Support you local woodworking shops, or lose them

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Blog entry by Steve Diogo posted 03-22-2014 02:17 PM 1995 reads 0 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

The Woodcraft store in Libertyville, IL, closed its doors for good on March 19. Over the previous two weeks, I had received emails from the store announcing huge discounts… 30% off everything, then 50, then 75. While no closing was announced, it was pretty obvious what was coming.

Part of me wanted to make the hour drive and load up my car with half-price lumber and grab whatever tools were left. Part of me felt awful at the thought of picking the bones of a store I didn’t support enough. To be fair to myself, it was an hour away and I’ve only been woodworking for a few months. In the end, I just never got a chance before I got the “we’re closed” email.

I made the trip once, when it was time to buy a good dovetail saw. I’ve bought most of my tools online, but this one I wanted to see and hold before buying, and I wanted to talk to a human who knew something about woodworking. That visit was a great experience, and of course I bought more than I intended to. I never made it back, but I loved knowing that there was a place I could go that catered to a craft that I have grown to care so much about. I looked forward to my next visit.

Woodcraft retail stores are franchises. Each store is independently owned and tied to its local community, and it’s dependent on that local community to support it. For a specialty store, that community has to be geographically larger than the community it takes to support a Home Depot. It’s about a community of interest, not a community of locale. In this case, I guess there just wasn’t enough of a community to support a brick and mortar woodworking shop.

I don’t know the specifics. But I know it’s easier to go online and buy a tool than it is to drive an hour. But I enjoyed my trip to the Libertyville Woodcraft a lot more than hitting “submit” on a website.

Even 50 miles away, I considered myself lucky that I had a “local” woodworking shop. If you’re lucky enough to still have one, be sure to pay it a visit.


13 comments so far

View NoLongerHere's profile


893 posts in 3455 days

#1 posted 03-22-2014 03:13 PM

hey Steve,

I’m glad you wrote this. as I mentioned on your blog, I live 10 minutes from this store and was a regular patron.
It was nice to go there and be recognized and have a store completely designed for my pleasure – woodworking.

These people, all woodworkers, really tried to succeed. The fliers and sales were numerous. It seemed like they always knew the person in front of me at the counter. They’d ask me about the new puppy and how’s the finger healing. The classes were pretty cool although I never took one. Now, I regret not taking that chip carving class.

This is the store I wrote about in my blog, Dear Festool. I bought my first Lie Nielsen plane here when they first opened. They listened to me ramble on about my ideas like having an antique plane refurbishing/ making class – even though they already knew it wouldn’t draw enough people. But I think they knew it was more about the conversation as they never tried to squash the idea, the sharing.

It was the worst experience but best tool purchase I’ve gotten in awhile. Last weekend I went in to say goodbye and pick over the scraps. I hesitantly bought a cheap “Wood River” oscillating drum sander for 129.00 plus a ton of supplies like planer blades, sand belts, router bits, and a wood river 60 1/2 block plane for the new guy.

When I got home and unboxed the drum sander, the spindle nut on top was stripped so I packed it up and went back and bought the 489.00 Jet drum sander for 290.00. I should’ve listened to my spidey senses and bought quality instead of listening to my wife nagging me in my head about spending too much. Zero credit debt can be highly over rated in situations like this…, zip! What a machine… comparison. I digress.

edit: It was marked at 15% off but the owners gave me even a better deal.

There is a another store but it’s several hours away. I think I might try to plan on stopping there on my way to the city this weekend. Looks like I’ll have to get to know the new guys and gals in town. I hope they succeed and I will do what I can to support them. They’re one of us.

thanks again, Steve

and, Thank you WoodCraft of Libertyville…..we will miss you!

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 4088 days

#2 posted 03-22-2014 03:29 PM

I purchase all of my tools online because there has never been a woodworking store in Louisiana that I am aware of. Woodworkers make up a small and tiny fraction of the population…especially if not counting construction type woodworkers…because the majority of tools used in construction usually are not found at stores such as Rockler and Woodcraft. I have no idea how these stores do in other cities but it definitely needs a good supply of woodworkers to support it financially.
Every time my wife and I travel to shows I make it a point to visit any local lumberyards that might carry fine hardwoods or stores that carry quality woodworking tools and supplies.

