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Wood works

Herrl Woodcraft in business for 50 years

May 31, 2009

GLOVERSVILLE - At 39 Hamilton St., the sounds of woodwork fill the shop. But rising above the other noise at Herrl Woodcraft is quite often the sound of a family.

"It's wonderful," Lothar F. Herrlett Sr. said Tuesday about having members of his family working in the business with him.

It is work Lothar Sr. has been doing at his business for 50 years.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan

Lothar Herrlett Sr. works on custom-designing a piece of wood for a cabinet at the shop at Herrl Woodcraft in Gloversville Tuesday.

The German immigrant learned the trade in his former country before coming to the U.S. in 1954. Within a few years, he had his own business in New Jersey. After a move to Brooklyn, one last move in 1972 to Gloversville followed.

While there have been some trying times - including a fire that destroyed one former location - Lothar Sr. and his family have kept the business going strong.

"We are honest [and] particular," Lothar Sr. said. "The work has to be done [well.]

John Herrlett, who works with his father at the business, said Herrl Woodcraft can design and build custom kitchens, construct new countertops, reface cabinets and build furniture.

"With our process, people can enjoy getting hands on," he said. "They know it will get built the way they want it."

John frequently meets with customers to go over the exact specifications for what they want in a custom-designed kitchen. When the business is working on the 12 to 18 custom kitchens they do every year, it is common for the owners to update the customers on where the details of the project stand.

Joe Farnham said when he and his wife bought a house in the city in 1988, they decided to have a new kitchen put in. Through mutual friends, they were introduced to John and the business his father started.

Farnham said Herrl Woodcraft planned and built the kitchen. As an insurance investigator, Farnham said, he knew what he needed and was quite particular himself.

"I could tell right from the beginning they cared about quality and attention to detail," he said Wednesday.

John and his younger brother - Lothar Jr., who also works at the business - both describe quality as job one for Herrl Woodcraft.

"We control every aspect of the job, so we are accountable for the work," John said.

He noted that in some cases, such as with customers who are physically handicapped, it is important to meet the necessary specifications.

John said the majority of the store's work involves custom cabinets.

The cabinets are handmade. They eschew pressboard in the cabinets for more solid plyboard.

Lothar Jr. said compared to the prefabricated models people buy in stores, what Herrl Woodcraft offers is more durable and feels smoother.

John said while the business keeps its cabinets competitively priced for the mid to high-end range, another reason for its success has been the family's involvement in the community.

Johann, Lothar Sr.'s wife, noted that in their first year here, the business joined the local chamber of commerce.

Wally Hart, president of the Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said several people he knows have been customers of Herrl Woodcraft.

"Their work is amazing," he said.

Hart said Herrl Woodcraft's involvement in the community helped the business. In a small town, he said, people have more confidence when they know the people doing the work.

Farnham noted he and John became good friends. Farnham said he has referred people to Herrl Woodcraft a number of times over the years.

With six to eight months worth of work planned ahead all the time, the approach at the business seems to be working.

"Part of this job is building relationships with people," John said.

With the four family members the only employees at the business, it is operated by two generations of Herrletts.

Lothar Sr., who recently celebrated his 75th birthday, said he is glad to have his sons working with him and his wife.

"When [the boys] were 6 years old, they were in the shop doing things," he said.

He noted that a grandson seems to be interested in the work and could become the third generation in the business.

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