The Intelligencer (2002)

Firm’s Shutters Go Hollywood
By: Jodi Spiegel Arthur

A marketing manager who enjoyed woodworking as a hobby, Rick Skidmore bought a modified Colonial house in Doylestown with the intention of crafting new—but historically accurate—exterior window shutters himself.
But when he looked for companies that made them so that he could use their catalogues as a design tool, he couldn’t find any. That’s when a “light bulb kind of went off,” he said “I realized there was a market here.”

Nearly seven years later the company the he founded called Timberlane, Inc. is on the 2001 Inc. 500 list of America’s Fastest Growing Companies, and it’s also making them for the motion picture industry.

Timberlane began manufacturing custom-made wooden shutters out of kiln-dried red cedar in a 19,000-square-foot space on Route 611 in Warrington and moved two years later into painted cinderlock warehouse on Wissahickon Avenue just outside the borough North Wales. Inside the 20,000-square-foot warehouse, where the whine of saws and sanders in constant and the smell of sawdust permeates the air, 36 pairs of shutters were manufactured for the main location in the film “Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood,” which was recently released by Time Warner.

The wide louver shutters, some of which were extremely large at 40 inches by 97 inches, were used on location on a house in Faison, N.C. Jeff Schlatter, a Wilmingon, N.C.-based freelance construction coordinator who worked on the film, said Timberlane was selected because of the company’s price, delivery time and quality. “We had samples sent from two or three different shutter makers. Everything they had worked out best for our schedule and budget,” he said of Timberlane.

Timberlane also manufactured 17 pairs of shutters for use on location at the Bulle Rock Resort in Havre De Grace, MD., for the upcoming Disney production “Tuck Everlasting.”

Richard Huhra, project manager at the resort, said he recommended to the movie company that they use Timberlane’s shutters on an 1889 Victorian house being shot for the film, and the production company agreed. He said the resort also is using Timberlane shutters in its hotel, but the hotel is not featured in the movie.

“It’s a lot of fun to know (the shutters are) going to be up on the screen, to be part of something like that,” said Jim Aldredge, a Timberlane sales representative who lives in an old house in Doylestown and is passionate about historic restoration.

Skidmore said he started his business by knocking on doors of houses where he saw rotting shutters, and within two years, the company became a market leader. After five years had 34 employees and earned $201,000 in revenue in 1996.

One year prior to its selection, the company had 34 employees and earned $3,262,000 in revenue, according to the magazine. The number of employees is now closer to 50, including five part-timers, said Dave Seelig, director of operations. Skidmore said 2001 revenue was just under $5 million.

The national mail-order company, which also provides historically accurate hardware, is an open books company. Skidmore said, all the company employees are invited to meetings during which the company’s finances are openly discussed. After 90 days on the job, employees are included in a profit-sharing in which all get an equal share, he said. Timberlane has no accounts receivable, since customers pay for their shutters before they are shipped, and has never lost a dime, Skidmore said.

To ensure customer satisfaction, he said, the company works with customers, creating computerized drawings of shutters and holding and holding many discussions with buyers before any wood is cut. Skidmore said, in the more than six years the company has been in business, there have only been about a half dozen major problems. The average price for a pair of shutters, he said is just over $200.

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