Since its foundation in 1968, McGinnis Wood Products has seen its fair share of changes over the past 45 years. Many of those changes have come within the past decade. But one thing never changes at McGinnis Wood Products: family.
“It’s always been a family business and it always will be,” Don McGinnis said of the company. “Dad got us boys involved in the business, and now we’ve got brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law grandsons, their wives, you name it. It just keeps on growing. The company gets bigger and so does the family.”
Leroy McGinnis is father of McGinnis Wood Products. He started it with next to nothing and over the years built it into one of Cuba’s largest independently owned companies. He still goes to work every day and takes a seat at his desk. There’s a laptop where Leroy can read his email, sitting next to the typewriter he still uses to fill out order invoices.
“Some things change and some thing don’t,” warned Don. “Dad can read his own email, but he won’t give up that old typewriter.”
Leroy’s wife, Ovia Marie, has her own desk in the same office room. Old photos, company awards, and other memorabilia adorn the walls of Leroy’s office at the end of the hall.
In 1968, there was just a single building and eight employees to fill it. Now, the company boasts 155 employees and an ever-growing bourbon and wine marketplace that desires the Missouri white oak barrels produced at the Cuba plant. It seems like a new building is always going up to accommodate the increased production. The expansion never stops.
“We can hardly keep up,” said Don McGinnis. “Demand is very high right now. We’re doing well.” He joked that the poor economic conditions nationwide aren’t reflected in his company’s business: “In good times people party. In bad times, they drown their sorrows, I guess. We’ve been very fortunate that it just hasn’t slowed down for us. We’ve worked night and day to make this work, to make this company a success—we’ve worked tirelessly at it, and we still do. Every day, we all come to work ready to make it bigger and better.”
McGinnis said the work ethic he tries to exemplify to his employees is the same work ethic taught to him by his father Leroy. “Dad will be 85 years old this October, and he still works every single day,” he said. “Why? Because he loves it. Not because he has to but because he wants to, and I think he taught us that lesson growing up. And he’s still teaching it to us.”
McGinnis Wood Products produces the industry-standard white oak barrel. Its barrels and white oak staves are considered among the best in the entire world, which is why they are desired by top wine and bourbon makers everywhere—in France, Spain, California, Kentucky, and elsewhere.
The opening of foreign markets in wine and spirit sales in recent years has helped McGinnis Wood Products stay busier than ever before. That continued growth, particularly in bourbon barrel production, has required the company to continue expanding on its 56-acre property on Route 66.
“We’ve just about expanded here as much as we possibly can,” said Don McGinnis. “We’ve tried to use every inch of the property as efficiently as we can to make it work for us.”
Recent expansion includes a storage facility, where finished barrel staves can be stacked, awaiting transport. Woods in the northeast corner of the property were cleared to provide additional room on the lot for storing oak staves still drying out. The air-dried staves, which Don says is the secret to a better flavored liquor or wine, takes a full year of outside exposure for bourbon barrels and three full years for wine barrels.
“People don’t realize it takes such a long time, but that’s what makes the difference in our barrels. They need that long to dry out properly. You can kiln dry them, but it’s not the same. The flavor’s just not there and it’s too acidic,” he said.
McGinnis Wood has also created additional production space to meet yet another market: small craft distilleries. “This is the new thing, people making their own craft wines, beers, and liquors,” said Don. “I’m in the process of upgrading some old manual equipment so that we can improve the overall production process of the smaller barrels, but we will be able to make five, ten, fifteen, thirty gallon barrels for the small makers. That’s a growing market we’d like to be able to service.”
McGinnis is also overseeing construction of a new building that will be used to service and maintain the company’s trucks and heavy machinery. The company does its own transportation and services its own vehicles already, but now they’ll have a designated area where that work can be done. “We can also pull a machine that breaks down on the floor into the shop and have it out of the way,” said Don.
McGinnis Wood Products will manufacture upwards of 150,000 bourbon barrels in 2013, and they will also produce 30-35,000 ready-to-assemble wine barrels. The company quietly continues to grow at a staggering rate, doing its best to keep up with the expanding marketplace and new business relationships with Jack Daniels, Jose Cuervo, and others.
“We just keep working hard and making it grow,” laughed Don McGinnis. “When we started all this, we only had 19 acres and one building on it. Now, we’re up to 56 acres and running out of room. Some day, we’re going to make some money at this.”