Laslo Custom Kitchens

By Nancy Moffett

The smell of freshly cut wood fills the air. The buzz of saws, planers, drills and routers fills the ear. At each work station, craftsmen bend intently over their work, barely noticing visitors passing by. A young man readies a spray booth to apply a finish coat to the next project. Along the way, carefully drawn plans guide every move. Here is where dream kitchens and cabinets are made.

Richard Laslo founded Laslo Custom Kitchens in 1973 in conjunction with an earlier family business. Today, he and his son Neil run day-to-day operations out of the 16,000 square-foot facility in Palmer Township. As Neil says, “I bring in the order, and Dad gets it [the finished product] out the back door.”

With four salespeople and 15 other employees, Laslo Kitchens designs, builds and hand-finishes kitchen cabinets, islands, cupboards, entertainment centers, mini and wine bars, fireplace mantels and hearths…any kind of cabinet a customer can imagine. A look at the “Gallery” section of their website (laslokitchens.com) shows a myriad of finishes, woods, styles and details (corbels, medallions, trim, etc.) that are testament to the company’s versatility and high level of quality and skill.

“I like helping the person no one else can help,” says Neil, “especially on old-home remodels that require thinking outside the box.” Neil worked at the company during high school and then returned to manage accounts receivable and payable after completing an accounting degree at Moravian College. He now handles all aspects of management, while Richard spends his time doing finishing work and overseeing manufacturing. Regarding how the business is doing during these tough economic times, Neil remarks, “It’s actually doing better than I expected.”

Although Laslo is known for its custom work, they also carry two lines of stock cabinets for builders. Business is divided about 50-50 between custom and stock work. Neil says that pricing for custom work can be competitive with stock pieces. A tour of the plant shows, however, that it’s the custom work that keeps creativity flowing. “We build to any size,” Neil explains, “which eliminates having to use fillers to make projects fit existing spaces.”

Through partnerships with local professionals, Laslo can build or remodel a kitchen or bath from consultation to completion, coordinating services such as demolition, electrical, plumbing, flooring, etc.

Speaking of wood, oak has had its day, according to Neil. Maple and cherry are now more in demand by home owners. They also work with alder, bamboo and Lyptus®. Lyptus is the brand name for a relatively new product that comes from eucalyptus trees. Eucalyptus grows quickly compared to other hardwoods, making them eco- and Earth-friendly. According to the manufacturer, processing also uses almost every portion of the log.

Style-wise, Neil finds customers moving away from the ornate – such as French, Country and Italian – to cleaner, more contemporary lines and painted cabinets, eliminating details that can be hard to clean. He sees little laminate or solid surface (like Corian®) being used for countertops. Today, most customers want granite or quartz.

Out in the shop, an indoor loading dock keeps raw and finished products out of the weather, important for maintaining the wood’s integrity. Each project is labeled with the customer’s name as it moves from raw wood to finished piece. There you’ll also find craftsmen with many years’ experience. According to Neil, there are two employees who have been with Laslo for more than 35 years and several others with more than 20 years. “We can depend on them,” Neil says, “to turn out quality workmanship every time.”

As far as wood sourcing, Laslo buys locally from Russell Plywood in Reading and Mell-Davies, Inc. near Lancaster, PA. “It’s not worth the savings to use imported wood,” Neil says. For instance, inexpensive wood from overseas can have five times more moisture content than domestic, which means the finished piece may not last more than a few years.

As for Neil, he loves the creative element and the challenge of working with customers in this second-generation endeavor. “It keeps me going every day,” he says with a smile.

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