Member Spotlight: Kathy Monks, Machinery Sales Company, Inc.
A Long History in the Industry
Kathy Monks, sales manager for Machinery Sales Company, Inc., with her office in Port Townsend, Washington and the main office in Portland, Oregon, has a wood industry history unlike many. It dates back to her grandfather, who owned a saw mill in Arkansas. During the recession, he closed the mill down, bought a panel truck and moved his family to California. At the time, Monks’ father and mother were newlyweds of just five days. They ended up in Susanville, California, where her father went to work for the local sawmill and the family camped out until there was enough money to rent a home. That is where Monks was born, along with seven older sisters and one brother.
Eventually, the family moved to Stirling City, California, a small lumber mill town which began in the early 1900s by the Diamond Match Company, matchstick producers. “My father became a logger, his title was ‘cat skinner’,” explained Monks. “I got my first tour of that facility when I was in fifth grade.” She didn’t know it then, but she was destined to immerse herself in the wood industry in the years to come.
The population of Stirling City was only 317 and with seven older sisters, they all married and had children there. Monks, on the other hand, left seven days after graduating high school and went to work for Golden West Airlines in Los Angeles. She wanted to travel and that seemed to be a great opportunity.
Monks eventually decided to go back to school and moved to Santa Cruz, California to attend a junior college. She came from a poor family, so to pay for her education she lived with a woman and watched her four children for $70 a month. She continued to attend school, with a 3.9 grade point average, and took care of the children for almost four years. Eventually, she needed more money and relocated to San Francisco to work for a high-end travel agency. Here, she continued to travel and was able to tour Boston and Mexico for $20 a trip.
Portland was another destination she planned, this time to visit a friend. She liked the area so much she decided to stay and find a job. That’s when Monks went to work, as a secretary at first, for Johnny Bean Machinery. This was a father, mother, son, and daughter in-law business. There were four men in the shop and two salespeople. They were a WMDA member and a UWME (United Woodworking Machinery Exchange) member.
Monks spent seven years at Johnny Bean Machinery. Her first four years turned out to be her initial education on woodworking machinery and parts. Back then, there were no computers so Monks learned about the features, benefits, and applications through typing quotes and other information for customers repetitively. Her knowledge and memory about machinery moved her into a customer service position and able to help with various questions about machinery. This position expanded to include some factory follow-up. “We were the dealer for all of the top brands like Diehl Machine Company, Medalist/Challoner, Timesavers, Whirlwind, and more,” explained Monks. “One day I was given a lead for Georgia Pacific. We weren’t doing anything with them at the time except just quoting. I probably had a four inch folder of quotes,” she said. “But one day I called on them and found out that they were starting a ‘Cut to Size’ program. I developed a chart on various re-saws and compared features from one to the other.” Monks handed that comparison over to her contact and they asked her to find them a radial arm saw and they would buy it. She did. What happened next is what turned her life around. Georgia Pacific not only put that radial arm saw on a purchase order, they included a total of $65,000 of machinery along with it. This was back in 1978.
In 1979, Monks trained at Timesavers and then Diehl Machine. She then attended the week-long woodworking training at North Carolina State University. “Back then so many woodworking companies were father and son and this was where all of the ‘SOBs,’ sons of bosses, were,” she said. “I was there with Richard Bass, Jim Scarlett, Randy Boshco, David Monks from Hermance Machine Company, and others.” Monks continued, “I learned a lot there. I believe the WMIA has done a wonderful job in offering the Boot Camp at Pittsburg State University. There are so many people that can learn so much in that week of training.”
Monks left Portland and helped to open an office in Seattle for Johnny Bean Machinery but by 1980 it closed and she went to work for Star Machinery. That company closed its doors, too, and she worked for Quickwood, who imported Fladder sanders. Her position was to open a dealer network in the Northwest. She was familiar with many dealers from being a member of the WMDA.
During this same time, 1988, David Monks left the family business, Hermance Machine Company, now owned by the Strouse family, and moved to Port Townsend, Washington to attend the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding. The school was established in 1981 to teach the tradition of wooden boatbuilding.
Kathy Monks knew David from previous years and they married in 1988 and had two sons, now 23 and 26 years of age.
In 1990, Kathy went to work for Machinery Sales Company and has worked there ever since, now 26 years. “My success in this business is that I never BS’d anyone or tried to wing it. If I didn’t know the answer, I would find it and get back to the customer.”
You may ask what the future has in store for Monks. “I belong to the local AWI and know that the local architectural millwork shops are booming and I have a very positive outlook on the industry,” she stated. “Over the past year I was thinking that this business is getting harder and not as much fun. But the last quarter of 2016, I sold a lot of machines and I had a blast!” She added, “I plan to keep working as long as I am selling machines and having fun.”