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Stair Parts & etc., inc.: Traditional craftsmanship and cutting-edge technology
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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

http://www.stairpartsinc.com/

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 technology.

Founded in 1988, the company’s stair business grew out of his father’s 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? "We’ve 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. We’re really proud of it." 

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Stair Parts & etc., inc. is a unique and successful family-owned and operated business.

Jim’s wife, Dartanette, is vice president, concentrating on back office functions such as scheduling, billing and payroll. The couple’s son and brothers also work for the company (see photo), and another son, Michael, created the company’s 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. "It’s economical and easy to do without a welder."

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.

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In addition 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 Parts.

"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, it’s great customer service! He’s impressed!"

Jim says the computer has saved time and improved accuracy. "The program tells me if the stair will fit or not. We’ve never made one wrong. When a stair costs between $12,000 and $20,000, we can’t afford to make them twice!"

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

http://www.stairpartsinc.com

Call toll-free 1-800-894-3886

107 Primrose Lane

Liberty, SC 29657

Tel (864) 843-6352

Fax (864) 843-4475

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