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Listing #1376   Listed on: 07/06/2012

WOODWEB Content Editor, Brett Hagstrom, Interviewed James McGrew in July 2014.

James McGrew started his woodworking career in the late 70’s after majoring in restaurant management and facility planning at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. In 1995 McGrew Architectural Woodwork was founded. In the beginning years the company provided mostly contracting and installation services for commercial jobs all over the Midlands. Early work included fabricating and installation on jobs such as the Charleston Federal Courthouse, SC State History and Archives Center, Lexington County Library, McCloud Health and Fitness Center, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina. From 2000-2007 James’ company owned the building where his shop was set up and then sold it to downsize because of the economy downturn. In August of 2008, James moved his operation to its current home, a 21,000 square foot shop that he leases at 3527 Main St., Columbia. The new shop was once a tire plant and is now setup with 3- phase, air systems and ceiling gantries.

Even though the shop has relocated 4 times in 26 years, it doesn’t deter James, and the operation keeps moving along. Two Brandt Edgebanders, a CAMaster 508 ATC router, Biesse PTP CNC, SCMI 10 foot sliding table saw, several SawStops and Unisaws, shapers, planers and boring machines make up James’ shop equipment. He mentions that “26 years of using income to buy tools will build a pretty reliable bunch of tools.”

“The CAMaster ATC 508 CNC is the backbone of our creative efforts. I’m able to produce my own components such as carvings, logo inlays in solid surface counters, sculpted paneling, and backlit LED acrylic and carved dimensional signage. This has put the competitive edge in my corner, and at my market level. GOW (Good ole Work) combined with paying attention to good employees has made for a good and reasonable run of work.

“Up until 2006 I swore I would never own a CNC as they were too expensive - salesmen were speaking Voodoo and it was late in my career,” James mentions. In 2007, 364 days apart, he hit a table saw blade with his thumb. While recuperating after the second accident, he purchased a Sears Compucarve (Carvewright) (basically a toy by cabinet commercial standards). One night James was making some signs and some fluted columns with carved corbels for his horse farm and the light went on - it was not the cabinet boxes or the nesting, it was the custom work that beckoned for a larger CNC.

James works with architects and designers as well as designing work in-house. In-house work is completely speculative and on commission. He has developed long term working relationships with three GCs in three different areas of work. He mentions it’s “like being a contract employee to all three: we get all their work, we work hard to work with their needs and we get paid regularly. It’s bread and butter work."

For someone looking to start a shop James says to “start with what the job requires. Sell and do good work, do each job as if it was the most important step for your future and do not fall in love with the work.” James also mentions “buy tools with income (jobs buy tools) and remember that if you do good work the kings find you." Lastly, James adds that “when you can help with local high school shop classes, take the opportunity as it’s your future, and potential employees may be coming from the classes.”

Times have been tough, but James has been able to remain in business by “staying liquid and working close with key suppliers as partners as well as good GC’s and employees.” He advises to “tell the truth, answer every phone call and never do cash flow work unless it is fun.” James’ rule is "profitable, fun, or best case both and nothing else."

In five years James sees himself semi-retired. He has a few people who have been with him long term (one 18 years) and they will inherit the tools and business. James will take a small check periodically; however, he builds most of his retirement income with profits. He mentions that he’s “not depending on the business as a major retirement income provider.” He recently purchased a second farm with a couple of rental houses on it. It also has a 2000 square foot shop with compressed air, good power and air conditioning. He says it will become his “fun retirement income shop” and will be named Ridgeway CNC.
finishing two booths
other half assembly staging
my 5 x 8 CAMaster
my digitala 20 foot cnc
panels layout for Capstone
my office
not sure what to call this anymore !
loading up
big mold work
samples for submittals AWI QCP
And the chess players !! hope they will be at IWF in CAMasters booth
from a photo of a carve on the front of an old fox theater
fun projects
more fun stuff
Company Name:
Contact Name:   james e mcgrew
Location:   Columbia, SC  29203
Year Founded:   1986
Sq. Footage:   21,000
Employees:   5
Gross Sales:   N/A

Product Specialties:
    Accessories and Gifts - General
    Architectural Millwork - Custom Millwork
    Architectural Millwork - General
    Architectural Millwork - Lathe Turning
    Architectural Millwork - Millwork Installer
    Architectural Millwork - Millwork Restoration
    Architectural Millwork - Moldings
    Cabinets - Cabinet Designers
    Cabinets - Cabinet Installers
    Cabinets - Closets and Storage
    Cabinets - Commercial Cabinets
    Cabinets - Components
    Cabinets - Custom Cabinets
    Cabinets - General
    Cabinets - Kitchen & Bath Cabinets
    Cabinets - Residential Cabinetry
    Cabinets - Store Fixtures
    Carving - Architectural Ornamentation
    Carving - General
    CNC Services - General
    Finishing - General Wood Finishing
    Finishing - Refinishing
    Veneer and Marquetry - General
    Woodworking - General

Shop Equipment:
    Scmi - slider
    Brandt - edgebander
    FESTOOL - lots ot it
    Powermatic - multiple pieces
    Delta - mucho

Viewer Comments:

Posted By: Chuck Hicks     [09/03/2014]
Jim is a great guy and has a great shop, I have been there many times.

Posted By: kXvrbKwH     [06/14/2021]

Posted By: kXvrbKwH     [06/14/2021]

Posted By: pHqghUme     [05/12/2022]

Posted By: pHqghUme     [05/12/2022]

Posted By: pHqghUme     [05/12/2022]

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