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Bill Gittler (right), chairman and chief executive officer of Catawissa Lumber & Specialty Co. Inc., headquartered in Catawissa, Pa., is pictured with his son, Justin Glitter, facility engineer.
Catawissa Lumber Forms Chinese Partnership

By Paul Miller Jr.

Catawissa, Pennsylvania—With the residential furniture market moving more overseas, Catawissa Lumber & Specialty Co. Inc., headquartered here, recently formed a partnership with Baili Arts & Crafts Furniture, based in Beijing, China. Together, the companies released a new line of high-end furniture, handmade with Appalachian Cherry hardwood by Chinese artisans, called Catawissa/Baili Fine Arts & Crafts.

William Gittler Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of Catawissa Lumber, said Catawissa is increasingly looking towards the international market to stay healthy during this rapid globalization period.

“Our company has been manufacturing and supplying hardwood panels and components to leading-brand manufacturers since 1957,” he said. “We began by serving U.S.-based customers, but our company’s success has always turned on our ability to serve customers around the world.”

Gittler said the Catawissa/Baili Fine Arts & Crafts line has been on display during the International Home Furnishings Market in High Point, N.C., for several years now, and was noted by the Associated Press Wire Service.

“To me, the fact that the AP highlighted what we’re doing and the continued demands for the products made from our U.S. hardwood components indicates that the American public recognizes craftsmanship at the global level, without restricting its tastes within national borders,” he said.

Key executives of Catawissa Lumber & Specialty Co. include Adam Cherwinski, sales manager; Ken O’Neill, production scheduler; Steve Gemberling, vice president of manufacturing/general manager of Catawissa Trading Co.; and Rick Vannatta, director of operations.
Domestically, Catawissa Lumber has renewed its focus on the kitchen cabinet industry, which has remained popular in the U.S. particularly for low-labor content solid wood components. In 2007, approximately 40 percent of Catawissa’s sales were derived from the cabinet market, 30 percent from the institutional furniture market, three percent from residential furniture, 17 percent from lumber trading with the remaining sales obtained from miscellaneous markets.

These percentages represent a dramatic shift for Catawissa Lumber & Specialty Co., which historically had residential furniture comprising more than 50 percent of its sales. Catawissa planned the move into cabinet components over several years following the loss of major furniture customers such as Pennsylvania House and Broyhill, companies who moved their operations to China and Vietnam.

Gittler said his firm is currently finalizing approximately $2.8 million in equipment financing, which will be used to upgrade the company’s rip-first manufacturing line to an automated “rip first” process.

A worker is shown finish sanding some Cherry kitchen cabinet components.
Catawissa started the shift to a rip first line in 2005 as a means to develop the kitchen cabinet component market and will be adding additional automated equipment to complete the process. The automated rip-first line will dramatically increase the efficiency of Catawissa’s manufacturing operation, optimizing yields from raw lumber and further reducing the labor component of wood processing.

William F. Gittler Sr. and his wife, Pauline, founded Catawissa Lumber & Specialty Co. in 1957, beginning as a three-person wood shop. Over time, the company has grown to over 300 employees, operating four plant facilities with a 350,000 board feet per week production capacity.

Catawissa Lumber has 450,000 board feet of kiln-drying capacity and a 1.2 million board foot pre-dryer at its headquarters in Catawissa, Pa. The firm’s West Jefferson, N.C., facility has kiln-drying capacity totaling 450,000 board feet.

Catawissa’s largest manufacturing plant is located in Paxinos, Pa. It has two other Pennsylvania facilities located nearby in Elysburg, Pa., and Shamokin, Pa. Catawissa has sales representatives in Sparta, Tenn.; Hancock, Mich.; London, England; Paris, France; Hamburg, Germany; and Shanghai, China.

Catawissa Lumber & Specialty Co. is a manufacturer and trader of high-quality hardwood lumber and machined hardwood components for manufacturers of high-end cabinetry, architectural mouldings and institutional furniture. The company sells its products through a division known as Catawissa Trading Co., and is organized as a Sub-S Corporation with independent members serving with Gittler family owners on Catawissa’s board of directors.

This is a picture of Catawissa’s climate-controlled warehouse.
Thanks to its location in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, Catawissa specializes in such Appalachian hardwoods as Red and White Oak, Hard and Soft Maple, Cherry, Ash, Hickory and Poplar. The West Jefferson, N.C., facility provides Southern hardwoods including White Oak, Poplar, Ash and Hickory. All kiln-dried lumber is offered rough, S2S, S4S, width sorted, ripped to specifications, 4/4 through 6/4, FAS 1 Face, No. 1 and No. 2 Common.

Through its trusted suppliers, Catawissa also offers a complete board program and 8-foot moulder blanks (in addition to its other products).

After acquiring green lumber from local sawmills, Catawissa inspects, sorts and kiln-dries its lumber for immediate sale or manufacturing of hardwood components. Kiln drying takes an average of 10 to 15 days, but Oak requires 45 to 60 days for pre-drying and eight to 10 days to dry. The company’s kiln-drying operation uses kilns that are heated by boilers that burn sawdust and shavings from Catawissa’s factories.

Once the green hardwood has been dried, the wood is traded, or is manufactured into components under confirmed orders for custom and semi-custom kitchen cabinets, architectural mouldings, residential and institutional furniture.

These are some of the cabinet and furniture components that Catawissa Lumber & Specialty Co. manufactures on a daily basis.
Kitchen cabinet parts represent the fastest growing portion of Catawissa Lumber’s product line and include such items as door panels, stiles and rails, face frames, moulder blanks, drawer parts and turning squares. Furniture parts consist of such items as edge-glued panels  and solid parts for beds, dining room suites and bedroom furniture. Catawissa also manufactures squares for turnings, base panels, treads, balusters and newel posts.

Catawissa Lumber & Specialty Co. specializes in supply chain management and lean manufacturing supply. The firm offers just-in-time delivery and such services as cross cut first and rip first, random width edge-gluing, planing, sanding, shaping, routing, tenoning, moulding, edge-profiling, profile edge sanding, face laminating and boring.

Catawissa has always been committed to sustainable and responsible lumber procurement and yield transformation practices. For over 50 years, each of Catawissa’s facilities has utilized its wood waste to generate fuel for its boiler systems. This year, the company obtained Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification as well as conformed to the requirements of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative standards, both through the SGS Systems audit process meeting Chain-of-Custody standards.

Pictured are ripped cabinet stiles and rails coming through Catawissa’s rip first operation.
In addition to Gittler, key executives include Steve Gemberling, vice president of manufacturing/general manager of Catawissa Trading Co.; Richard Vannatta, director of operations; Ken O’Neill, production scheduler; Adam Cherwinski, sales manager; Susan Runge, corporate controller; and Justin Gittler, senior engineer.

In recent years, Catawissa Lumber & Specialty Co. has consolidated from 435 to 175 employees. “That’s painful,” Gittler said. “We’re a family owned company and our priorities continue to be employees first, followed by the communities in which we work, the customers we serve and then the stakeholders or owners of our company last.”

For more information, contact Catawissa Lumber & Specialty Co. Inc. at 570-356-2349, visit www.catlmbr.com or e-mail sales@catlmbr.com.


Kiln-dried and surfaced Soft Maple lumber is shown packaged ready for shipment.

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