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Carving out a niche in the furniture world

| October 20, 2019 2:00 AM

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of business stories featuring local manufacturing companies in recognition of Manufacturing Month.

By BRET ANNE SERBIN

Daily Inter Lake

LodgeCraft Furniture has been manufacturing its own custom wood furniture in the Flathead Valley for more than 30 years, but General Manager Adam Kincheloe believes many locals aren’t familiar with the company and its homegrown operations.

“A lot of people don’t know us [or] what we do,” he acknowledged, despite operating their own wood shop and furniture stores throughout the valley since 1988.

His father, T.M. Kincheloe, started the company as Montana Wood Designs Inc. in Eureka. Adam and his two brothers worked alongside their father from the start, and LodgeCraft now maintains a manufacturing facility in Somers along with showrooms there and in Eureka.

“We all kind of started working together in the summers,” Kincheloe remembered. Three decades later, he emphasized LodgeCraft is still a family-owned and operated company made up of builders.

“We’re all pretty hands-on,” he said, which he thinks gives LodgeCraft a unique business model.

“We’re not a normal furniture store…being in the manufacturing side gives us a whole different” approach, he stated.

With the log yard and wood shop attached to their Somers showroom, he noted how the manufacturing side of the business is ever-present throughout their operations. Customers can smell the pine emanating from the shop when they walk into the showroom, and sawdust is constantly accumulating throughout the store.

“People love to come in here and go back to the shop,” Kincheloe said. “I think that’s something no one else can offer.”

This unique relationship to their products has been key to the small manufacturer’s longevity. “There’s not a whole lot of old-time builders,” he said, noting the many difficulties manufacturing has faced in recent years throughout the country.

“There’s definitely challenges,” he said candidly, especially for a small, family-centered manufacturing operation. LodgeCraft currently has 12 employees, many of them Kincheloe family members and staff that have been there for 15 to 20 years.

“There always [are] those conversations of how can we improve,” to stay competitive, he said. “We need to come up with something that other people aren’t doing. That’s the great thing with manufacturing. You kind of create your own destiny.”

This drive to continually improve has helped keep the local manufacturer running since 1988. In the early 2000s, for example, LodgeCraft briefly did wholesale vending before realizing it wasn’t their best idea.

“We wanted to get back to our strengths—providing a unique custom product no one else in the valley is” making, he recalled.

He feels their specialty is custom furniture made from local wood.

“If a customer wants something and we don’t have it, we can make it for them,” he insisted.

They use reclaimed barnwood, fast-growing alder and lodgepole pine that is primarily salvaged material to focus on the sustainability of their products. “We always try to keep that in mind,” Kincheloe stressed.

Their production process, which takes about six to eight weeks, “is still the old bench-made style of one piece at a time,” Kincheloe explained. “It’s not a production line.”

He said their most popular products are bedroom sets and dining room tables. They also partner with other small retailers to sell additional home goods such as metal products and Tiffany-style lamps.

With a thriving online business, they deliver all over the country and in Canada. Kincheloe said they also do a large amount of business with second-home builders in the valley, and they provide furniture for the hospitality industry throughout Montana. LodgeCraft pieces can be found in lodges from Whitefish Mountain Resort to Yellowstone National Park.

Despite their expansive reach, Kincheloe said they hope to deepen their local connections going forward. “Locally, people need to know what we can do,” he said.

After 30 years, they also hope to continue their legacy as a small, local manufacturer.

“The manufacturing side is how this started and how we’ll be in 40 years when my kids take it over, if they want,” Kincheloe asserted.

LodgeCraft’s showroom and manufacturing facility are located at 815 Montana 82 near Somers. They are open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at bserbin@dailyinterlake.com or 758-4459.