By MAGGIE SCHUETTE-VOSS
The small town of Plato is, of course, named after the Greek philosopher. That much is obvious.
What is not so obvious is that a company that calls this town home has its product prominently displayed in the homes of Jodi Foster, Sally Jessy Raphael, and Kent Hrbek.
Plato Woodwork manufactures custom cabinetry and has been family owned since it was started over 100 years ago.
From this sole proprietorship, the company has grown to 120 employees, and has stayed family owned. Ed Pinske's son Tim, Tim's wife Marlys, and their son, Karl are now owners of Plato Woodwork. Karl joined the company in 1991.
The cabinets have been featured twice in Country Living magazine and are showcased in the latest edition of Better Homes and Gardens special interest publication Country Kitchen Ideas.
The cabinets the company makes are framed cabinets, which Marlys Pinske said are a traditional American construction. Frameless cabinets are a European influence. Cabinets are all wood, without any plastic laminate material and constructed from either oak, pine, maple, cherry, birch, or hickory.
Plato Woodwork is sold throughout the United States by retail kitchen dealers. Locally the product is sold at the Plato Home Center and their staff includes a certified kitchen designer.
While Plato Woodwork does what Marlys Pinske calls "high end" cabinets, this does not mean their cabinets are out of reach. Their product is in demand for major home remodeling and also new homes. It can be designed to fit in the budget of most homeowners. "We've done $50,000 kitchens; we've also done many $10,000 kitchens," she said.
All dealers are required to have a display of Plato Woodwork cabinetry with which to sell the product, and it is here where the work to make a Plato custom kitchen begins.
The dealer is often a kitchen designer who will work with the client to create a custom kitchen plan for the home.
After the kitchen dealer has designed the room to the satisfaction of the home owners, the order is sent to Plato Woodwork for processing.
The steps to process the order take as long or longer than the building of the cabinets.
The personnel at Plato Woodwork will check orders for accuracy, and do further drawings to assure the cabinet makers will get the proper assignments.
The Plato Woodwork was one of the first makers of cabinetry to become computerized.
"We got our first computer in 1979. It was about the size of a filing cabinet and had a little 6x6 inch screen," Pinske said.
Since then, the company has made the most of technology. The manufacturing process is departmentalized, and begins by making parts for the doors and parts for the cabinet boxes.
Many of these cabinet parts are made on highly sophisticated machinery that is computer driven.
After the parts are processed they are assembled and then go on to the finishing area of the plant.
At this point, the cabinets can have a simple stain or paint finish applied, or several additional finish steps can be added to make a gradually more complicated and customized finish. This might include distressing to make it look old and worn, glazing which is applied over the stain or paint and then partially wiped off, or a crackle finish.
After the finish is applied the cabinets are completed by assembling the doors, drawers and all other accessory pieces.
During the construction, each cabinet is given a bar code which aids in tracking the piece while it is in the plant.
When completed, the cabinets are put in cartons and shipped to their destination via truck.
For each cabinet made, the company keeps a sample of the wood, finish and style so it can easily make replacement parts.
Because of the high end quality of the cabinetry, Plato Woodwork will stick to its formula of selling only through dealers.
"It takes a specialist to sell these cabinets and designers know how to use them in practical ways so that it's still affordable," Pinske said.
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