When you think about the machinery that sawmills use to turn logs into lumber, you probably don’t associate it with the delicate intricacies of a wristwatch. But for Froedge Machine and Supply Company, the wristwatch is part of the foundation of their company.
In 1962, Wendell Froedge opened a watch repair shop. Wendell was an energetic man and would get antsy working on tiny watches all day, stuck in one place, not being able to move around. He wanted to work on bigger things, like machining and industrial supply. And thus began Froedge Machine and Watch Repair.
Wendell had a broad set of talents and a deep understanding of customer needs. When Timex watches were created, they lived up to their slogan “takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’,” plus they were cheap to purchase. As a result, fewer people needed watch repair. But that wasn’t a problem for Froedge. He had spent years cultivating relationships with nearby businesses, like Roy Anderson Lumber, which was about a mile away. Froedge started doing repair work for Roy, then expanded to creating new parts and eventually, his own machines. With that advancement came a name change, “Froedge Machine and Supply Company.”
Wendell’s son, Tom Froedge, who started his science and engineering career with the Department of Defense, took over the company in 1990, expanding the business. Tom says the first thing his father taught him was that this business is all about relationships, “We genuinely care about our customers. I have even gotten up at 1 am to drive five or six hours to help a customer get back up and running when they went down. We understand that every minute they are down costs them money, and we care about them enough to do whatever it takes to get them running again. We understand that once you’ve made investments in equipment, it has to run. And I think we do an excellent job at starting people up and making sure that what we sold them works to their advantage and is a game-changer for them.”
Tom is passionate about promoting hardwoods, saying, “Hardwood Lumber is one of the most eco-friendly building materials in the world. There are people who consider themselves to be environmentalists that will use LVT flooring to “save the forests,” but they don’t realize there are hundreds of chemicals in LVT flooring. Plus, when they decided to redecorate, they’ll scrape-up all of the old LVT and dump it. It could spend a million years buried in the earth or end up in the ocean, destroying its delicate ecosystem, whereas hardwoods are entirely biodegradable. When they rot, they return to Mother Earth as new trees grow. We need to educate people on the environmental value of hardwood lumber.” Tom looks forward to the industry bonding together to fight false claims about hardwoods.
Tom is a proud member of NHLA, saying that the Association “brings like-minded people together. The association is valuable, not just at the trade shows, but as a standard setter. NHLA prevents controversy because the grade is the grade. It keeps the industry stable. I think it’s a necessity, much like the ASM standards are in metals. The rules create a trust that all parties are talking about the same product, at the same value. 50,000, board feet of two common in Kentucky has the same value as it does in California. The rules ensure that everyone playing on the same, even field.”
While they dipped their toes in other industries, their primary focus has always been on the hardwood industry, and even with all of the recent struggles we’ve recently faced, Tom has a positive view of the future of hardwoods, saying “The future depends on automation due to the difficulty of finding reliable labor. With margins as tight as they are, it is really challenging. But I am not ready to give up on the industry. Look back to Solomon, when he built the First Temple over 3,000 years ago. He had great wealth at his disposal, and he chose to build with wood. Wood has always been of great value, and I can’t see the demand for our beautiful hardwoods going away. The wood won’t change.”