View dad2jj82's profile


42 posts in 2395 days

#3 posted 03-22-2014 05:59 PM

I too like to support the local woodworking store (and anything else locally) if I can. Like it was stated above woodworking stores cater to a small niche of the population. In doing so they need to make sure they stay competive and not become stagnant because they are the biggest. The nearest woodcraft is over 1 hour away. I would love to buy from them but by the time I factor the drive time (big deal to me my shop has not shut down 1 day this year plus more twelve hour days than one can stomach), gas money to get there and back, and they are usually the most expensive place to buy things. I can’t justify it. I have bought some things from performace tool line center in Waterford,MI online at a great price. That is still supporting the local economy to me as it is two hrs away. Money talks I won’t pay more same product just because I try to stay local. Long story short….... I will pay a little more for something for a speciality store but don’t gouge me in doing so. Thanks

View sawdustjunkie's profile


409 posts in 2497 days

#4 posted 03-22-2014 06:18 PM

I live in Franklin, WI and am lucky, because I have a Woodcraft and a Rockler store about 20 min from my house.
I have purchased a Incra router table pkg and 2 Bosch 1617 routers from Woodcraft. I just got a Grizzly band saw in November, only because I didn’t like the Rikon that Woodcraft was selling.
Many of my blades and supplies are purchased form either of these stores as well as my local Harbor Freight.
I do try to buy from them even if they are a bit more, because as you said, you are actually talking to a real person.
That being said, I also buy many things online mainly because of price. The local stores need to be profitable to stay in business, but sometimes the prices are just to high and I go online to buy. It seems today, we are all on some sort of budget.
Whenever I can, I do buy from my local stores.

-- Steve: Franklin, WI

View WhoMe's profile


1568 posts in 4023 days

#5 posted 03-22-2014 09:02 PM

I guess I’m lucky, I live in SOuthern California where there are 4 Rocklers and 1 Woodcraft stores within 1 1/2 hours drive. I nromally purchase almost all my non-antique woodworking supplies from the closest Rockler or ocassionally from the Woodcraft stores. Or if I need wood, it is ALWAYS from a Woodworking store or a lumber yard. I NEVER buy from HD or the Blue place. Most of their wood is crap. I have yet to buy any new tool online. BUT, I do buy all of my old Stanley handplanes and stuff off the web but that is something I cannot buy from any of the stores.

So, I do try to support my local shops as much as possible. Besides, the local shops always have much more knowledge and support than anything online.

Sorry to hear about the Woodcraft store closing. That is always a bad thing for local economies.

-- I'm not clumsy.. It's just the floor hates me, the tables and chairs are bullies, the wall gets in the way AAANNNDDD table saws BITE my fingers!!!.. - Mike -

View jacob34's profile


465 posts in 3044 days

#6 posted 03-22-2014 09:51 PM

Steve I buy my tools online as well and just a couple months ago went into the Kansas city woodcraft, man I spent more than I needed to that day. Mine is an hour away but I plan to hit it as often as possible. Nice post man.

-- so a bear and a rabbit are sitting on a log

View hoosier0311's profile


706 posts in 2805 days

#7 posted 03-22-2014 09:52 PM

I guess it is tough for a woodcraft store to compete with big box stores on lumber, even though the big box doesn’t offer the same stuff. Probably cant generate enough income on equipment sales and service alone. If one ever opens anywhere near me, I’ll patronize it as much as possible. I have never been in either one.

-- atta boy Clarence!

View abie's profile


914 posts in 4550 days

#8 posted 03-23-2014 01:49 AM

our local woodcraft is also closing
It’s 25 minutes away and Rockler is 10.
Too bad..
Also next to Rockler is a Harbor Freight.

-- Bruce. a mind is like a book it is only useful when open.

View Ocelot's profile


2541 posts in 3418 days

#9 posted 03-23-2014 05:50 AM

There aren’t any around here. I’d have to drive 2 hours one way to get to one in Nashville or Birmingham. Meanwhile, there are plenty of guys with bandsaw mills and rough-sawn lumber in their barns up in middle TN, closer to me than Nashville. I never considered buying lumber at such a store. I’ve never been in one.

Technology changes things. If I didn’t have online shopping, I would have really no practical access to many woodworking items. So, the itnernet has been better to me than those guys. I didn’t even know Rockler had stores!

