Disappointing news; Baltimore Area (Towson) Woodcraft is closing

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I just received a postcard stating my local Woodcraft is closing soon. The "rumors” I heard earlier stated the owners were looking for a buyer but could not find anyone to take over the franchise. They have two stores in PA and this third location was a lot to manage. For someone like me that has most tools I’ll ever buy it is not as much a loss as for the newer woodworker or someone who wants to upgrade. (But I still go there to buy the samller stuff I always need) There are a few businesses around that have used machinery but no where are there places to demo a lot of stuff, or give "how to" build it courses. We’ve had three major WW retailers close here in recent years; Skarie in Baltimore City, Cayce in Cockeysville, and now Woodcraft. At least there are a few Festool retailers around, so all is not lost. Marc
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On Fri, 17 May 2013 20:10:51 -0700 (PDT), marc rosen

Any chance they will be offering reduced prices on stuff rather than spending the money to have it all moved to another store?
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I am surprised that our local WC stays in business, but it apparently does well. You can be in rural south Texas in about 30 minutes from San Antonio and on the weekends the store is full of folks from as far away as a couple of hundred miles. They come up for other business and this is the man's toy store and there isn't anything like it farther south.
And the owner of the local franchise has made the store work. He has a commercial sales guy that sells to school districts, cabinet shops, etc. He also has a very active teaching schedule for different aspects of woodworking including turning, carving and box making.
And in a really smart move, he supports a couple of different clubs that meet there on site, so he has woodworking guys in there all the time. Most of those guys are retired and have a nice slice of retirement they can put towards buying the latest and greatest tools, and they don't mind spending it.
I am friends with a guy that still works there, but personally haven't been in a WC store in years. To me, they have had a noticeable lack of variety of tools, and only sell certain brands of certain things. When I was in there a few years back, I was astonished to see some of the very same hand tools sold at Harbor Freight, but at double the price. If I am going to buy something or questionable quality or utility, I will buy from HF because it will be much cheaper to start with, but their return policy is ridiculously easy.
To me, WC has gone from being a woodworker's tool store to a hobby woodworker's boutique.
My buddy that works there told me that there have been several store closings across the nation, and more to come. I am glad to hear from him that the local store is doing just fine.
Robert
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On Saturday, May 18, 2013 12:31:00 PM UTC-5, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

I think of contractor's tool stores as being "woodworker's tool stores". A nd Woodcraft as a "hobby boutique" store. Des Moines had a Woodcraft 6-7-8 or so years ago. Can't remember how long its been gone. Started by a for mer worker at the local Woodsmith store. Woodsmith the magazine publisher has a nice tool store locally. The Woodcraft ran a few years before closin g. Offered a few classes. But I don't think the town is big enough for tw o specialty woodworking stores. And the Woodsmith store always has the par ent publishing company to support it if the tool sales don't measure up. W e also have 1 Harbor Freight, 3-4 Menards, 3-4 Home Depot, 3-4 Lowes, plus 3-4 contractor tool stores.
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On 5/18/2013 11:35 AM, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

Your "contractor's tool stores" may offer more tools than in Seattle, but here if you make furniture, Woodcraft (and sometimes Rockler) is the place to go. Otherwise, it's essentially variations on hammers (meaning crude but effective tools for banging shit together).
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On Monday, May 20, 2013 9:24:22 PM UTC-5, scritch wrote:
from being a woodworker's tool store to a hobby woodworker's boutique.

to go. Otherwise, it's essentially variations on hammers (meaning crude bu t effective tools for banging shit together).
This is a local contractor tool store. Every power tool a house builder ca rpenter would ever need is here. Plus larger woodworking tools such as tab le saws, even the cabinet table saws.
http://www.acmetools.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/DesMoinesLocationsView?l angId=-1&storeId052&catalogId101
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On May 17, 11:35 pm, snipped-for-privacy@none.com wrote:

Hey N, They are having a sale of 10% off power tools, 20% off most items and up to 50% off on closed out items. Festool is not included, as you may have surmised. Marc
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It's been a long time since I was in the Baltimore Woodcraft store. The main reason I stopped going was that their prices were just way too high. With 20% off, they are probably getting into the "reasonable" range.
--
Better to be stuck up in a tree than tied to one.

