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@Work: Armrey Industries

Aug. 11, 2005 – Jack Bishop has a unique way of looking at business: He learns from his customers. He said recently, "What a great education that can be. You have a lady that has had three or four kitchens built for her in the last four years. She knows what she wants."
His unique approach might be one of the reasons he has been able to grow Armrey Industries from a firm that employed just three other people when he took it over 20 years ago to one that now employees 20 people.
He attributes the company's success (he says his monthly sales are now equal to his annual sales when he started) to other reasons.
One reason, he says, is that Armrey Industries has not relied solely on St. Croix for business. He has a sales representative that works on St. Thomas and St. John; besides that the company gets business from its Web site resulting in the occasional job in the British Virgin Islands.
Another reason the business has grown in the last two years, according to Bishop, is the addition of true stone cabinet tops. He says sales in granite cabinet tops are 10 times what they were two years ago.
Armrey is going to continue to grow along that line as the company has just added stone tiles to its inventory to go along with the stone countertops.
Armrey does cabinets for projects ranging from schools to HUD housing projects to moderate homes to $5 million homes. The firm has done the cabinetry in both the Divi and Buccaneer resorts.
Bishop knows the business from the bottom up when he was a student at St. Joseph High School and at the Academy of the West Indies. At that time, he worked at Armrey sweeping floors. He worked his way up to doing finishing work on cabinets and eventually became sole owner of the company in 1985. He is happy with where he is now. He says, "Design is what I do best."
He says what gives him the most pleasure is the finished product and the "pats on the back."
He also doesn't overlook the other pleasures of St. Croix. He owns a 29-foot sailboat and he goes fishing when he gets a chance.
He said the company, located in Gallows Bay, is having a "record-breaking year," doing about two kitchens a week. Fifty percent of the work is done on St. Croix and about 50 percent of the total work is related to participants in the Economic Development Commission program.
He explains that he has had a dozen or so customers in the last year, just based on Armrey's reputation, who have flown over to St. Croix to look at samples of the firm's product.
He says, in the ideal case, he will be involved in a design "before the walls go up." He says that way he can meet with the customer and have the customer pick exactly how they want the cabinets to be. He then can go to the builder and tell them where to put gas lines, plumbing and windows.
Often it does not work that way. He says you have to design with what is there.
The native-born Crucian has lived for short periods in Florida, Texas and California. Although he says that Northern California was not bad, he thinks the people in the states are "too stressed out." He plans to remain on St. Croix.
The name Armrey came from the original owner's name Armand Haudricourt and his son's name Aubrey.
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