Downtown Groveton wood-working business has customers nationwide

By Morgan Thomas - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – The "door" to a national industry sits in the Groveton downtown square.

East Texas Millworks, ships doors and windows across the country, but the business's star, was essentially an accident.

A mechanical engineer headed to the U.S. from Peru to get in the oil business, but he forged a lucrative career in wood-working.

"When I came to this country the oil business was just going down. There was nothing else to do," said Rafael Perez, Owner East Texas Millworks.

Rafael Perez went to work for a start-up wood-working company. He figured it couldn't be that different from his experience with metal.

"If I can do metal work I can do this wood working," said Perez.

Business boomed. Ten years ago he felt ready to strike out on his own.

"My wife is from here. She's from Groveton and when we decided the best way for me to have success was less overhead and a lot of quiet place," said  Perez.

Getting used to the relaxed pace of life, took time.

"It took me two years to get used to around here. The quietness... Everything closes around 6:30 to 7," said Perez.

His business is based on word of mouth. His custom doors and windows are sent across the state and the country.

"Our customers out of Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Houston," said Gerardo Velazquez, Shop Foreman.

"Mainly to New York, New Jersey... Virginia," said Perez.

Mr. Perez prefers his new employees green. Easily molded into wood-working artists.

His shop foreman is home-grown...starting part-time during his senior year at Groveton High.

"I really didn't know anything. Everything I did was just sweep," said Velaquez.

Eventually, Perez began to teach him everything he knew.

"He's got patience," said Velaquez.

"It takes time. Baby steps," said Perez.

Everyday is different at East Texas Millworks.

"We don't make the same door every day. One door like this. The next door completely different," said Perez.

Unique, like this small town that's he says is perfect for his business and his life.

"I love it here. I wouldn't change it for anything," said Perez.

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