Scott Uhrig, general manager of The Stairworks Ltd. and division president of Flourish Design Elements, is pictured with one of the many innovative wood products this company has produced since 1981.
The Stairworks Ltd.: 30 Years And Going Strong
By Bridget McCrea
Guelph, Ontario–Since 1981, The Stairworks Ltd. has been fostering a strong reputation as a stair and railing manufacturer for customers throughout Southwestern Ontario. Its efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. The company, based here, has attracted the attention of top Canadian designers like Lynda Reeves and her design team (Princess Margaret Home Lottery, Oakville 2012).
To make its innovative products, Stairworks purchases more than 100,000 board feet of various species. It imports Mahogany, Sapele and Goncalo Alves. Also, the company utilizes North American species, such as: Oak, Maple, Poplar, Walnut, Hickory, Ash and Elm in hardwoods and Pine in softwoods. Grades include Select and Better, 4/4 through 10/4 KD, surfaced, and 5/4-6/4 dimensional Pine, No. 1 and No. 2 Common.
Bruce Uhrig, company president and founder, said Stairworks’ attention to quality, detail and customer service are what set the manufacturer apart in the competitive homebuilding and remodeling industries. “We sell unique products,” said Uhrig, “and we rely on an experienced professional staff that truly knows how to provide outstanding customer service on every sale.”
The Stairworks Ltd., located in Guelph, Ont., imports Mahogany, Sapele and Goncalo Alves to be used in various rail and stair products.
Operating from a 10,000-square-foot plant that runs 45 hours per week, the 14-employee company makes interior stairs and railings, interior and exterior columns, designer newel posts, fireplace surrounds, exterior aluminum railings, and custom woodcarvings. Also under the Stairworks corporate umbrella is Flourish Design Elements, which manufactures interior and exterior design features and “timeless pieces that provide unique, innovative design details for designers, architects, and woodworking companies,” said Uhrig.
The firm’s hardwood comes from the Appalachian and Northern regions of America, and the Pine products are from Ontario and Quebec. Stairworks chooses to work with logging companies who practice “smart logging procedures,” according to Uhrig. “Our suppliers have worked these areas for many generations, re-planting and re-harvesting trees again and again. They are family-owned companies that have been passed down to new generations.”
Equipped with 45+ years of experience in the industry, Stairworks serves high-end custom homebuilders, production homebuilders, small hands-on private homebuilders, renovators and the DIY crowd. Over the last three decades the firm has steadily grown its product line and today offers the complete lineup in a catalog that it produces and updates annually.
A new member and supporter of the Stairway Manufacturers’ Association, Stairworks has evolved since Uhrig opened the doors to his new business back in 1981. Early on, he said the company employed more than 30 individuals–a number that had to be pared down due to economic conditions in the 1990s.
In 2007, a new company direction was introduced. By using the latest technologies and a passion for design, unique and interesting products for stair, railing, kitchen, and other miscellaneous interior design components, were developed. “The market responded with great exuberance,” said Uhrig.
In 2009, the company invested in new technology to “increase production and expand our market,” said Uhrig, whose management team includes General Manager of Stairworks and Division President of Flourish Design Elements Scott Uhrig (Bruce’s son), Division Vice President of Flourish Design Elements Jia Uhrig (Scott’s wife), Office Manager Janis Uhrig (Bruce’s wife), and Purchasing Agent Brian Jennings.
The company utilizes North American species, such as Oak, Maple, Poplar, Walnut, Hickory, Ash and Elm in hardwoods and Pine in softwoods.
The new technology allowed Uhrig to start Flourish Design Elements. “Since opening that division in 2009 we’ve been able to develop relationships with distributors across North America,” said Uhrig, “who sell our designer newel posts.” In January 2013, for example, the company was awarded “Best Of Houzz” 2013 by Houzz, an online platform for residential remodeling and design.
According to Houzz, Flourish Design Elements was chosen by the more than 11 million monthly users that comprise the Houzz community. “We’re delighted to recognize Flourish Design Elements among our ‘Best Of’ professionals for exceptional customer service as judged by our community of homeowners and design enthusiasts who are actively remodeling and decorating their homes,” said Liza Hausman, vice president of community and marketing, in a press release.
Uhrig said Flourish Design Elements has allowed Stairworks to expand its reach to a worldwide market. “Our designer newel posts and custom carved elements are catching the eyes of top designers and homeowners all over North America,” said Uhrig. “As we continue to strive for the global market, we’ve increased our client base from Southwestern Ontario to shipping all over North America.” To expand on that success, the company is currently in the process of developing its own sales force.
Some of Stairworks’ international recognition comes from its web strategies, social media efforts, and the ads that the company places in national design magazines like Canadian House & Home and Style at Home. The firm maintains a Facebook presence for both Stairworks and Flourish Design Elements – a strategy that sets it apart in an industry where Web 2.0 technologies like social media have yet to fully catch on. “We enjoy engaging customers and endusers via Facebook,” said Uhrig, “and keeping everyone updated on what’s going on at our companies and in our industry.”
Bruce Uhrig, company president and founder, said Stairworks’ attention to quality, detail and customer service are what set the manufacturer apart in the competitive homebuilding and remodeling industries.
According to Uhrig, the manufacturer’s biggest challenges right now include maintaining competitive pricing in an industry where raw material costs are on the rise and building a brand that endures. “To get around these obstacles we’re basically just buying smarter, offering unique products, and providing outstanding service,” said Uhrig, who is optimistic about the future of both Stairworks’ divisions. “We’re looking to achieve steady growth in new markets by coming up with even more unique and exciting designs that our customers have come to love.”