PEARL — Over its nearly 21-year history, Roberts Cabinet Company Inc. has seen a tremendous amount of change. It originally was not a manufacturer. New technology and equipment have been introduced. The company has grown in employees, square footage, customers and size of projects. About the only thing that has remained the same is its locale in the metro Jackson area, and even that is about to change as Roberts Cabinet gets ready for a move to a bigger facility in Holmes County with the expectations for immediate and continued growth there.
“We’re all excited,” said Jimmy McLellan, vice president of Roberts. “We’re ready to move now.”
Kevin Roberts, president and son of the founders of the company who, along with McLellan, bought the company from his parents in Jan. 1998, said, “About 90% of our competitors are located in a rural area. We feel like the move to Holmes County is crucial to our future success and growth.”
Roberts Cabinet Company was founded in April 1979 just north of County Line Road in Ridgeland. The company was established as a cabinetry distributor, but found it hard to compete selling other companies’ products, prompting it to make its own lines. In 1988, it moved to its current headquarters in Pearl just off U.S. 80.
A capitol-intensive industry, the company used a strategy of controlled growth, foregoing would-be investors in order to keep the reins in hand. Thus, the company’s rise has been steady and healthy.
Today, Roberts Cabinet not only manufactures kitchen and bathroom cabinetry, it also has a countertop manufacturing facility, its own trucking, boasting two tractors and 10 trailers, and installation service.
Roberts Cabinets’ niche is multi-unit facilities — condominiums, assisted living facilities, apartments. Its area of operations covers about 15 states in the Southeast and mid-Atlantic regions, having shipped as far away as Washington, D.C. A typical job for the company is $250,000 on projects with price tags ranging up to $15 million. While competition is fierce in the industry, Roberts Cabinet remains the only cabinetmaker in Mississippi focused almost exclusively on multi-unit dwellings.
“If we don’t win the job, that generally means the work is going out of state,” McLellan said.
Upgrading the facility is on-going. Roberts said over the last two years alone, the company has invested about $500,000 in new equipment and technology. As example, one computer-controlled woodworking machine pointed to cuts accurately to within hundredths of inches, but cost $125,000, not including the almost $10,000 spent on the software to operate it.
Currently, the company utilizes 42,500 square feet of space spread between two facilities in Pearl, and employs about 55 people. However, both of those figures are shortly going to almost double.
After about 18 months of planning, Roberts Cabinet has blue prints in hand and is preparing to let out bids next month on a brand new facility in the Holmes County Industrial Park located at the junction of Mississippi 12 and Interstate 55. The new plant will include office space, cabinetry and countertop fabrication under one roof encompassing 71,000 square feet, with 65,000 of that devoted to manufacturing. Initially employing 75 workers, Roberts said that the company plans to have as many as 100 on its payroll after one year at the new plant.
Roberts said that the move is expected to be a win-win proposition, good for both the county and the company. Currently, Holmes County suffers from some of the highest unemployment rates not only in Mississippi but the U.S. His late father being a Delta native, Roberts said he is concerned over the needs of the people and hoping his company’s arrival will spur economic growth in the area and add to the quality of life.
“If you go to the industrial park today, you’ll see nothing but deer and turkey,” Roberts said. “We will be the park’s first tenant. It’s hard to sell the park to prospects when there is nothing there, so we’re hoping the local economic development forces can build off our coming in. Maybe we can help sell it for them.”
But far from just a charitable move, Roberts said the relocation is a key to the company’s success tomorrow.
“I went up there and was just ecstatic over the response we got from the people,” Roberts said. “They’re excited and motivated. Almost all our competitors are in rural areas because, generally, those people are used to working with their hands, are dependable and stay on with the company. The primary reason for the move is an abundance of workforce there.
“I believe the Roberts Cabinet of five years from now will be totally different from today. All I know is if we don’t adapt and change, we won’t be in business. But there is no limit to what we can do.”
Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at firstname.lastname@example.org.