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Springfield, MO

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Business Spotlight

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by Kris Ann Hegle

SBJ Contributing Writer

Leon Oxendine was drawn to woodworking because he liked the smell of sawdust and enjoyed working with his hands. A self-taught craftsman, he quit his job in a grocery store in 1965 and started Leon's Woodworks Ltd., which makes custom wood cabinets.

During the past 34 years, Leon and his wife Sandra Oxendine have worked on every kind of custom wood project imaginable. The bookcases, cabinets and circulation desks used in Springfield's public libraries were built and installed by Leon's Woodworks. The company has also outfitted planes, boats, railroad cars, RVs and tractor-trailer rigs with its custom cabinetry.

The majority of the Oxendines' business, however, comes from working with local housing contractors. Their custom woodwork, which ranges from kitchen and bath cabinets to entertainment centers, can be found in homes in Millwood, Highland Springs and Cooper Estates.

"I still do everything myself," said Leon Oxendine. "I take all the measurements, figure the prices and buy the materials. We build and finish everything here and then install it onsite. We also build and install all of our own cabinet doors, which is unusual these days."

Sandra Oxendine drafts the floor plans for each project. She also helps each customer choose the materials that will be used to make the cabinets.

"I do a one-on-one with each customer," she said. "I give people all the time they need. Most people know what they want, but there's a lot of different woods and surfacing materials to choose from."

Indeed, customers can have their cabinets made from red oak, white oak, ash, birch, cherry, walnut, hickory or alder. Each is available in a variety of finishes. Those buying kitchen or bathroom cabinets also choose from an array of decorative laminates or solid surfacing materials for the countertops.

"Laminates, such as Formica, Nevamar and Wilsonart, cost less than solid surfacing materials," Leon Oxendine said. "If you spend the money for a solid surface product, you need to have an accredited fabricator install it, or the warrantee won't be any good. We're accredited fabricators. We've used and installed these products for a long time, and we're professional at it."

In addition to working with local building contractors, Leon's Woodworks does custom cabinetry work for homeowners. This work ranges from custom gun cases to home entertainment centers. Most of the jobs, however, involve replacing kitchen or bath cabinets.

"Having workmen in your home is disruptive," Leon Oxendine said. "We don't just replace the existing cabinets, we have our own installation crew so we have control over that aspect of the job. We also have an electrician and a plumber come in and finish out the job so the turnaround time will be quicker. This makes things a lot easier for the homeowner."

Leon's Woodworks employs 14 workers, including the Oxendines' son, Kylan, who builds and carves many of the cabinet doors manufactured at the shop.

Because workers are exposed to paint fumes, sawdust and work with potentially dangerous machinery, health and safety is always a concern. In addition to following Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations, the shop employs a consultant who makes recommendations on ways to increase on-the-job safety, Oxendine added.

The Oxendines also hold a cash drawing each month the shop is accident-free to encourage employees to work safer.

Like many business owners, the Oxendines have faced their share of challenges. A fire completely destroyed their shop at 1821 N. Broadway in 1976, but they rebuilt. In 1985, Leon's Woodworks was burglarized, and the thieves made off with some small machinery and materials. Later that same year, a fire caused significant damage to the building.

Despite these setbacks, the Oxendines have managed to bounce back. Much of the equipment used at Leon's Woodworks has been replaced over the years to keep up with the latest cabinet-making techniques, according to Leon Oxendine.

Technology also has changed the kinds of materials that are used to make surface cabinets, and the Oxendines regularly attend trade shows that showcase the latest products being used in the industry.

"This business is my life, and I've worked hard to build it up," Leon Oxendine said. "We have a reputation for making quality products, and we have the experience to back up that reputation."

LEON'S WOODWORKS LTD.

Management philosophy: "To provide honest service of the highest quality."

Year Founded: 1965

Address and phone number: 1821 N. Broadway, Springfield 65803; 862-6079

Owner: Leon's Woodworks Ltd.

PHOTO CAPTION:

Sandra and Leon Oxendine display their custom cabinets.

PHOTO CAPTION:

Kylan Oxendine, son of Leon's Woodworks owners Leon and Sandra Oxendine, works on a cabinet piece for the family business. He builds and carves many of the cabinet doors manufactured in the shop.[[In-content Ad]]

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