Special Feature originally published in
Builder/Architect magazine, SC Upstate Edition, Jan/Feb 1999. Story by Noelle Creamer.
Photos by Stephen Stinson
For more photos and
an online catalog, visit Stair Parts web site at
Many of today's truly distinctive custom homes have
one thing in common wonderful staircases that serve as a focal point of the home's
design. Whether stately or soaring, they are as beautiful as they are functional.
And when you visit such distinctive homes in the
Carolinas, you often learn that the stairs are the work of Stair Parts & etc., inc.,
an Upstate SC company that blends traditional craftsmanship with the latest in modern
Founded in 1988, the companys stair business
grew out of his fathers work in kitchen design and engineering, says Jim Millard,
general manager. Today, Stair Parts is exclusively a stair company, dealing with all
phases of construction from initial design to final installation.
More than 500 stairs a year about 10 per week
ship from this small Liberty, SC, shop. Of those, half are customized stairs.
The company's chief claim to fame? "Weve
developed the only freestanding, steel-supported circular stair with a unibody
system," Jim says. "This stair was developed with a local engineer and is only
available from Stair Parts. Were really proud of it."
& etc., inc. is a unique and successful family-owned and operated business.
Jims wife, Dartanette, is vice president, concentrating
on back office functions such as scheduling, billing and payroll. The couples son
and brothers also work for the company (see photo), and another son, Michael, created the
companys Web site and wrote a custom CAD program while still in high school.
The Web site found at www.stairpartsinc.com
hosts a complete on-line catalog. Since its launch in 1992, the website has
expanded the small company's customer base far beyond the Upstate.
The Millards have shipped complete stairs to
customers as far away as North Dakota and Ohio, and stair parts all over the world.
Although 95 percent of their stairs are installed in homes, they recently completed a
commercial installation at an all-suite hotel in Orlando, Fla.
Stair Parts builds circular, straight, spiral,
flared, and specialty staircases out of fine hardwoods including red oak, white oak,
mahogany and cherry. There are 27 kinds of wood to choose from, along with irons and
metals. Both interior and exterior stairs are available.
"A popular choice now is the iron stair with
wood rails," Jim says. "Its economical and easy to do without a
Because they sell to a nationwide market, the
company builds everything to national codes such as the Southern Building Code, CABO,
BOCA, etc. "There is no uniform building code in South Carolina," Jim says.
"We stick with the stricter national codes and avoid any problems."
The Liberty shop has a fairly small staff of 16, but
is full of impressive machinery. A fully automated lathe allows customers to design their
own balusters and newel posts. They can handle any custom-designed wood turnings up to 72
inches long and 12 inches in diameter.
There is a 20-inch planer, a fluting machine, a
separate machine to cut handrails, shapers to form moldings, etc. Perhaps the most
interesting shape to come from the shop is an unusual and delicate hollow twist.
Stair Parts also stocks standard red oak stair
components in a variety of styles, including Colonial, Bristol, Studio, Gallery,
Contemporary, Carolina and Georgian lines. Iron balusters are imported from a foundry in
France. Box newels, accessories, starting steps, treads, and fittings are also available.
to marketing via the internet, Jim employs technology to help him produce accurate, quick
drawings for his customers using a proprietary custom CAD program developed by Stair
"I take my laptop to the job
site, take some measurements and quickly enter some information. The computer allows me to
print the stair design on a transparency right there on the spot," he says.
"When the customer sees a drawing of the stair
laid over his plans in a matter of minutes, its great customer service! Hes
Jim says the computer has saved time and improved
accuracy. "The program tells me if the stair will fit or not. Weve never made
one wrong. When a stair costs between $12,000 and $20,000, we cant afford to make
The tagline for Stair Parts & etc. on its Web
site is "an adventure in quality stairs."
Some would say the company, too, is an adventure
an adventure in running a successful family business, in maintaining fine
craftsmanship, and in using the vast technology of the '90s to keep it all in step.
For more photos and an online catalog, visit Stair
Parts web site at
Call toll-free 1-800-894-3886
107 Primrose Lane
Liberty, SC 29657
Tel (864) 843-6352
Fax (864) 843-4475