It was over 25 years ago when Robert and Rhonda Thornton put their vision for a custom cabinet-making business into practice. With big ambitions and a 1 000-square-feet workshop, the husband-and-wife team pooled their passion and talents for woodworking into launching Bloomsbury Fine Cabinetry, a venture that today provides bespoke home furnishings for clients across Ontario.
“We started back when my son was just a baby, and Robert, who has been a cabinet maker his whole life, was working for someone else,” Rhonda recalls. “Both Robert and I come from an English background, and we both resonated with the English-style of cabinetmaking. We decided to make that style our specialty and name the business after a well-appointed historic English neighbourhood synonymous with artists and style-makers of the day back in the day.”
With Robert’s cabinet-making expertise and Rhonda’s flair for design, the company quickly took on a life of its own. A quarter-century later, the pair continue to build on their initial dream with a team of 35 people now, including cabinet makers installers, designers and engineers who ply their trade within Bloomsbury’s 30 000-square-feet workshop and showroom in Newmarket and its Toronto showroom in the City’s key design district.
Bloomsbury has spread its roots over a quarter century. Still, says Rhonda, the company has never lost sight of the vision that started it all: “The English design part of our work has always been very important to us. We have a specific design philosophy of the proportion, the balance, the scale, the colour combinations – everything. All that is very important to us and has been for years. It’s what gives us a specific style that people come to us for and drives referrals.”
Adds Rhonda: “Our team has embraced the importance of new technology and advancements like CNC automation to ensure we can scale and grow the business sustainably. We are always looking to continually improve, increase our capacity, and deepen our value proposition for our discerning clients, but without ever sacrificing quality.”
Designed from scratch
Keeping pace with woodworking technology and modern practices has been critical to Bloomsbury’s growth. So, too, says Robert, has been its decades-long commitment to hands-on craftsmanship: “We have invested in a lot of modern technology, but we still do a lot of things by hand, like sanding, fitting doors, and hand-painted finishes.”
Every one of Bloomsbury’s kitchens is also engineered for production within its workshop. This lets the team create parts lists and all the details and exact specifications that go straight to the shop floor, enabling it to produce more, maintain the company’s unique look, and ensure the quality for which the team is known.
“Quality control is a big deal for us, which is why we make everything from scratch here,” says Robert, adding that while the surge of off-shore products and materials has pressured the company to produce things faster and cheaper, the company has not bent: “Our response is to focus on in-house-made and locally-made products and provide cabinetry of exceptional quality. This is a market niche that we believe will continue to prosper as more and more people care about where their products come from and how they are made.”
A team in bloom
Talent constitutes Bloomsbury’s most valuable resource. Over the years, Robert and Rhonda have prioritized the training and mentorship of its designers, craftspeople, and other team members to maintain the high level of quality that has come to define the company’s brand.
“It’s more important than ever to focus on the people aspect,” says Rhonda. “It is challenging to find skilled and caring people, and this is why we offer training and growth opportunities to attract and retain the right team members for our type of specialized work.”
Maintaining Bloomsbury’s growth also means attracting (and retaining) new talent to the fold. To that end, the company is always searching for local recruits and makes equal efforts to create a workplace culture that entices them to stay.
“I know every single one of my people on the shop floor, and they’re all talented craftspeople who take great pride in the top-quality product we produce,” adds Robert. “We are proud to have many team members who have been with the company over the long term and have been a big contribution to our growth, as well as a management team who is instrumental in upholding our company’s values.”
“We are proud of the team’s enthusiasm and can see how our team is excited to be part of the team’s future success,” Rhonda adds. “Everybody here wants to see the company do well, and we’re all proud of the products we produce.”
Bloomsbury has no plans to settle down any time soon. After recent expansions to its workshop and the addition of new equipment, the company has plans to continue growing, which includes the more immediate goal of renovating its Toronto showroom.
“We just finished enhancing our Newmarket location and we’re looking to do the same for our Toronto showroom,” says Rhonda. “We’ve been fortunate to be in business for all these years, and we know that staying around means never staying still.”