PRENTISS COUPLE FIND NICHE IN WOOD
By Jane Clark Summers
Daily Journal Corinth Bureau
MARIETTA – Woodworking and metalworking have run in Bill Hodges’ family for at least three generations.
His 82-year-old father, Mark Hodges, made woodworking his hobby. Both grandfathers were mechanically minded. Jim Coltharp of Blue Mountain invented a cotton chopper which he traded to McCormick for a tractor. His other grandfather, Willie Hodges of Dumas, was a blacksmith by trade. His great-great-grandfather James Hodges fought in the Civil War at Brices Crossroads and made horseshoe nails.
Bill Hodges and his wife, Francis, worked for South Central Plastics for 19 years before Hodges turned his own hobbies into a full-time business. Hodges Wood Products began as a part-time job when some of his furniture-making friends were having trouble finding wood components for their upholstered products.
That niche in the woodworking market would soon be filled.
Hodges started making furniture parts on the side, sometimes working through the night. “I worked a lot of nights all night and then worked all day the next day at SCP,” Hodges said. “But that was when I was young.”
Hodges’ part-time job has turned into a successful full-time show-wood and custom-ordered wood products business. Hodges also does some sheet metal jobs.
The couple started in 1977 with $1,000 in borrowed money – their credit limit, Hodges said. That first year, they sold $10,000 in products. Last year, the business recorded $1 million in sales and had 20 employees.
Hodges Wood Products are not advertised or shown at markets. There is no sales team. The Hodges’ success has come through repeat business and word of mouth from customers in Texas, Florida, Indiana, Montana and Mississippi.
“That is why it is very important to satisfy our customers,” he said.
While the show-wood products are the mainstay of the business, Hodges flexes his creativity through one-of-a-kind pieces and new designs developed with the aid of computerized plans and a computerized router.
When former Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture Jim Buck Ross retired, Prentiss County officials presented him with a clock made especially for him by Hodges Wood Products. Other pieces Hodges has made include wooden desk-top trays, wooden scoops, an early American bedroom suite, Chevel mirror and several different clock designs. He is working on carving an electric guitar base.
Hodges is trying to branch into the metalworking, which he admits is his favorite part of the business.
Hodges makes much of the machinery used in his company. After looking over a $37,000 machine at an equipment show, he came back and built one that was even better. Instead of having one cutter, his machine could cut five patterns at a time.
Hodges credits his wife as the stabilizing force in the business. “And I am the innovator,” he said. “The Lord has just blessed us. We didn’t have the sense to do it.”