Timeless design and old-fashioned customer service lead to Durham Bookcases’ success

We recently popped in for a quick visit with Phillip Fletcher to see how his business, Durham Bookcases & More, is doing and to take a peek at his 17-year-old ShopBot. Rest assured, his business and his ShopBot are looking good and continue to be ready to take on customer needs today and into tomorrow.

Fletcher’s shop sits just beside the railroad tracks in Downtown Durham. He’s been working in this space since the early 70’s when Durham was a tobacco town and Main Street was still a gravel road. The area has changed a lot since then. He now finds himself surrounded by pricey new condos and busy boutique restaurants – brimming with college students and professionals alike.

For more than 30 years, Phillip and the crew at Durham Bookcases & More have continued to produce and sell quality bookcases, as well as other real wood furniture items, that fit in both contemporary and traditional homes. Foot traffic is still an important part of the business and allows the Durham Bookcases staff to really connect with customers. However, internet presence via their website and through online retailer, Etsy, have enabled them to expand their sales footprint – selling all over the world. As many businesses and manufacturers have similarly been affected – especially since 2008 – Durham Bookcases has navigated shifts in material pricing and availability due to economic conditions that are still present today. However, they remain committed to reasonably priced furniture that customers can feel good about investing in, furniture that stands the test of time.

The ShopBot that Phillip purchased in 2001 continues to be an integral part of his manufacturing process. Over the years, he has amassed thousands of files – standard and custom jobs – that he runs on a ticketing system. Staff are able to systematically move projects through the shop using a combination of traditional shop tools and the ShopBot; and are able to scale up to accommodate demand.

Durham Bookcases believes in making quality products that last, just like ShopBot does.

Take a look back at the original story we ran on Phillip in 2011 below.
Written & Published by: Michael Berliner

Business: Durham Bookcases (& Other Cool Wood Stuff)
Where: Durham, North Carolina
ShopBot Tool:
 96 X 48 PRSalpha (purchased in 2001)

Furniture maker Philip Fletcher founded Durham Bookcases back in 1995. “Our goal from the beginning was to build bookcases at competitive prices with high quality workmanship.” As time has passed, Durham Bookcases has grown their offerings to include custom-built entertainment centers, wall units, office furniture and bedroom furniture, and increased the variety of woods, sizes, & options to continue to please their customers.

Fletcher says his guiding philosophy has always remained the same. “I’m a custom maker. It always works best if my customers meet with me one on one, to discuss their needs fully. That way, the customer is pleased with the outcome. I know my furniture is going to last — so I want the customer to be happy with their purchase for a long, long time!”

It was about 10 years ago that Fletcher added digital fabrication technology to the core of his manufacturing process. He contacted Durham neighbor ShopBot Tools and has been pleased with the tool, and his relationship with ShopBot, ever since.

“My ShopBot is a workhorse,” says Fletcher. “Quite simply, it’s reliable.” Over the years Fletcher has found that the ShopBot’s easy interface is a boon because it’s easy to train employees how to use the software. Asked how long it takes to bring a new employee up to speed, Fletcher didn’t hesitate to answer: “Twenty-four hours.”

When it comes to technical problems, Fletcher smiles and says, “It usually turns out to be a user issue, not a problem with the tool. Customer service has always been friendly and available when we need it.”

Durham Bookcases has been in business long enough to have experienced busy times and quieter times, and has witnessed shifts in customer attitudes and interests. “There was a trend in recent years for customers to want only ‘green’ materials,” notes Fletcher. “I like to point out that by using quality woods is the best way to be green — because furniture that lasts for 25 years and more doesn’t ever need to be recycled!”


From the Archive…
See Phillip Fletcher’s posts on the ShopBot Blog (2010) about making raised panel doors with the ShopBot:

Making the Perfect Door, Part I: Concept and Programming

Making a Perfect Door, II: Construction and Reprogramming


You may also be interested in…
Durham Bookcases and More and ShopBot Tools, Inc. are both headquartered in Durham, NC. Here’s a post about projects around town that have been “touched by  a ShopBot”.
Signs of ShopBot Around Our Hometown – Durham, North Carolina

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