Who says that going into a woodworking or fine arts program at college won’t help you pay off those school loans or provide a living? SUNY New Paltz graduate Scott Mass, owner of WCW Kitchens, located in the Cherry Hill Plaza in New Paltz, is proof that you can follow your passion without circling the poverty drain.
Originally, Mass was recruited by Cornell University to attend college there and play lacrosse in the early 1970s. “I think those lacrosse sticks — which were all purchased from Native American reservations in upstate New York — had some sort of impact on my desire to work with wood,” he says, sitting in his second-floor WCW showroom and design studio. The place would inspire just about anyone to get his or her kitchen or bathroom redone, with a new toilet (see here) and all of the beautiful cabinetry, stone, quartz, marble and photographs of WCW-designed kitchens hanging on the wall. “They were hand-carved and solid: beautiful to hold and play the game with,” he recalls.
Pointing to a large, elegant horse in motion that was one of his first artistic achievements, Mass relates how he took some woodworking courses at Cornell, where he learned the art of wood sculpture. He also took some fine arts courses, but could not escape his innate love of woodworking.
He moved to New Paltz and was one of the first students to be a part of the then-newly-constituted woodwork design program at SUNY. “There I became skilled in woodworking machinery, knowing what the best thickness planer is for wood, technique and creating things that also served a purpose and were not solely decorative,” he says. “I couldn’t get enough. I would be the first person in the studio in the morning and the last to leave at night. I had such inspirational teachers and fellow students that just ignited my passion to learn and hone my skills.”
From there, Mass moved on to Woodstock, where he became an apprentice to a successful cabinetmaker. When the owner went on an extended vacation, Mass and another employee “inherited his workshop and continued to build cabinetry, molding, shelving for their clients and even grew that clientele base. That’s where I really learned the connection between my love of woodworking and making a living by creating pieces and furniture and cabinetry for clients who each had their own particular tastes, space requirements and budgetary limitations or lack thereof.”
Mass went on to start WCW in Rosendale, where he still has a retail showroom. “Rosendale is a wonderful town; I love it and still do. But we were ready to have more visibility, reach a greater population. Plus, my son and my grandkids live in New Paltz, and it just made sense to move back here.”
Three years ago, he became the first person to move into the newly constructed building just south of Pasquale’s that now houses a variety of businesses and health-related services. “He [the owner of Pasquale’s] was kind enough to let me design this space the way I wanted it,” he said, gesturing towards the many windows in the light-filled and airy second-floor showroom and design space that is the home of WCW.
According to Mass, while the business does cater to a high-end clientele, from Brooklyn to Martha’s Vineyard, Westchester, Woodstock and some of the wealthier New Paltz weekenders, his desire and approach are to be “affordable for every budget. We work with what you have and what you need,” he said. “We have lines [of cabinetry, countertops, flooring, tiles et cetera] that are comparable to Lowe’s prices. But the difference is, here, we’re smaller and see the project through from the very beginning stages until it’s completed and the customer is satisfied. We can order things more quickly, work one-on-one with the customer to find something that is both practical and beautiful within their budget.”
What the WCW staff does is help the client, most often, with redoing a kitchen, bathroom, mud room or office, get measurements, see the space and go through a design process where the client can see, through new high-end software, exactly what his or her space will look like once the construction is completed. WCW then orders all of the materials; has contractors who have worked with them for years go in and do the work, whether it requires both demolition and construction or just construction; and then follows up with the client when the work is completed. “We’re with them every step of the way, so that the process is seamless.” His licensed, insured contractors also do any necessary plumbing or electrical work, as well as installation, so there’s no gap, no middleman.
While WCW has been written up in Home magazine and other lofty home-design periodicals, Mass prides himself on being personable and excited about any project, small or large, one with strict budget constraints or one that is unlimited. “I just love meeting people, helping them design exactly what they want or what they need and can afford, and then seeing them delighted with the finished product. Because we’re so thorough, we have repeat customers who then give us referrals, and many of our weekender clients will give us a copy of their home key and say, ‘We’ll be back in a month, look forward to seeing the new Urban Kitchen’” he says with a laugh.
WCW carries some very well-known manufacturer lines, including one that is a green-design company with everything from countertops to cabinetry, tiling, molding, fixtures and flooring. Asked if there are any new trends, Mass paused and said, “Yes. Quartz is becoming increasingly more popular because of all its new fresh colors. It’s the least porous material, and thus does not age or get stains — unlike granite or marble. Now, we still carry incredible granite and marble lines, but quartz is on the rise.”
Although he is now most involved with the design end of the business, working with clients to design their dream kitchen or bathroom or solve a mud-room problem or home entertainment system, he still needs to fuel his hands-on creative juices every now and again. “I still handcraft some things,” he said. “I’m working on a countertop for Moxie Cup, which I’m enjoying.”
To learn more about WCW, go to the online website and portfolio at www.wcwkitchens.com, call (845) 255-2022 or simply stop in the showroom at 3 Cherry Hill Plaza in uptown New Paltz and take a look around.