That’s helping to support another 10 families,” Mike Kraus says, in addition to the 27 on Allegheny Wood Works’ payroll.
About Allegheny Wood Works: The company sells solid hardwood doors across the country and internationally, but they’ll also sell one “to the guy down the street,” Mike Kraus says. They do quite a bit of business in new home construction, but they’ve also found that their products – especially custom orders – are in demand for renovations of historic buildings and homes.
Why Erie County: Allegheny Wood Works predates the Kraus brothers’ ownership, but they are content with its location – not just in Erie County, but in west county specifically. They are Erie County natives, and they recently moved their families from elsewhere in the county to the Lake City area. They appreciate the logistics advantages offered by Erie County, and also the relative proximity to quality Appalachian hardwood.
Challenges of Erie County: Some of the challenges that Allegheny Wood Works has faced arise from state laws. In Pennsylvania, unemployment costs can be prohibitive, the Kraus brothers said – so they developed a system to ensure that a worker is a good fit for their company before offering full-time employment. They work with an agency to place workers on a temporary basis, which gives them the option to offer full-time employment once they are confident that the employee will be a strong addition to the Allegheny Wood Works Team.
Fun fact: Allegheny Wood Works does its own etching on glass inserts in doors. No design is too simple or too intricate.