Bosley Mouldings is in the family mold

I wish I had met Bosley Wright three years earlier.

Back in 2008, I embarked on a do-it-mostly-myself kitchen renovation that included adding architectural millwork around the door and window frames. Easy enough, except that I wanted to match the existing original millwork installed in 1918. They didn't have anything even close at Lowes or Home Depot.

Faced with what I thought was no other inexpensive option, I purchased raw lumber and then cut, chiseled, planed, and sanded the lumber to match. It took me countless hours — and plenty of wood filler and caulk — to get it right.

Wright, the third-generation owner of Bosley Mouldings in Glen Burnie, could have saved me all of that time and it would have only set me back a couple hundred dollars.

Established in 1913 by Wright's grandfather, the company is one of Maryland's oldest family-owned and operated businesses.

Milton W. Bosley, the company's founder, started his career at George Esselman & Co., a Baltimore manufacturer of picture-frame mouldings. In 1912, Bosley approached his boss about starting his own business.

With Esselman's blessing and his father's diamond ring, which he pawned to cover startup costs, the Milton W. Bosley Company was born. Bosley's first check to purchase a rail car of lumber was written on Nov. 9, 1913.

"That same day and year," says Wright, "my father, and Milton's future son-in-law, Fred Wright was born."

Like any company that is able to sustain itself for a hundred years, the Bosley Mouldings story is one of change, adaptation and innovation. The company's earliest specialty was unfinished picture frame mouldings, which were sold to framing companies that would finish the material, typically with gold leaf.

By the late 1960s the company had developed "finished" frame mouldings made from hardwoods, metals, and laminates, and by the 1980s, product offerings had grown to include architectural mouldings.

"At that time," says Wright, who joined the family business in 1969, "there were lots of imports in picture frame business, and we started to focus on architectural mouldings — this was the beginning of Bosley becoming one of the premier U.S. molding manufacturers," he says.

Through the years, such expansion to meet market demands has defined Bosley Mouldings, and garnered the company 17 patents.

"One my grandfather got for wire molding when the country was changing from gas to electric and another is our Max joining system that allows people to put mitered picture frames together without nails," says Wright. "We even have a current patent pending for Bosley Bulkhead, which eliminates the need for drywall buildouts when retrofitting for something like a fire suppression [sprinkler] system."

Today, Bosley Mouldings' product offerings extend far beyond picture frames and crown molding.

"We manufacture or distribute everything from baseboards that match flooring, thresholds and transitions, serving and buffet tables for the hospitality industry, plinths, rosettes, finials, cabinetry, and doors," says Wright.

Bosley Mouldings generally offers a wider range of custom designs, known as profiles, than the competition. Key to this ability is its collection of cutters — the blades used to mill the various molding designs. "We have cutters for more than 4,000 profiles," says Wright, "and offer 350 finishes, and over 600 embossing patterns."

The company also has a machine that makes cutters, so if clients don't find something that works from among the thousands of options, Bosley can still help.

"We can custom make, match or design any profile, pattern and finish you desire," says Wright.

Unlike most custom molding manufacturers, Bosley doesn't have a minimum order size. A recent order to replicate a handrail for the U.S. Naval Academy required only 8 feet.

Of course, a custom, small project like that will require additional fees not typical of larger orders that use existing cutters. "We charge a set-up fee for orders less than 150 feet," says Wright. "For orders over 150 feet, setup is included."

Set-up fee or not, I was surprised by how relatively inexpensive architectural molding can be. As a rule of thumb, Wright estimates that a 1-inch poplar trim molding might be $1 per foot while 7-inch mahogany crown molding could be as much as $10 per foot. "The average paint-grade, four-inch base or crown is about $2.25 per foot," he says.

Wright adds that there's a misconception that custom molding is expensive.

"You don't have to spend a lot of money to make it look good, and molding really dresses up a place," he says. "If you are building a new house, give me $1,000 and I can make your rooms a lot more exciting than what you can get from you average builder."

Keeping costs down is one of the ways the company has continued its success despite economic ups and downs and changing consumer demand. Still, being competitive means investing in the right resources. For Wright, it seems, those resources are his staff of 26 and cutting-edge equipment.

"We have one of the country's first computerized molders that allows us to do quicker less expensive setups and lower the cost for the consumer," says Wright.

In the business himself for over 40 years, many of Wright's employees have also been with the company for what these days amounts to an uncommonly long time. Buddy Cratty in operations has been with the company 25 years. John Reed, the factory manager, and Janice Whittaker, the office manager, have both worked with Wright even longer.

Add to these veteran employees a crew of tool and dye makers, cabinet makers, finish specialists, a licensed architect and a certified interior designer. "Sixty percent of my staff has been with me over 20 years," says Wright.

To keep the family in family business, Wright's four children, Bradley, Justin, Zachary and Samantha, have all spent at least two summers working with their father. Zachary officially joined the company five years ago, and runs the table business, which is headquarted in Millersville. Wright expects that his son will one day run the entire company.

With all of the various products Bosley Mouldings now manufacturers, Wright admits, "the biggest change has been diversifying." Still he reflects, "The diversification that has allowed us to survive 2007, 2008, 2009, will continue. It has to. And my son Zach is very customer-based and has a great marketing vision."

True to its name, though, Bosley Mouldings, will continue to primarily focus on molding, Wright says. It's in the company's DNA.

"Out of everything we do, the architectural millwork is still my favorite," say Wright. "Molding just makes a house."

Dennis Hockman is editor of Chesapeake Home + Living magazine. He can be reached at dhockman@tribune.com.

About Bosley Mouldings

Bosley Wright

Bosley Wright, the third-generation owner of Bosley Mouldings, grew up in the family business with his grandfather and father teaching him about both manufacturing and the industry.

Education: University of Miami. He worked summers in high school before leaving for college.

Career: While in high school, Wright worked in the business during summers. After graduating college, he returned to the business and replaced his father as president of the company in 1979.

Interests: In his four decades with the company, more than three of them at the helm, Wright's favorite millwork orders tend to be for high-profile buildings or for jobs that require matching historic profiles.

Notable projects included replicating the wall panel system of the Old Supreme Court for the Smithsonian; 110,000 feet of molding for the Loews Miami Beach Hotel; architectural replications for the Naval Academy; and replications of mouldings, some of which dated back to Thomas Jefferson, for the Darden School of Business Building, University of Virginia.

His favorite job was for Camden Yards. "We did all the molding for the club level and the suites. We've done other stadiums, but Camden Yards is my favorite because I know the history," says Wright.

Where to buy

Bosley Mouldings products are available through fine lumber yards throughout the region, but the best way to understand the range of options available is to visit the Glen Burnie showroom.

Hours: Monday through Friday from 7 am to 4:30 pm.

Location: 151 8th Avenue NW, Glen Burnie, Maryland 21061

Contact: 410-761-7727 or bosleymouldings.com