Local business poised for growth

    Employees at Ten Oaks LLC manufacture hardwood flooring. The company’s operation on Progress Drive and the Dobyns Facility are poised for growth and expansion. (Photo by Amanda Collins)

    A shuttered manufacturing facility on Dobyns Road has a new owner and a new lease on life, with new employees expected in the next few months.

    Shaw Plant HT, located on Dobyns Road in Stuart, closed at the end of 2017.

    Ten Oaks, LLC, in Stuart, bought the assets to accelerate expansion plans, help grow the county’s tax base, and bring new job opportunities.

    Now known as Ten Oaks LLC, Dobyns Facility, the former Shaw manufacturing facility is undergoing a metamorphosis in preparation for its future, according to company officials Terri Birkett, vice president and Adam Birkett, sales manager.

    A lumber packing operation currently is being operated at the Dobyns Facility, and a maintenance crew is in the process of revamping and refurbishing it, Terri Birkett said.

    “We now are trying to revamp the production line, so it will be compatible with what we’re doing” at the Progress Drive facility, she said.

    The company also has ordered some proprietary equipment for the facility, with plans of “cranking it up in three months, we hope. Hopefully, we’ll be able to hire more people,” she said.

    “We have already hired about 20 of the former Shaw employees,” Terri Birkett said. Some are working at the Dobyns Facility; others are production employees at Ten Oaks’ facility on Progress Drive.

    Adam Birkett, a fourth generation company official, explained that the additions at the Dobyns Facility will translate into expansions/growth at both facilities.

    Expansions are planned in phases, Terri Birkett said, adding that the lumber packing operation is the first phase. That, in turn, will allow for the company to expand operations at its other facility, she said.

    Adam Birkett explained the company has invested in the facility on Progress Drive, including adding more advanced equipment and processes. “That is allowing us to leverage our investment” in the Dobyns Facility to increase the scope of operations.

    The company manufactures solid strip hardwood flooring, currently in 2 ¼ and 3 ¼ inch strips, Terri Birkett said.

    The Dobyns Facility “will allow us to go bigger and it will allow us to expand our offerings to our customers,” Adam Birkett said.

    Although both facilities represent the company’s present and future, the Dobyns Facility also figures prominently in its past.

    “It has come full-circle,” Adam Birkett said of Ten Oaks LLC Dobyns Facility.

    Stuart Lumber Company was formed in May, 1922, according to Terri Birkett. In 1949, V.R. Williams, her grandfather and a saw-miller, bought the company and employed eight people.

    In 1957, Williams’ son, Buddy Williams –Terri Birkett’s father and Adam Birkett’s grandfather – returned to Patrick County from auto diesel school and started working full time at Stuart Lumber Company. His job was keeping the equipment running, she said.

    In 1954, at the peak of the hardwood flooring heyday, the government approved the use of wall-to-wall carpet in their housing loans, Terri Birkett said. The number of flooring plants plummeted by the early 1970s, from 120 mills to only 12 mills in operation, she said.

    The Stuart mill survived partly because its product line was expanded to include particleboard in 1969, she said, adding that the company was sold to the Masonite Corp. in 1977. That company closed the flooring operation two years later, in 1979.

    Williams purchased the flooring plant from Masonite in 1982, Birkett said. He then built the Stuart Flooring facility on Dobyns Road and installed the flooring equipment. Production began there in 1984, she said. In 1998, Williams sold the Dobyns facility to Tarkett Flooring. That company later sold the facility to Shaw, she said.

    Buddy Williams bought the facility on Progress Drive in 2004, and the company developed a new process to seal the flooring it produced, creating a new market niche.

    With Gary Birkett as the production manager, “We did a new thing in an old industry,” Terri Birkett said, and recalled “we shipped the first truck” of flooring in 2006.

    With the acquisition of the Dobyns Facility, the company is poised for continued growth and expansion.

    Standing in a production area of the facility on Progress Drive, Adam Birkett said. He explained when the company first moved in that facility, it was difficult to envision filling the space.

    “I thought we’d never fill this up. A few years later, we’ve got our elbows against the wall,” he said.

    While “it may be difficult to envision, the Dobyns Facility is going to grow just like this one,” Adam Birkett said.