Dogwood Ceramic Supply Paragon Kiln Showroom. From left to right, GL 24 ADTSD, Pearl 44, Pearl 22, Dragon TnF 27-3, TnF 23-3, TnF 82-3, TnF 1613 and Xpress 1193
As Dogwood prepares to celebrate their 27th Anniversary, Arnold Howard of Paragon Industries, L.P. had a brief conversation with the owners and staff.
Arnold: When did you open your doors to the public, and when did you first start selling Paragon kilns?
Dogwood: November 1988 was the opening as a traditional ceramic studio in a 4,000 square foot strip mall showroom. Paragon was formally added in April 1990.
Arnold: I see you still have your official Paragon Distributor plaque on the wall above the kilns.
Dogwood: Yep. And all of our Paragon Top Distributor awards on display as well, for every year that Paragon gave out the plaques.
Arnold: Is that a TF-2 hanging on the wall?
Dogwood: It sure is. John Hohenshelt gave those out to the top distributors many years ago. It doesn’t actually operate a kiln. We use it for demonstrating the Sentry 2.0 controller to prospective customers.
Arnold: Are you still in the same location as when you started?
Dogwood: Oh, no. We moved to our current showroom in October 2001.
Arnold: This is a lovely building. How large is it?
Dogwood: 13,000 sq. feet. Just big enough without being too big.
Arnold: Anything special about the building?
Dogwood: Lot of things, but the covered loading dock at the rear of the building is quite uncommon. The contractors thought we were crazy, but being in South Mississippi, we had to have a covered loading dock because of all the rain we get. And it is kind of handy--we can offload the truck and leave kilns on the dock while we reposition things inside the warehouse.
Arnold: Why did you add Paragon?
Dogwood: Reputation for quality, and more importantly Paragon was the most progressive kiln company on the market and had just introduced the DTC 100 Digital Controller.
Arnold: Were you selling other kiln lines at that time?
Arnold: So how did Paragon compete with the other lines?
Dogwood: They didn’t. Like I said, Paragon was progressive. From the very beginning, every model of Paragon kiln we stocked or used was equipped with a digital controller. Every one of them. And 3” wall bricks. It was obvious to us that a premium product needed something more than just a name. The Energy Miser kilns (with 3” wall bricks) were something that few other kiln companies were doing at the time. Today, everybody has digital controllers and 3” wall bricks. But back then Paragon really stood out against the competition.
Arnold: What happened to those other kiln lines?
Dogwood: Some of them retired or went out of business. Ultimately we dropped the rest of them because their products just didn’t sell well versus Paragon.
Arnold: Do you sell only Paragon?
Arnold: And selling only Paragon has worked out for you?
Dogwood: Absolutely. Actually, better than we could ever expect. The customer demand has only grown over the years.
Arnold: But you don’t sell every model of Paragon kiln?
Dogwood: No. Like any good business, we learn the strengths and weaknesses of the products we stock. In the end we select the models that we feel best fit our customers and product mix.
Arnold: You actually stock kilns?
Dogwood: We always have. From the very beginning. Whatever models we have on the showroom floor, we would have additional copies in our warehouse stock. Which also explains our product selection. It is impossible to stock every model of every kiln in every possible configuration. So we don’t. We select a wide range of models that best fit our business goals and needs. Basically what we do, we try to do well. And our customers seem to appreciate the effort.
Arnold: You have mentioned customers several times. Are your customers important to you?
Dogwood: Absolutely. Without their loyalty we would not be where we are today.
Arnold: How loyal?
Dogwood: When we opened in 1988 we had no idea who would be our customers. We did this thing kind of blind. I guess most businesses do the same. But the people of South Mississippi really responded. And told their friends and family from all over the Deep South. And 28 years later, some of our first customers still remain our customers today. For example, the lady that I just waited on while you were asking questions is Vivian Pitts. She owns a small studio in Richland, Mississippi. She has been a Dogwood Ceramic Supply customer since 1989.
Arnold: That is a long time for somebody to buy from a distributor.
Dogwood: It is also a reflection upon us. If the manufacturer treats us well and their products are outstanding, we are quite loyal.
Arnold: Thank you for your loyalty as a distributor, and congratulations on your 27th anniversary!
Vivian Pitts receiving her new Paragon TnF 82-3 from Francis Drollinger, president of Dogwood Ceramic Supply, Dec 2001.
Dogwood Ceramic Supply warehouse of kilns
Dogwood Ceramic Supply Showroom and Warehouse