Larry W. - Baltimore Maryland - lwasserm(a)sdf. lonestar.org
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Our local Woodcraft (Ohio) was up for sale by the franchise owner. He also owns a store in Kentucky and can't handle two stores anymore. He tried selling it but instead it has now changed into a corporate store, the fourth in the country (so I am told). He had to sell or pull all the mrechandise from the store before the EoM. Corporate will not buy old merchandise back. They apparently prefer to keep only new stock. I am glad it worked out for everybody. Some things are only available at WC here and a number of us would miss that store. `Casper

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Think how difficult it would be to run a store like WC. The one in town has been open one way or another for about 30 years, and they have had good guys and bad guys manage it.
A friend of mine wound up managing the one here in town for about 6 or so years. He was a hobby woodworker, always ready to learn, never argued with the professionals and always expressed his way of doing things as his opinion. So he got along well.
However, away from the store and over a beer, he was pretty frustrated. He loved the serious, hobby guy that wanted to learn something new and try it out. He hated the guys that thought the tools they were buying should come with free lessons.
He liked the pros that came into the store as they ran their shops as a business and expected that from him, too. However, when one of his assistants goofed up a pro's blade sharpening order, forgot to order a proprietary part needed for a machine, or didn't get the supplies in needed to complete a contract, he was floored every time by how badly the contractors acted.
He liked the interface between like minded people and always tried to encourage as much coffee drinking and idea swapping as possible. He hated with a passion the know it all, of which the store had plenty at all times. He did however, love it when the know it alls would dispense their vast knowledge (I heard "you know Robert, I've been doing this as a serious hobby for about five years, now..." ) to the short on time professionals so we could say all the things he couldn't.
It was a tough job to get anyone that had serious woodworking experience to work there as their store economic model only allowed for slightly more than an hourly wage to be paid for most guys. So that left their talent pool to be entry level in the job market guys, or retirees that didn't need but a little bit to make them happy. The latter camp worked there most often to get their great employee discount, and regularly quit after they filled their shops.
He had a lot of things to contend with, and I always thought of him as more of a circus manager than a business manager. Most of the time he did, too.
Not the kind of job for everyone.
I googled Woodcraft store closings, and there are apparently a lot of these stores going under. In particular, check out this:
http://www.woodtalkonline.com/topic/5793-woodcraft-closings/
Pretty good discussion there.
A couple of things they leave off when describing their debt. The franchise cost is part paid and part financed (if you choose) and the local franchise for the WC store cost somewhere around $500,000 many years ago. However, the smaller the town, the smaller the cost. But then you have to have the inventory they want with only a bit if discretionary items, so you have to stock the store with products they supply. No shopping or jobber pricing for the franchisees.
And the items you buy from them are yours. No returns, no credit, no transfers. When one of the stores in Austin TX closed a few years ago, I believe they let the local franchise buy some of their inventory.
It's a tough business. Like a lot of folks I know, I will pay more if I get more. So if someone is there (remember their economic model) on site that could help me with a problem, I would pay more and consider it a consultation fee. But that means service, service, service. Besides, supporting a local brick and mortar store is always a good thing.
Since I don't feel like I get my money's worth out of WC, I simply don't go there.
Robert
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On Saturday, May 18, 2013 2:18:39 PM UTC-10, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Robert, I understand your friend's frustrations. I worked part-time at a Woodcraft store and hated a few things. Customers coming in to look at a product an d ask questions then buying it elsewhere. And customers buying a used tool and bringing it in to us to teach them how to use it. Gene
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GeneT wrote:

store and hated a few things. Customers coming in to look at a product and ask questions then buying it elsewhere. And customers buying a used tool and bringing it in to us to teach them how to use it. If you weren't busy, WC could probably afford the goodwill the help would generate. If you really hated helping people, then I guess that wasn't the right job for you. Do they pay commission? I'm part of a group that gives free woodcarving instruction at the local WC.

