MERCERSBURG, Pa. — What began as a way to help the kids in his community by building lockers for the James Buchanan High School swimming pool locker room might end up helping cabinetmaker Mark Heckman grow his business.
Heckman, who owns Parnell Cabinet Shop at 3669 Parnell Drive in Mercersburg, is a member of the Fix JB Sports Committee and a James Buchanan graduate.
The Franklin County businessman said when he saw a sample locker that Fix JB Sports was considering, he thought he could produce a better locker himself.
“I didn’t think much of the sample. It was lightweight and it didn’t look very sturdy,” said Heckman, who started his residential custom cabinetry business in 1997. “We felt that we could produce a better locker for less money and be helpful to our school district.”
Using his own money, time and talent, Heckman built a prototype locker out of King StarBoard, which is a high-density polyethylene polymer (plastic) that resists water and grime.
By combining the King StarBoard material and the state-of-the-art CNC (computer numerical control) router he purchased from Laguna Tools in California, Heckman created James Buchanan’s new lockers to replace the old rusty metal ones.
He is one of a handful of cabinet shop owners in Franklin County who uses computer-driven routers, but Heckman has the newest one, which he purchased from Laguna Tools in February.
“I know Mark’s work and trust Mark’s work, and second of all, he’s around. So if there are issues, he’s right there to help us out,” said Pat Reeder of Fix JB Sports. “Third, I just like to support our local economy. We have such talent. I love to use it.”
Reeder said the committee wanted lockers that were not made from metal and were tall enough in which to hang towels.
Heckman said he was confident his company was producing a quality product at an affordable price that would last for at least 30 years.
“We wanted the lockers plastic so they would last forever, so that 30 years down the road, these lockers were still going to be there and in good shape,” Reeder said. “The metal ones were horrible.”
With a router that can cut just about any material, including wood, plastic and metal, and a new material that’s easy to work with — King StarBoard — Heckman said there’s no telling how his business might change.
“This piece of equipment was a purchase that we did to enhance what we already do in order to do it better and more efficiently,” he said. “This has opened up another avenue. The plastic lockers is another avenue that we can use this machine to enhance our business.”
With the new machine that can take the place of four standard woodworking machines, Heckman said there’s no limit to where he can take his business.
“The sky’s the limit,” he said. “It’s not that we’re doing something that anybody else hasn’t done. It’s just that it’s not that prevalent in this area. The guys that are making three-dimensional signs are hand carving them. Now, we can throw that sign up here and in 24 minutes, it’s done. When you buy a machine like that, your only limitation is your own ability to apply it and determine if there’s a market for it.”