A coastal lifestyle and custom homes go together like sand and surf.
And in the Wilmington area, numerous companies manufacture custom home elements locally.
One example is Hollingsworth Cabinetry on Castle Hayne Road, a company started by Hudson Hollingworth’s parents 25 years ago.
The firm, which started out as a bed frame manufacturer, now employs 30 to 35 people, half of whom are dedicated to manufacturing cabinetry, custom wood hoods and other kitchen components, as well as bathroom vanities and other pieces found in custom homes in the Cape Fear region.
“We basically have a full design team that meets with and interfaces with our customers that takes it to a certain point all the way up to being ready for production, and then we’ve got a production team that steps in,” Hudson Hollingsworth explained.
The company also has a finishing staff and custom wood assembly staff, as well as CNC machines that take computer-aided designs and cut out the pieces needed to create them in real life.
“We’re able to take trending designs from customers and builders that bring in pictures, inspirational photos and we’re actually able to make and manufacture those things,” said Hudson Hollingsworth.
His wife, Kristyn Hollingsworth, keeps up with those trends.
“Every job we do is about as unique as the homeowner,” she said.
The size of Hollingsworth Cabinetry’s operation isn’t immediately visible from the first glance at the historic building that holds its showroom at 2915 Castle Hayne Road. The building next door serves as a business office and buildings in the back hold the company’s manufacturing processes.
Hudson Hollingsworth said the firm’s primary customer base is in New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties, but his goal is to keep expanding to other communities in the southeastern U.S.
Hollingsworth isn’t the only maker or manufacturer in Wilmington or the Castle Hayne and Wrightsboro areas. Another example, one of many, is Area 51 Powder Coating Inc. at 2721 Old Wrightsboro Road. In addition to powder coating, the company makes railings, gates, metal staircases and metal awnings for custom homes and has seven employees.
“Everybody wants something custom,” said Brett Lenz, owner of Area 51. “Whether or not the economy can withstand it is going to be the question of the day.”
Lenz said his company uses steel, stainless steel and aluminum. But the cost of steel has gone up 25 percent this year and aluminum is up about 10 to 15 percent since the beginning of 2018, Lenz said. Those costs ultimately get passed along to the customer, but the increases haven’t seemed to affect demand, he said.
“We’re definitely not there yet. Demand’s still hot right now. New construction’s going crazy,” Lenz said.
Homebuilder Mark Batson, owner of Tongue & Groove, said the demand for custom homes in the area is healthy. Batson’s company builds around six to eight luxury homes each year that range from $1.5 million to $6 million.
“If you come to Wilmington and you look for a luxury custom home, you’re not going to find one that’s brand new and available,” Batson said. “Demand is healthy and supply is diminishing.”
T&G has its own custom cabinet shop and creates other custom pieces, including mantels, hearths, decorative components and furniture.
He said his firm just finished a house in Carolina Beach designed with a nautical contemporary theme, and one of the touches is a metal smokestack for the roof made out of sheet metal with cable stays to hold it in place and a steam whistle, all created by Wilmington-based subcontractor Flores & Foley.
Batson said he believes custom home demand, particularly for those in coastal areas like Wilmington, will remain healthy.
“They’re not making any more waterfront lots,” he said. “Anywhere on the East Coast, they’re being bought up as quickly as they can find them.”