Twenty-five years ago, Howard Demick drove from his building-supply business near Lake Erie to Canada in search of cedar. A particularly beautiful Victorian-era screen door caught his eye, and he stopped to take a closer look. Realizing that no one in the States was building high-quality screen doors—“all you could find were $19 finger-jointed models,” he says—Howard started making his own from solid wood.
Thus began Vintage Doors. Today the company builds 2,000 to 3,000 custom doors each year in its factory in Hammond, New York. Demick started with just three or four timeless screen-door designs that matched well with many styles and sizes of entry doors. Offerings mushroomed as customers came in with their own ideas. Howard quickly latched onto the idea that the screen door shouldn’t outshine the prime door.
Naturally, that led to his making solid-wood entry and interior doors, a move that conveniently happened just as the Internet was taking off in the late 1990s. Now Vintage Doors offers hundreds of standard designs, many of them as timeless as those originals. Most designs fall into one of three categories: traditional, Victorian, or Craftsman.
Stock designs are often the jumping-off point for a custom design, a specialty of this family-owned company. Both Howard and his wife, Rosemary, play major roles in the business, as do their two children, Ryan and Erica. Ryan does most of the design work, using computer–numeric design. The technology was crucial in the development of the round-top doors that are among the company’s best sellers. Erica is the company’s sales and marketing manager, dealing with clients across the country and in Canada. Rosemary handles the financial end and is expert at controlling costs. Howard is the company expeditor, making sure all of the wood, glass, and hardware are there when they’re needed. He keeps the machinery working, too. “I used to be a dairy farmer,” he says. “That’s why I can do all this stuff.”
Rosemary Demick attributes the long-term success of the company to Howard’s talent for woodworking. “It was my husband’s passion,” she says.
Vintage Doors has made a specialty of two unusual, historical types: round-top doors and Dutch doors. They offer more than two dozen arched and round-top screen doors, for example, including one with a Tudoresque ogee arch. The family says that their use of computer–numeric design (CND) makes turning out these doors much easier.
As is the case in many of the initiatives at Vintage Doors, customer inquiries led to their offering Dutch doors. A so-called Dutch door is split horizontally, with the top and bottom operating independently or together; the bottom can be closed and latched while the top half is open for light and ventilation. “We’re probably one of the few makers that get it right,” says Howard Demick. He designed the door himself, adding a shelf with a seal in it, plus a perimeter seal, “so when it’s shut it’s as airtight as any unbroken door.”
Made To Order
What sets a custom-made door apart from one from the builder’s supply store? “A quality door provides a lasting impression,” says Erica Demick, national sales and marketing manager for Vintage Doors. “A door is something you interact with all the time.”
All the doors this company produces are made with furniture-quality wood, from poplar to knotty pine, cherry to African mahogany, and Honduran mahogany to quarter-sawn white oak. Add to that, doors are built with true stiles and rails. And those traditional elements are hand-built using reinforced cope-and-stick construction. Moulding profiles can be varied depending on the style inspiration for the door (customers choose from more than a dozen standard profiles).
Glass options are virtually limitless, and include clear, beveled, stained, bull’s-eye, and restoration glass, plus several types of hard-to-find pattern glass, such as the frosted glass known as glue-chip. Naturally, there are energy-saving options, too, from low-E coatings to argon-filled double glazing. Last but not least, it’s possible to create a grand entrance with double doors, sidelights, and transoms made to the same specifications as the entry door itself.
Doors are shipped direct from the factory, pre-hung or for an existing opening, with or without hardware. They arrive unfinished to allow for personal preferences and on-site customization.
Howard & Rosemary Demick, Vintage Doors, Hammond, NY, (800) 787-2001, vintagedoors.com