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After the Smoke Clears
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Wednesday, October 02, 2013 11:00 AM
Mike Young, owner and operator of Mi-Her Custom Cabinets, talks about the layout of his new shop and the machines he had to replace after a fire destroyed his shop earlier this year. Young had several finished orders in the shop at the time of the fire and had to rebuild those as well as filling other orders. He was able to use tools and shops in the area for he and his crew to do the work. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchiefirstname.lastname@example.org)
Mi-Her Custom Cabinets shop was left in ashes after a fire in March. Since then, owner Mike Young has worked to rebuild while still getting the work done. (Submitted photo)
It started as just a little smoke at 6 a.m. that morning and quickly evolved into a raging structure fire a few minutes later.
The flames engulfed the entire structure and destroyed all equipment and materials at Mi-Her Custom Cabinets, owned by Mike Young and his family of Midway.
"It wasn't five minutes before the thing was fully involved," Young said.
That was almost seven months ago - March 8, 2013 - when Young received the dreadful wakeup call, and while the loss still smarts, he has rebuilt and is close to reopening a new workshop.
Since the blaze, Mike and his small crew, which includes a loyal long-time employee of more than 30 years and his son-in-law, have continued to fulfill orders, but they must split the work between two locations.
They set up a partial shop in Nabb and use a location near Seymour that includes a wide-belt sander, which is needed to finish each of the cabinet pieces.
"That's really inconvenient. So, hopefully in three weeks or more we'll be fully operational," he said.
After the fire, Young's workspace was a total loss. The blaze destroyed every piece of equipment and even a few finished orders. He was only able to salvage the files and contracts that were being stored in an adjoining room.
Young said fire inspectors never specified a cause, though he suspects it was an electrical issue.
It took more than one month before Young was convinced he wanted to rebuild. He said his wife, Pam, left the decision entirely up to him.
"We were just in kind of disbelief that the whole thing happened to begin with," he said.
The answer to restart the business came within his family, which is exactly how the company started.
Young said his mother, who is 84 and continues to keep the books for the shop, asked that he continue things. In a way, it's her pet project.
"She was really active, and she wanted it back," Young said.
In addition to his mother's contributions, Young began his business with his father in 1976 after leaving a job at Clifty Engineering.
"I had built a house for myself when I was still at Clifty, and that kind of got me interested," he said.
The company name, Mi-Her, is a combination of Mike and his father Hershel's first names. The two worked along side one another for about 20 years.
At first, the cabinets were a way to supplement income during the winter months when building contracts slowed down. But the part-time venture quickly became a full-time enterprise by necessity.
Around the time Marble Hill power plant was up-and-coming, the local housing market was booming and building jobs were plentiful. And just as the plant bottomed out, the local housing market fell with it.
"Of course, when they quit, you couldn't build a house or sell a house," Young said.
It was then that the company switched its focus to cabinets, as well as dovetailing drawers.
"We didn't do any houses for about eight years there," he said.
Dovetailing is the process of cutting and jointing wood, typically for drawers in a chest set. Young said the company found its way into the market in the early 80s and began working with an Ohio distributor that ships its pieces across the country.
The majority of the jobs come locally - and in Louisville - but the crew has had jobs in northern Indiana and even West Virginia.
The orders and customer requests played a big part in the rebuilding process. In fact, Young said the company has thrived through good old-fashioned word of mouth.
It's a format he hopes to continue down the road.
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