Located in a nondescript warehouse on Hill Street in downtown Statesboro is one the largest laminate counter top manufacturers in southeast Georgia - Coastal Counter Tops. From cabinet maker to counter top guru, Dana McLendon is a homegrown entrepreneurial success story.
"I started a cabinet making business in 1979 when I was a junior at Statesboro High School," McLendon said. "I was accepted to Georgia Southern College, and my dad insisted that I go talk to the industrial arts teacher. I will never forget what he told me. He said if you know this is what you want to do, then you will learn more in one year doing it, instead of three years of us trying to teach it to you. I followed his advice."
McLendon said G. C. Coleman of Coleman Cabinets in Statesboro was retiring and rented his cabinet shop to him. McLendon said he bought a year later, and from those humble beginnings he has never looked back.
"I loved making cabinets, and it was never really my intent to get in the counter top business," he said. "Things have a strange way of working themselves out, and that is what happened with my business."
McLendon said he bought equipment to make counter tops to go with his cabinets because he was having a hard time getting them supplied.
"Next thing I knew, other cabinet makers were asking me to make counter tops for them," he said. "At some point I had to make a decision, since I was supplying my competitors which was kind of awkward."
McLendon decided to quit making cabinets in 1987 and go full-time into the counter top business opening Coastal Counter Top Distributors. With retired counter top manufacturer Ron Gross serving as his mentor, McLendon grew his business to be one of the largest of its kind serving coastal Georgia and South Carolina.
"Ron helped me change from building kitchen cabinets to manufacturing plastic laminate countertops and laminate fixtures," he said. "He had sold several shops larger than mine in Ohio and moved to Statesboro to retire. I think he had laminate chips in his blood, and just had to have his hands in it."
McLendon's operation is 22,000 square feet with 14 full time employees - a far cry from the small operation he opened 30 years ago. Supplying countertops to several businesses within a 100- mile radius, McLendon has built a loyal clientele that depend on his product and customer service.
"I have known Dana for over 20 years," said Wendell Kessler, a former cabinet manufacturer who sold his business three years ago to Daniel Lumber. "I have had the pleasure of watching him grow his business. One thing that I can tell you about Dana is that he is loyal to employees, loyal to his customers, and loyal to his family. He provides excellent customer service and a quality product. He has done very well for himself."
McLendon acknowledged that the downturn in the economy has had a negative impact on his sales and he has tried to keep that from affecting his employees as much as possible.
"Our business is no where near where it was at the height in 2006," he said. "But that isn't unexpected given the recession in the construction industry. One thing that I can say is that we have not had to let anyone go. We have had people leave that we did not replace, and that has worked out fine."
When you enter Coastal Counter Top, the atmosphere is low key with a keen sense of family. It is easy to see that McLendon cares about those around them, as well as the product he produces.
"I have been working for Dana for around 15 years," said Darrell Rice. "There is never a dull moment. It is a laid back atmosphere, and Dana is a good boss. We make a very good product, and we are very proud of that."
Customers of Coastal Counter Top include cabinet makers and big box stores like Home Depot and Lowes. Kandy Logue is in charge of installation sales at the Home Depot on Abercorn in Savannah.
"If all of my vendors were like Dana, it would be a wonderful, wonderful world," Logue said. "I have been working with him for 11 years, and he is my favorite vendor. The service is excellent, and the order is always right and delivered to us. I can't say enough good things about Dana and his company."
McLendon has advice for anyone who may be considering a step into manufacturing. "Find a mentor or someone with business knowledge to bounce your ideas off of," he said.
McLendon is married to the former Linda Ray. They have four children, Ann, Lauren, Ryland and Corey.