Key employees at Fitzpatrick & Weller Inc., headquartered in Ellicottville, N.Y., include (front row, from left) Jeremy Stitt, director of forest operations; Dana Fitzpatrick, chairman of the board, J.C. Fritz, lumber sales; (back row, from left) Ron Mercer, vice president of sales; Greg Fitzpatrick, president and chief executive officer; and Joe Snyder, lumber sales and purchasing.
Hard Work, Accepting Change Navigate FITZPATRICK & WELLER
by Terry Miller
Ellicottville, New York—In order to survive in this industry during these challenging times, a company must rely on the hard work of its employees, and be able to adapt to any changes the market may throw at them.
Throughout its 113-year existence, Fitzpatrick & Weller Inc., headquartered here, has overcome the challenges, and today can provide a diverse mix of hardwood lumber and value-added products to domestic and foreign customers. Furthermore, they have recently earned Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, and are now able to supply FSC certified wood products. The promotion of well-managed forests has always been a priority for this company.
Fitzpatrick & Weller was founded in 1895 by brothers-in-law, Frank Fitzpatrick and Bill Weller. The company specialized in wooden shoe last blocks, until plastics replaced that industry in 1965. At that point, the firm was able to reinvent itself, and they began manufacturing hardwood lumber and components.
Chad Winship is shown using the firm’s Weinig moulder to help complete an order.
Fitzpatrick & Weller now manufactures a wide variety of value-added products including: solid and glued-up hardwood dimension; edge-glued panels; glued squares; CNC machined parts; chair, door and drawer parts; cut stock; cutting boards; machined and semi-machined components; moulded and tenoned parts; musical instrument parts; shelving; stiles and/or rail stock; store fixture parts; and table tops.
The firm also specializes in hardwood lumber including Hard and Soft Maple, Cherry, Red and White Oak, Ash, Poplar, Walnut and Mahogany (primarily 4/4 and kiln-dried). These northern hardwoods are acquired from within 75 to 100 miles of the Ellicottville facility amidst an area known for its great texture and color consistency.
Fitzpatrick & Weller uses breeze dried sticks to dry its white woods promptly after delivery. They are then cycled through the dry kilns. This process helps to brighten Hard and Soft Maple while helping to eliminate any potential staining problems.
This is a view of the company’s Komo CNC router. Dave Ruehl is pictured in the background.
Greg Fitzpatrick, a fourth-generation lumberman who is president and chief executive officer, said customers have chosen to do business with Fitzpatrick & Weller for more than a century due to the dedication of its employees, product quality and excellent service. “We have built an excellent reputation both domestically and overseas, and that helps carry us through tough times,” he said. “We are flexible, product wise, and we are known for our diversity.”
Greg said his company works hard to accommodate tight delivery schedules. “We want to be able to jump right on an order and send it out the door,” he said. “We carry a large lumber inventory and all of the native species. So, if somebody needs Oak today, Cherry tomorrow, and Poplar next week, we have the lumber kiln-dried and all of the various thicknesses and grades so that we can respond. That cuts down on lead time dramatically, and there aren’t many who can beat us from that standpoint.”
Greg said Fitzpatrick & Weller has also expanded its offerings to attract new customers, including additional color, width and length sorting. “We are doing a lot more to a piece of wood than we have ever done before,” he said. “If you keep doing the same old thing and the customer does not want that, you’re not going to be in business very long.”
Fitzpatrick & Weller’s grading station is being operated by Erik Keech.
Joe Snyder, who handles sales and purchasing for the company, agreed that one of the company’s strongest assets is its diverse inventory of lumber and woodworking equipment. “No one keeps an inventory anymore, and everyone is working off of the back of a truck,” he said. “In secondary manufacturing, the parts that customers receive have to be what they ordered. They have to be delivered on time, and they have to be made correctly.”
Snyder said the firm has a proven track record for meeting customers’ needs. “There aren’t too many companies that make value-added wood products that have a story like Fitzpatrick & Weller,” he said. “You’ve got a lot of extremely talented craftsmen running these different pieces of equipment. There’s probably equipment in the shop that most people wouldn’t even know how to run.”
Snyder said that many competitors refuse to take on jobs that Fitzpatrick & Weller can complete thanks to its diverse inventory. “Or, they will take the business and ultimately cannot manufacture the product,” he said. “Somebody can always undercut your price and promise a lot of things, but they may not be able to make the product. Usually after a customer goes through that experience, they’re our customer for a long time.”
The company ships its product throughout North America and abroad. They ship quantities from as few as a single piece up to multiple truckloads and containers. Fitzpatrick & Weller has shipped to over 35 different countries worldwide.
This is a photo of Fitzpatrick & Weller’s green chain sorting lumber.
In addition to its affiliation with the National Hardwood Lumber Assoc. (NHLA), Fitzpatrick & Weller is a member of the Wood Components Manufacturer’s Assoc., Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers Inc., Penn-York Lumbermen’s Club, American Forestry & Paper Assoc., American Hardwood Export Council and The Empire State Forest Products Assoc. They are also third-party certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and participating members of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).
Fitzpatrick & Weller has also extended into the service industry through forestry consulting. They are now offering forestry consultation to landowners in western New York and northern Pennsylvania. Services offered include timber sale administration, forest management planning, forest inventory and property line maintenance. Jeremy Stitt, director of forest operations, handles this side of the business, which also includes managing the timberlands owned by Fitzpatrick & Weller. He has been with the company for nearly five years.
The firm has approximately 90 employees. Other key employees include: Dana Fitzpatrick, chairman of the board; Dan Fitzpatrick, vice president of engineering; J.C. Fritz, lumber sales; Dave Hellwig, dimension superintendent; Tom Tressler, lumber superintendent; and Steve Krez, quality control manager and safety.
In the early 1950s, Dana Fitzpatrick, Greg’s father, began working for the firm after school. One of his early jobs included loading railroad boxcars with Hard Maple blocks. As Dana’s role grew, he became an important part of the company
Dennis Kelly operates the double end trim saw.
progression, and it was ultimately Dana’s decision in 1965 to purchase Murphy Co., a direct competitor, that helped change the direction of Fitzpatrick & Weller.
“When we merged the two companies together, that’s when we really got into the dimension business,” he said. “We took over their kilns, purchased most of their timberlands, and diversified into lumber and components. Our combination with Murphy gave us the ability to bring value-added products to the market both domestically and internationally.”
Dana said Fitzpatrick & Weller has remained successful due to its diverse inventory and client base that has included furniture, kitchen cabinet, musical instrument and specialty companies.
“In today’s difficult times, nobody is insulated from what we’re going through,” he said. “Fitzpatrick & Weller is a unique company because we do so many different things. We own dry kilns, a concentration yard, and we still own and manage timberland. We also run a dimension/component plant and market northern hardwood lumber, which we have done since the 1950s.”
This is a view of the company’s kiln-dried lumber warehouse in Ellicottville, N.Y.
Dana said the northern hardwoods his company specializes in have attracted many high-end customers both domestically and internationally.
“Northern hardwoods are very consistent in color and uniformity,” he said. “That’s an advantage we can provide. When you desire the same high-quality product load after load, container after container, look to Fitzpatrick & Weller.”
For more information, contact Fitzpatrick & Weller, Inc. at 716-699-2393, visit www.fitzweller.com or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cut-off saws in rough mill, operated by Doug Young.