D&WC: Please give a detailed description of your company and its history.
Vince Rasmussen: Three
partners founded Caldwell/VSR, Inc. in 1991, and today we remain the
company’s three owners. Each of us possess unique and varying
backgrounds, which have contributed to our success: my specialty is
sales and marketing; Hilton Pittman, finance and manufacturing; and
Jim Lingenfelter, a technical background in wood slat manufacturing
along with wood finishing. Together we formed a strong partnership
and team built on years of experience in the window coverings industry
coupled with a passionate commitment to our customer’s success.
We started with only 15 people in a 7,500 square-foot building in
Hesperia, CA. Our business grew because we were filling a niche in
the marketplace. We built wood blind kits of slow moving colors for
wood blind fabricators who didn’t want to carry a lot of inventory.
In February 2003 we will be moving to a new state-of-the-art, 250,000-square-foot
D&WC: What window coverings
products did you handle initially? What products do you handle today?
Rasmussen: We originally
were a finisher of wood blind kits and two-inch slat material, primarily
working in stains. Today we finish every configuration of wood blind
slat available including flat and beveled in various sizes: one, 1
3/8, two, 2 1/2, 2 5/8 and three inches.
In addition to painted and stain finishes, we pride ourselves on being
the leader in developing specialty fine furniture finishes for wood
blinds. We now are able through various printing and coating techniques
to replicate the look and feel of beautiful designer furniture you
see in high-end showrooms.
We also finish over 200 decorative valance profiles along with multiple
bottomrail profiles. In September, we launched our new Pre-finished
Wood Shutter Components program. We are extremely excited about this
program and what it can offer the shutter fabricator along with the
blind fabricator who are looking to increase their bottom lines. We
currently are offering our line in two painted and two stain finishes.
D&WC: Give a percentage breakdown
of these products. What one product or line stands out above the rest?
Rasmussen: Of course
the two-inch blind category remains the bread and butter of our business.
However, we are seeing steady growth in the wider and beveled slats
categories. This is due to consumers wanting the look of wood shutters
in their homes without all the expense and time involved.
We believe the next major growth cycle will come from our pre-finished
wood shutter components program due to the ease and simplicity of
D&WC: What is your approximate
sales volume? What was it after your first year in business?
Rasmussen: In 1991 our
sales were approximately $600,000. Now sales will exceed $50,000,000.
D&WC: Is your business computerized?
Do you have a company Web site, and how is it used to communicate
Rasmussen: Yes, we have
a Web site and we are computerized. We believe in utilizing the latest
technology has to offer. This only better serves our employees along
with our customers in helping us communicate more effectively while
delivering a far superior product more efficiently and on time.
Our customers use www.caldwellvsr.com,
our Web site, primarily to track the status of their orders. Customers
can go online anytime and see what stage their orders are in, pulling
the wood, finishing, packing and shipping information. This valuable
information is updated every 2 hours.
We currently are developing our new site, which will provide even
more services. This new site will deliver informative, media-rich
interactive content. Look for it in January 2003.
D&WC: Who are your customers?
What parts of the country do you service?
Rasmussen: Our customers
include the three major manufacturers: Hunter Douglas, Springs and
Levolor. We also distribute through two nationally recognized fabricators:
Gilmore and Turnils. We service the entire United States, parts of
Europe and Canada.
D&WC: How many salespeople
do you employ?
Rasmussen: We have more
than 300 employees. Each of our employees, whether in the factory
or in the front office, is a salesperson—a company representative.
What I mean by that is that everyone who works for CVI significantly
contributes in one way or another to the success of the product and
in the process of delivering our product to our customers. In this
way we are all salespeople.
D&WC: Where do you see yourself
and your company five years from now? Are there additional areas within
the industry that you would like to get involved in?
Rasmussen: We are committed
to the development and enhancement of all products from commodity
to high-end that help support the wood and faux blind markets. We
will be as entrenched in wood shutters as we have been in wood blinds.
We will continue to be the world’s largest finisher by continually
listening to our customers’ needs and responding to them by
developing superior, unique products with excellent delivery.
D&WC: What best describes
your niche in the marketplace?
Rasmussen: We were a
small company that listened to our customer’s needs. Back then
we only provided a small collection of secondary colors to a handful
of customers. Now we are the largest finisher in the world with capabilities
to produce anything. Our niche is delivering exactly what the customer
D&WC: What are some of the
key factors involved in your growth and success?
Rasmussen: We have always
been a customer-driven company. The customers always have and always
will come first. They are the reason we exist. We believe in the relationship
not just in the sale. We have been in this industry for years and
have formed many friendships. We value those relationships.
We are always looking ahead, we are innovative and are willing to
do things that no one else will. We are committed to our customers
and their success.
D&WC: What are your strengths
in the marketplace?
Rasmussen: We are experts
in wood and coatings and their capabilities. We are large enough to
service any size customer but small enough to still care about each
D&WC: What advice would you
give to other window coverings professionals?
Rasmussen: We must return
to profitable pricing. Going down the road of “how-low-can-we-go
pricing” only hurts all of us. It must stop. We must find ways
to add value to products by selling unique, quality products. It is
easy to sell cheap products. It takes more time and energy to sell
higher quality but in the end it benefits us all especially the customer.
D&WC: What trends and cycles
do you see occurring in the industry? How is your business addressing
Rasmussen: The wood
business has changed so much over the years. The strongest selling
colors were always white and whiter. We now are selling more stain
finishes. It is about a 60:40 ratio.
We believe this change is due to the influx of white faux woods. Consumers
want to create a feeling of warmth and richness in their homes. No
product offers such a wide variety in depth of color as wood blinds
and wood shutters. We also are developing the next generation of coatings.
These new coatings are far superior. They are hard, durable, scratch
resistant and colorfast and really add dimension to the wood slat.
D&WC: Do you educate your
Rasmussen: We enjoy
having customers tour our facility in southern Texas. There is no
better way to fully understand the complexity of finishing unless
you actually see it happening. We often hear, “Wow, I never
knew it was so tedious and difficult.”
We believe actually seeing and learning about the process teaches
our customers about the value of a wood slat. We are not selling a
faux product. We are finishing wood, a natural product. It has natural
beauty characteristics. We can’t change them, only enhance them
or hide them. We do the absolute best we can from what nature gives
us. When customers actually see how wood comes in, see the sorting
process and the finishing process, they gain a respect for the wood
business and it helps them to understand the value we can really offer
them and their customers.
800 West Railroad
Weslaco, TX 78596
Fax: (956) 968-6798