Burgeoning board business grows out of ashes of recession
Future Proof: Louise and Pearse Caulfield, Caulfield Country Boards
Louise Caulfield heads up sales, marketing and administration, while her brother Pearse handles manufacturing
Caulfield Country Boards owes its heritage to Caulfield Joinery in Carnaross, Kells, Co. Meath which was established by joiner John Caulfield in 1976. The company has now three strands – a joinery, a glazing business and Caulfield Boards, which is run by John’s children Louise and Pearse Caulfield and which now represents 75 per cent of group turnover.
This side of the business has grown tenfold since last year, with the boards now retailing in more than 50 independent stores and in big name shops such as Brown Thomas, Kilkenny and Meadows & Byrne.
John Caulfield specialised in the production of hardwood kitchens, windows and doors which he made for private clients and regular architectural clients. During the 1980s, specialising in bespoke joinery meant that John was able to build up a solid reputation.
Having diversified into glazing, he had a dalliance with PVC before returning to his joiner’s roots in hardwood.
The business was successful for many years but, by 2008, the joinery was on the verge of closing.
“This was due to the recession,” says Louise Caulfield. “The downturn in the building and construction business...everything closed overnight... there were few commissions so my Dad was doing little joinery or carpentry work and the business was only open a couple of days per week. Customers were afraid to spend money. It was the worst time in the business.”
Louise Caulfield worked as a geologist in the mining industry in Australia between 2009 and 2011, having graduated with a degree in geology from Trinity College Dublin in 2007. Her brother Pearse pursued a degree in philosophy in Trinity whilst continuing to work as a joiner, graduating in 2012.
On her return from Australia, Louise, a keen baker, began selling her cakes and breads at a stall at a weekly market in Carnaross. She asked her father and brother to make her wooden boards on which to display her baked goods.
And that led to an epiphany.
“We made up some boards and they began to sell in the market. The first ones we designed and produced were a traditional breadboard and a chopping block made from hardwood ash.”
Caulfield Boards now makes over 30 varieties of serving and chopping boards in ash, beech, walnut and elm. They manufacture bespoke boards for the restaurant trade, which can be customised and embossed with logos.
Louise Caulfield, who has just obtained a Masters in environmental science as well as co-running the business, says origin and sustainability are key to the fast-growing business.
“With my academic background, one of the areas I feel strongly about is how environmentally compliant our product is. We use minimal, recyclable packaging and our wood comes from sustainable sources.”
Louise, her brother Pearse and her father are all involved in the design process. Louise heads up marketing, sales and administration while manufacturing is Pearse’s department.
Offering a wide range of choice in design and pricepoint is proving successful for the company whose motto is “Functional & Beautiful”. Personalisation is a popular service, allowing customers to have a message such as a date or name added to the board.
Showcase was a major turning point for the company this year and they are now producing and selling an amazing 10 times the amount of product they were this time last year. Their products are now stocked in independent retailers including Foxford Woolen Mills, Bob & Kate’s Gifts and Tuckmill Gallery in Kildare.
Louise acknowledges it’s a “huge deal” to be stocked in stores such as Brown Thomas (where they have been since last summer when they participated in Create), Meadows & Byrne and Kikenny stores.
This year’s Showcase was their fourth appearance at the trade show and they believe that being part of the Design and Craft Council of Ireland’s “Creative Island” helped to cement new retail clients.
Admittedly suddenly gaining all these new retailers necessitated a huge amount of effort and Pearse is currently working five 12-hour days a week as well as weekends to satiate demand for the products.
So is the original Caulfield joiner happy with the direction in which his progeny have taken the business?
“For a while Dad did standard joinery doors but then the recession hit and that stopped. He always wanted to be in a position where you could be constantly producing stock that could be sold. He is pleased to see the expansion of the business – we’ve invested in new machines, we’ve taken on a new apprentice and the joinery work is coming back too with people ordering kitchens, windows, doors and glazing refurbishment again.”
“Our plan with Caulfield Boards is to maintain the Irish retailers we have and to expand into other shops and all suitable multiples,” says Louise Caulfield. “We hope to do a UK show next year and expand the export market there and then it’s on the US and Asia.”