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‘We need people’

Two business partners revive Cottonwood cabinetry plant

Photo by Deb Gau Dean Stanton and Harry Roers stood in the Cottonwood cabinetry plant they refurbished for their new business venture, Legend Cabinetry. Production at Legend started in October, and Stanton and Roers say they’ve been able to bring back some of the jobs that were lost when the former Mid Continent Cabinetry plant shut down in 2018. However, they said they’re still looking to hire more people.

COTTONWOOD — It’s been two years since a major employer in Cottonwood announced it would be shutting down, and putting around 200 people out of work. But Harry Roers and Dean Stanton said when they heard the former Mid Continent Cabinetry plant was closing, they knew there was an opportunity available.

“The big thing was there was a workforce here that knew cabinetry,” Stanton said.

The two business partners bought the cabinetry factory last spring, and production at the new Legend Cabinetry started in October. Over the past year, Roers and Stanton said they’ve been able to reintroduce some of the jobs that were lost when the old plant shut down, but they’re still looking for more employees.

“We need people. We’re looking for people,” Roers said.

The former Mid Continent Cabinetry manufacturing plant was part of Cottonwood for many years, and was a major employer with over 200 workers. But in the fall of 2018, plant owner Norcraft Companies closed the facility. At the time, Norcraft said the shutdown was partly due to changes in market conditions.

Two years ago, Cottonwood community members said the plant closure did have an effect on the town, with some Main Street businesses reporting a slight downturn in activity.

In 2019, Stanton and Roers saw an opportunity to start a new business venture in Cottonwood. Stanton and Roers are also the founders of Woodland Cabinetry, a custom cabinetry company in Sisseton, South Dakota.

“We enjoy what we do,” Roers said. Woodland currently has about 250 employees.

Roers and Stanton said they had considered opening a new cabinetry plant at a location in Illinois, but instead they chose Cottonwood.

“There was a building empty and a workforce here,” Roers said. In addition to the opportunities available in Cottonwood, Roers and Stanton said the community was also a size they knew they were comfortable with.

“We were both born in small towns,” Stanton said. Plus, by reopening the cabinetry plant in Cottonwood, they would be able to give back to the community, he said.

Roers and Stanton bought the Mid Continent building in the spring of 2020, but there was a lot of preparation that had to be done to get the 164,000 square-foot plant ready for production.

“We had to re-wire it, we had to set all the equipment up,” Roers said. “But we were patient, because we could be.”

Roers said they invested around $4 million into the Cottonwood plant to get it ready for production. The work included adding new machinery and equipment to build, paint and finish cabinets and drawers.

Legend Cabinetry is a separate business from Woodland Cabinetry, and has a different product line, Roers said. He said Legend Cabinetry is geared toward making an affordable, quality line of cabinets focused on builders’ needs.

Production at Legend started in October, Roers said.

“We’re excited,” he said. Stanton said the community has been excited, as well. Legend had an open house, and they were able to hire back around 65 former Mid Continent employees.

Legend has employees work weeks of four 10-hour days. “A lot of people like that,” he said.

Roers and Stanton said there were some challenges in getting the plant started during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the real challenge lately has been a need for more employees.

Roers said hiring has recently hit a plateau. Legend was looking to get the word out and draw in more employees, to grow the business.

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