July 10, 2017
On the record

On the record: Mousam Valley Millwork trims too-fast growth

Photo / Tim Greenway
Photo / Tim Greenway
Lisa Girard, owner of Mousam Valley Millwork in Springvale (and her dog Patute), makes cabinets, seating and other products for customers including York County Community College and Evo Kitchen & Bar in Portland.

Lisa Girard, owner of architectural woodworking company Mousam Valley Millwork of Springvale, found herself in a jam most companies would envy. In 2015, she had too many orders, and her staff worked overtime to meet customer deadlines. Revenue was $2.75 million that year, but the work pace was a breakpoint for Girard, who decided to trim revenue to a steady annual $2.1 million, which she said makes for a good workload.

The company, started in 2014, makes cabinets, seating and other wood products for institutions, the hospitality industry, retail and corporate academic clients. Mousam Valley Millwork now is finishing up 37 vanities for dormitory bathrooms at Bentley University in Waltham, Mass., and it is making seating for York County Community College's auditorium. Its work also can be seen at Evo Kitchen & Bar's wine rack in Portland and in a bar top at Oak Barrel Tavern in Worcester, Mass., made from reclaimed whiskey barrel slats and blackened steel. Some slats contain famous distillery stamps still visible in them.

Girard and her former husband started the company in 2014, and she recently bought out his interest. Her two daughters are among the 24 full-time employees, 17 of whom are skilled tradespeople. She said she'd like to see more business in Maine: only 2% of revenue is from the state. Girard — while juggling scheduling and worker availability — talked recently with Mainebiz about the company's growth and being a female company head in a male-dominated industry. An edited transcript follows.

Mainebiz: How did you get into the woodworking trade?

Lisa Girard: I worked for Millrock Inc. in Sanford, which made store fixtures for greeting cards and videos. I was there 11 years as part of the operations and mid-management team. They were in a lot of video stores and were hurt by the economic downturn in 2009.

MB: How did Mousam Valley Millwork get started?

LG: My husband, Joe Willis, and I started a house and building framing company in our garage. We then started the millwork as a side business in 2012, when we were getting orders from Tim Chick, a former colleague at Millrock who was at Index Millwork in Milton, N.H. We built cabinets for Tim and got more and more work, so we moved from our garage into this building [at 282 River St.] in 2013. So Joe, myself and two men worked in 3,000 square feet of rented space. We gave up the framing business and bought all 18,000 square feet of this building in 2014 for $360,000. Joe left the business last year and I bought his part of the company in May 2017.

MB: How do you plan to grow the business in the Northeast, particularly Maine?

LG: I've brought in Gene Dawkins [a 40-year master cabinet maker], a colleague from Millrock, on a one-year contract as a consulting engineer to grow our business in the Northeast. We've also partnered with Benchmark Construction of Westbrook, a general contractor. We want to also go after the growth of hospitals, as we build nurses' station countertops. We're also talking to Landry/French Construction [of Scarborough]. Still, we're trying to manage growth. In 2015 we had a huge influx of work that was hard to manage. We scaled back in 2016 to $2.1 million in sales and are on that pace for this year. We are profitable.

MB: You are in a male-dominated business. How has that worked for you?

LG: I haven't had any issues as clients realize I know the business. I can even talk generally about the more technical aspects.


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