The year was 1970. Jim Miller was 20 years old and had only been in Washington, D.C. a short while when a friend suggested that Miller think about going into the wholesale moulding business. After all, Miller had experience building a successful business while he was in his teens with the help of his father. Since there were many retail framing establishments getting mediocre service with high prices, Miller thought there might be a good chance he could do better.
With that in mind, Miller began wholesaling moulding from a small basement garage based on the premise of providing the most competitive prices and exceptional service. Value and quick turnaround were the benchmarks Miller used to define his business. He personally called on clients, cut chops, designed moulding, and made deliveries. He all but cut down the trees to get the best products for his clients.
Soon the burgeoning business grew large enough that he had to rent warehouse space in a commercial park. Looking back on those days Miller said, "I wish you could have seen the expression on my face the first time an 18-wheeler backed up to my warehouse delivering my first truck load of moulding! I was hoping I hadn't made the biggest mistake of my life!" Fortunately, Miller's customers rewarded him for his risk and hard work with one thing that every business owner wants: happy satisfied customers who kept placing more orders.
Soon, he bought and developed a retail business, Miller's Framing, on the corner intersection of two high traffic streets (and painted the building an eye catching bright green, and soon became a landmark on that corner). As the years went by, he eventually sold Miller's Framing and devoted all of his energy and efforts in building a successful national wholesale business, CMI Moulding.
Now, CMI Moulding is bursting at the seams of a 60,000 square foot building stacked four high and 30 wide with wall to wall moulding-and continuing to stretch for more space!
One of the things Miller noticed early on was there was one thing in common to all the framers he worked with: frustration. It was like a domino effect - and although it wasn't about pizza, it was about delivery - or more specifically, frustrations with delays in delivery. More often than not, those frustrations weren't the fault of a particular person but the result of both retailer and distributors not being able to buy in small enough quantitites.
Here's what typically happened: a customer would fall in love with one particular moulding they just had to have - and right away of course! The retailer would then try and order the moulding but the distributor would be out of stock. When the distributor tried to order the moulding from the wholesaler, they would be forced to buy a huge amount. Since that moulding wasn't in high demand, the distrubutor would be forced to go back to the framer and tell them that they weren't able to get it or that it had been "discontinued" or some such tale.
The retailer was then in the awkward position of having to give the bad news to the customer. The customer would be disappointed at best, and furious at worst!
As a way to help his distributors get out of this sticky situation, Miller decided to try selling by the box. This step enabled distributors to happily satisfy their retail customers without having to take huge risks - and set an industry trend.
But even better still, Miller introduced the "Whatever It Takes" philosophy for customer service. Any of CMI's distributors can offer their retailers the ability to say to their customers, "We don't stock that particular moulding but I can place a special order and get it for you-fast!" So instead of having to order a "boatload" of moulding that takes four to six weeks to get to the customer, now the turnaround time is just a matter of a couple of days to get exactly what the customer wants! CMI distributors can do whatever it takes to make the customer happy-and coming back for more!
Today, CMI Mouldings is on the edge of creative programs using local distributors nationwide. This allows distributors access to a large inventory of wood mouldings to be quickly restocked in 60 locations around the US and Canada.
The distributors are the heart of what makes CMI Moulding so unique. They try and do for moulding what one packaging company did when it said, "When it absolutely positively has to be there overnight..." Now, it's not always possible to achieve those same results with moulding, but the goal is the same: to get it to the customer fast, and for the lowest cost.
Even if they can't do the impossible, here's what CMI considers normal. If a distributor places an order, CMI will fill that order within six hours. That means, depending on geography, if you call today you can get your order tomorrow or the next day. At the maximum, you'll get your order in a week-and that's the exception.
Recently, Miller said he was in a bank and saw a banner hanging on the wall that read, "Why are we working harder to serve you? Because we know you can go somewhere else!" His response was, "That's exactly why we know the bottom line is providing the best service. If we do our job right, hopefully our distributors will stay with us and retailers will stay with them for the long haul-which keeps costs down for everybody."
That's why CMI Moulding looks for distributors that are like-minded, who believe that quality products, great customer service, and competitive prices are the essential ingredients for success. And makes them "partners."
The CMI Distributor Partnership program includes 60 distributors located throughout the US and Canada. These are locally and independently owned, each seeking to serve their customers. They are able to react quickly to orders for chops, length, or several thousand feet of an item. Most mouldings are stocked in the CMI warehouse at levels of 5,000 to 10,000 ft. per item.
Great customer service really isn't worth much if you have an inferior product. That's why CMI takes care to insure the finest quality products available in the world today. In fact, when you can't find him at his desk, you may find that Miller is in Mexico or Italy personally checking out manufacturing of new designs and patterns. Or he may be just down the street taking an Italian manufacturer out for their favorite (and most requested) American meal - a cheeseburger and fries.
CMI has grown their line of mouldings from humble beginnings. Starting with a small line of mouldings from Chappel de Mexico, a large factory in Mexico, many new and traditional mouldings have been added to expand the CMI Moulding line. Now the Chappel line includes over 500 selections, from driftwoods to large 3 1/2" gold ornate mouldings.
In 1993, CMI added selections from two factories in Italy. Recently, "The Italian Classics" line was introduced. These are a collection of gold and silver mouldings which were designed and introduced for larger pieces of art work. Unique finishes, such as antique mottled gold, have become overnight best sellers.
Another new finish that has found a strong entry into the market is black with broken gold leaf. More recently, CMI introduced a line in natural wood on ramin with over 80 items. This includes finishes such as mahogany, walnut, natural, whitewash, matte black, greens, blues, and many other colors.
Each year, CMI produces a full color catalog displaying-in actual size-their full line of over 900 mouldings. This catalog is filled with high resolution, crisp, four color photos to simplify the selection process.(And remember, the team at CMI is always available for any questions you might have about a particular design.)