I bought a bandsaw and planer from Grizzley online, a jointer locally from Harbor Freight (which we do have locally, but no longer carries jointers). My Dad’s old Craftsman RAS came, of course, from Sears in 1961. We do still have a Sears, but I’ve not been there in years. My table saw came from Home Depot.


View Roger's profile


21030 posts in 3584 days

#10 posted 03-23-2014 11:39 AM

Being a “specialty” store for woodworkers, it is handy to have one close. I have a Woodcraft about 30 minutes away. The thing I hate about it is some of their prices. I mean come on, very few things are affordable for a normal guy or gal.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View Woodstock's profile


257 posts in 4067 days

#11 posted 03-24-2014 01:26 AM

My local Woodcraft (four miles as the crow flies), closed down several years ago. Darn! I left many paychecks in their register drawer while I was getting back into wood turning. It was nice to talk to a sales person who actually knew and practice woodworking. Now the closest is about 1.5 to 2 hours away one way depending on the commute time on the OTHER side of the San Francisco bay area. (Same owner.) Just not work the major headache for me to travel to San Carlos from the North Bay.

Woodcraft online?? I don’t think so! if I do buy online it it is exclusively Craft Supply out of Provo UT. Been there several times over the years and the folks and products offered are all first rate. I have always gotten my online orders in half the time and at an as good or better price than online Woodcraft.

I’ve always had a policy to buy local if possible. But if I do have to buy online, the cost of the item and cost/speed of delivery, as well as being able to to call and ask questions outrank chain store brand loyalty such as Woodcraft.


-- I'm not old. Just "well seasoned".

View BikerDad's profile


347 posts in 4381 days

#12 posted 03-24-2014 04:48 AM

Odds are, you have a specialty store close to you, if you live in/near of city of a million or more people. Cabinet shops also need their support, and there are a lot of cabinet shops out there. Finding them isn’t as easy as finding a Woodcraft or Rockler’s, but it’s doable.

I hesitate to bring this up, but one thing you can do to keep your local woodworking supply shop around is hammer your politicos on the sales tax rates. When your local is facing a 4-10% disadvantage right off the bat, the ‘Net starts looking a lot better. Many politicos think the solution is taxing the ‘Net to “level the playing field.” Whether or not that is a good idea is a topic for other boards. Just remember that few of us are as concerned about the distribution of the money after it leaves our pocket as we are ‘bout the amount leaving our pocket.

-- I'm happier than a tornado in a trailer park! Grace & Peace.

View NoLongerHere's profile


893 posts in 3455 days

#13 posted 03-24-2014 12:31 PM

My wife and I like to go to TGI Fridays for dinner just about every weekend.

We don’t have kids so we like to sit in the bar area. No lines, always find a seat, it’s comfortable, the music is great, lot’s of TV’s and the bar tenders know us and hand us our drinks when our butt hits the chair.
My wife doesn’t drink, ice tea for her and I have one margarita….ok two. but she drives.

The food is decent, nothing way above average, burgers are good. I can’t remember ever returning anything.

So, it must be the people. Scott, Sean and Samantha (who just got married) the bar staff, the couples across the bar, the car Max salesman at the end of the bar who sold us our new Ford explorer, even the Mexican food sever that smiles and blushes when my wife tries to speak Spanish with him.

If you think about it, we paid around 60% more for the food, spent money on gas, paid for the service and gladly tipped them 20% for the experience.

Woodcraft gave me that same experience. Someone suggested a tax break for them, well, that gets mucky real fast but it strikes me funny how we are happy to voluntarily give one human being 20% more and not someone who serves us in a specialty store, who is also a fellow woodworker.

At least we should be willing to pay a tad more than the cheapest website for that human experience.

Router bits, sanding/ finishing supplies, chisels, blades, Festool drool cups, glues, shop vac parts, tiny jewelry box hardware, wood rasps, etc…. and, they had sales for 10 or 15% off all the time. Birthday coupon cards too!

Imagine if I had bought that drum sander online. I would still be waiting for my money and I sure wouldn’t have gotten such a sweet deal on the Jet for the trouble. Plus you can’t pick up that Wood River block plane and feel it in your hand.

I guess it’s true, you get what you pay for…. in more ways than the price tag.

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