When custom cabinetmaker Donald S. Cuffari took ownership of Closettec in 1989, he discovered that his love and talent for design—which had lain quiet since college—returned to him with a rush. “I always enjoyed design,” he says, “and when I started in the closet business, I picked up on the skills again as if I’d been designing all my life.”
Locker system made from a natural maple clear-coated veneer. Cabinets designed for a mud or utility room. Seating is designed with storage below.
Along with creativity, client service has been a constant throughout Cuffari’s career. He previously owned a large office products company but eventually started looking for a new investment. “I acquired a business broker who showed me several businesses. Then I talked to people. The clients who had used the closet company were very happy with it, and I felt someone was trying to tell me something.” Since then, he has left the franchise to work independently as a custom closet designer and builder. He welcomes the more direct client relationship and greater control over price and quality. In addition he has branched out to offer kitchen, utility room, garage, mudroom, and home office design and has partnered with other companies to offer remodeling and construction. His clients like having one company meet all of their cabinet and flooring needs.
This simplistic Contemporary Closet is made from a paintable birch veneer with contemporary crown. It is designed for casual wear.
The process of designing a closet begins, says Cuffari, with paying close attention to the client. “You have to have good listening skills in this business. During the initial consult, I listen to the problems clients have with their storage and what they would like to see. I do a complete clothing inventory: how many pairs of shoes, what width, how many handbags, ties, and belts, and how many inches of short, medium, and long hangs they have and will need in the future. When I design, I make sure everything has it place; and there’s a place for everything. If clients are looking to do a comparison with another closet company first, I always tell them: if the company doesn’t offer to do a clothing inventory, find a company that will. You can’t do a proper design without it.”
Cuffari also helps clients reduce clutter and make their lives easier by offering guidance on organizing their space. And that emphasis on organization is another key element in every design that Cuffari produces. “We like to create closets that give people options. So if years later, their clothing style changes—they’ve started wearing boots, for example—they can move the shelves and rods to create the room they need. Or when a client sells their home, the new owners can use the closet right away, because everything is adjustable and interchangeable.”
Over the years, Cuffari has seen a lot of changes in client expectations. For example, clients are now requiring higher-end finishes. Closettec handles all finishes. But one of the most exciting new products, in his opinion, is Designer Melamine which has the look of high grade wood, even down to the grain, at a significantly lower price. “It’s absolutely beautiful.”
Another change is the emphasis on lighting. “You can add chandeliers. You can have lights that go on automatically,” he explains, “whenever a drawer or door opens. You can build lights into the clothes bar. The end results are spectacular.”
His ability to meet both client expectations and needs has resulted in many awards for Closettec, including 2016 and 2017 awards for excellence in Customer Service; a 2015 award for Home Décor; recognition by Angie’s List for Super Service; both Consumer Choice and Talk of the Town awards; and an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
To progress from his client’s priorities to the final product, Cuffari relies on several technologies. First on the list is KCD Software. “Before KCD software, I drew all my designs by hand and that takes time, plus the client had a hard time understanding what they were looking at in a drawing. KCD Software creates a full color picture of the closet, with accessories. There is no doubt in the client’s minds that that’s what they are going to get. Computerization also cut down on the errors that result when you calculate by hand; all the dimensions are entered into the KCD Software. It’s been a real boon.”
Cuffari adds, “I am really impressed with the system. It’s easy to use and has increased our sales. My creativity is the same but now I can show details like window placements or hampers. It’s like a photograph of the finished project. After we started using KCD Software, our sales went up 30 percent in one year.” He also appreciates the personal service — “they’re always there and just a phone call away”—which is something Cuffari promotes in his own business.
Recently Cuffari installed a CNC computerized saw that he is interfacing with KCD Software. “It cuts down on the manufacturing steps, which increases efficiency, which lowers costs—and we pass all those savings on to the customer.” Cuffari’s separate manufacturing location is “completely computerized and up to date.” For example, KCD Software automatically generates materials and cut lists, ensuring that every design—and the client’s needs and wishes—are clearly communicated from start to finish.
When Cuffari lists the fundamentals of custom closet design, he emphasizes asking the right questions and taking good measurements. “You have to ask the client questions and try to incorporate everything they want. You have to take good measurements. If they are talking to another company, I offer to come back and do a design comparison. Even when we come in at a lower price, we offer more options at a higher quality. From an aesthetic standpoint, everything is more beautiful when it is custom built. Precut cabinets don’t fit the same way. Even a basic closet looks better when it is custom made. I’ve found that once clients have a custom-built closet, they never go back.”