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Wood-finishing firm branches out

In uncertain and dire economic times a new customer is without a doubt a boon for any business.

And that’s exactly what Elmira’s Horizon Coatings is looking at this season as it found a large wholesaler to distribute its prefinished wood products.

“We’ve got mountains of the stuff here and we’re coating,” said company president Chris Martin, one of the company’s three owners.

“With all that’s going on in the economy it’s nice to have a new customer.”

Since late December, Horizon Coatings, the Bonnie Crescent custom finishing company specializing in the pre-finishing of wood products, is now receiving quantities of primed exterior wood products from Taiga Building Products in Quebec. Those primed materials are then prefinished or coated in Elmira and then sent back to Montréal to be distributed by the

MORE WORK ON THE HORIZON Darren Pollon (left) and Chris Martin of Horizon Coatings in Elmira stand next to some exterior trim prefinished in Elmira and bound for Montreal this week. The local company started doing business with a national wholesaler last month.
MORE WORK ON THE HORIZON Darren Pollon (left) and Chris Martin of Horizon Coatings in Elmira stand next to some exterior trim prefinished in Elmira and bound for Montreal this week. The local company started doing business with a national wholesaler last month.

wholesaler.

After about a year’s worth of negotiations and trial runs, the first of a number of trucks rumbled into Elmira loaded with the primed product. Last month, Horizon Coatings shipped its first batch of prefinished material out to Montréal and is shipping two more truckloads this week. Each shipment includes approximately 18,000 kg (40,000 lb) and 40,000 feet of prefinished product.

The shipments couldn’t have come at a better time, said Martin, noting that this fall – peak season for the industry – the company saw a major drop in sales.

“It was significantly less … about 40 per cent less than the year before,” he explained. “An analogy would be the toy stores that are not busy in December.”

Fortunately for Martin, he and his partners had already gained valuable experience dealing with industry snares in the past. Just a few years into the business, the Elmira company, which was founded seven years ago, lost a significant portion of its sales as it struggled to compete with overseas companies; Chinese imports, especially, dramatically affected the local company’s sale of louvers, picture frames and kitchen cabinet drawer sides. Horizon’s original focus was on staining and coating wood products for other manufacturers, items such as picture frames, window shutter pieces and sides for dresser drawers.

Undercut by significantly lower prices, Martin and his partners assessed the situation and turned it into an opportunity, subsequently launching a new product: Ready Pine, the company’s own prefinished solid wood panelling for walls and ceilings. It’s marketed as an alternative to unfinished wood panelling products, which are more common in home renovation stores.

As many customers were already sending in their interior siding pine for cottages and cabins and for ceilings and walls, Martin thought the time was ripe to create his own prefinished pine product to be sold through a number of building supply stores in Ontario and now Quebec.

“We could be a little more in charge of our own destiny having our own product rather than relying on customers …”

The tongue-and-groove panels are 2.4 metres (eight feet) long and about 12.5 centimetres (five inches) wide; the sides are all coated simultaneously and are then cured simultaneously through the use of ultraviolet light. Up to 6,000 feet of product are prefinished in an hour.

Horizon is now negotiating with Taiga to have it distribute its Pine Ready product in Quebec. With transport trucks already hauling its finished materials to Montreal, it seemed logical to have them cart the prefinished pine product as well.

“We’re launching Ready Pine in Quebec and it works very well because even if we only have a few bundles of Ready Pine that’s a few more than we would have sold because it’s a market we’re not in.”

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