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Cavetown company has weathered 130 years

April 30, 2011|By KATE S. ALEXANDER | kate.alexander@herald-mail.com
  • Peggy Bushey, president of Cavetown Planing Mill, says the business has built its success on a reputation of honesty, integrity and fairness.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

As one of Washington County's oldest businesses, Cavetown Planing Mill near Smithsburg knows a thing or two about weathering storms.

Since 1881, when George Bushey started the business, the company has survived depression, world wars, stock market crashes and globalization.

The custom woodworking business has been part of the local and national economy for 130 years.

So what is its secret to success?

"We don't believe in failure," said Bob Bushey, CEO of the business.   

Bushey's family has owned the business since it was started by his great-grandfather, George Bushey. It remains in the family under the leadership of Bob Bushey's daughter, Peggy Bushey, who serves as president.

With 50 employees, the business is what many consider to be small. However, it has grown significantly since 1881, Bob Bushey said.

Bob Bushey said his goal when he took over the planing mill in the 1970s was to expand the business.

In 1982, he added a construction division, Cavco Homes Inc., which focuses on building roof trusses, floor trusses and walls for panelized homes, he said. A few years later, he added a hardware store that is known today as Cavetown ACE Home Center, he said.

"Everyone but me was happy with it being a small business," said Bob Bushey, who is now retired.

Peggy Bushey said the business has built its success on a reputation of honesty, integrity and fairness.

As a subcontractor, the mill creates high-end custom woodwork for clients such as churches, schools and business, she said.

"The key has been our relationship with our general contractors," she said.

Contractors know they can trust Cavetown Planing Mill to get the work done and get it done right, she said.

Keeping the quality at a level contractors can trust is important to the business, even if unexpected challenges arise, she said.

Like any business with a long history, the planing mill has had its ups and downs, she said.

"The wild part is that no one projected it would drop like this, all of the sudden," she said of the current economy.

Bob Bushey said he credits Peggy's strong leadership for enabling the company to ride this latest wave.

"In 2002, I was thinking about another big expansion, this time of Cavco," he said. His plan was to open a new Cavco plant, he said.

Peggy Bushey expressed concern about the volatility of the housing market, he said, so he agreed not to expand.

"I didn't do it and I thank God that I didn't," he said.

About five years later, the housing bubble burst, and the subprime mortgage crisis began, slowing residential growth to nearly a halt in the region.

"We would have been in a very bad place if we had gone through with it," he said. "I'm glad she reined me in."

Bob Bushey said he is eager for time the United States economy rebounds.

"And we (Cavetown Planing Mill) will still be here when (it does)," he said.

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