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Well everything you described is not unique to the WC stores, it is the nature of most any retail business.
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wrote:

store and hated a few things. Customers coming in to look at a product and ask questions then buying it elsewhere. And customers buying a used tool and bringing it in to us to teach them how to use it. If they didn't buy it from you I don't see that you're under any obligation to help. OTOH, a tactful "It's a busy day, if you could come back on Wednesday morning..." might help. Bottom line, it's a hobby store. You're going to get those questions. Even a company as big as Best Buy is having trouble with similar issues. If you can't deal with it, you're in the wrong business.
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I interviewed to work at the latest to open WC store in Houston in 2008. I was kicking around the idea of part time, they were strongly feeling me out for the manager position. I turned them down, I was not looking for that much work. I would have had to open a new start up store in addition.. Been there, did that. Anyway at the time and I don't think any thing has chanced, all Texas WC stores were owned by the same group of investors/ owner.
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On 5/18/2013 5:05 PM, Casper wrote:

It's not surprising that no one from the rec is running up to buy up these stores. Doing so would be like an alcoholic buying a bar and not having a clue about 12-step programs<g>.
I know if would be in my case. At least that's what my wife would say...
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On 5/18/2013 6:05 PM, Casper wrote:

now changed.
I find the stock limited, I appreciate having one in Allentown, Pa, but it's a 1 hour trip, so I go when I need it. I think the ww community has priced itself for the pro, because for us hobbiest's its getting really expensive. The price of finishes and glues there are too high. Slides I buy on sale, because they are just too high overall.
I am not loving the WoodRiver brand. It's not that high quality. I went to buy a dial caliper (fractional)... POC bought the higher Quality HF unit... yes higher quality.
I had for years found Woodcraft to be a better buy than Rockler, but something happened that it has flipped the other way around.. They are not as competitive anymore... wondering if some of these issue are causing some of the failures.
--
Jeff

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On 5/19/13 10:20 AM, woodchucker wrote:

One of the problems with both of these stores is they can't cater to both their target audiences. In this thread, they've been called a hobbyist store. I tend to agree with that except that they do offer very professional products. I see their main issue being, trying to treat the hobbyist like a professional and treating the professional like a hobbyist.
They are trying to sell professional tools to hobbyists with the guise that it will make them professionals. When a professional comes in, he gets treated like a hobbyist.
Woodcraft vs/ Rockler goes back and forth. We have both stores and they are both a bit expensive. I agree about the WoodRiver brand. I have yet to find one of their squares that was square. Heck, same with Rockler... I bought a set of their Clamp-It assembly squares and guess what? They aren't friggin square!
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-MIKE-

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wrote:

I like Woodcraft. Problem is, it is a 35 mile drive and as long as I'm going that far, another 10 miles takes me to Coastal Tool and much better prices.
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I think that boils it all down nicely. That has certainly been my experience.
I only deal with two types of vendors. First, HD/Lowe's/and a lumber yard or two. Most of their employees don't know what they are selling, what it is used for, much less how to use it. So they are of no value to me. They must pay the occasional experienced, guy in the different departments very little as I seem them infrequently. One in ten trips (less sometimes) I find a guy that is a gold mine, but it is like diving for pearls.
The other opposite of the extreme is my all contractor vendors. If you don't know what you want, they will help you make a decision on product, material or a tool as long as you are close to knowing exactly what you want, but nothing more.
Invariably, our local WC has polite employees, but they don't have much product knowledge and get nervous when you press them for detailed information. Rarely have any of the employees used more than one or two of the tools that is outside their favorite part of a woodworking hobby.
Like I said, a tough nut to crack. As with all employers, we all wonder how the the talent pool changed so much over the years. I know there are a lot of great guys out there to hire, but like most of us, I don't know where they are.
Robert
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