FashionWhite Dog Woodworking mixes old-fashioned skill with high-tech tools

White Dog Woodworking mixes old-fashioned skill with high-tech tools

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TORRINGTON — White Dog Woodworking is well-settled in its home at 59 Field St., and recently added new digital equipment that helps complete its large-scale projects with ease.

“Technically, we are architectural millworkers, and we manufacture wood products, plastic laminate and Corian, for residential and business jobs with general contractors,” said Tom Officer, who own White Dog with his son, Andy Officer. “We build to specifications, work with the contractor, with the design, the whole thing.”

The company has been on Field Street for about five years, but Officer started his own business much earlier. He lives in Litchfield, while his son resides in Morris.


“I grew up in New Hampshire, then moved to Connecticut and worked with an architectural millwork firm in Ellington. My wife didn’t like it there, because it was so busy,” Officer said. “That company went under, and I started working for a company in Torrington, and started on my own in Waterbury. In 2006, I started White Dog, and I figured I’d do it for a while and retire. Then my son Andy said he wanted to take over the business, so he’s been working with me.”

Tom Officer chose Torrington because of the opportunities the city offers businesses, and said his Realtor, Vance Taylor, went above and beyond to help him find the right place.

“It’s a nice area,” he said. “Torrington is a good place to work. Many of our employees live right here in town —it’s good to have so many local people.”

And it’s going well, he said, but the pandemic has taken its toll. “We just lost an employee to the virus,” he said. “He was only 57. It’s not over yet,” Officer said, shaking his head.

The Field Street building, formerly used by a wind energy company, is enormous, with plenty of space for the company’s extensive array of machinery and tools. The Officers’ office overlooks the shop areas from a second-floor space, where clients come to review designs and discuss finishes and colors.

About 80 percent of White Dog’s projects are commercial. They recently completed Watertown’s Town Hall, and have done work at the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville.

“We’ve done a lot of schoools, private businesses, offices and residential projects,” Andy Officer said.

The company also did Torrington Savings Bank’s recent renovation of its Main Street branch, Brooker Memorial’s newest facility, and a few exhibition pieces for KidsPlay Museum. White Dog Woodworking also has partnered with local general contractors including Burlington Construction, PAC Group and and United Construction,

“We also were doing a lot of work in Fairfield County, but then things changed in 2008, drastically,” Tom Officer said. “It’s picked back up; we’re doing work in the Berkshires now, and a lot of assisted living projects, too. Last year, we did office buildings, high-rises (such as the Phoenix Building and Goodwin Square in Hartford); and when we were doing that, no one was there but construction guys. It was very odd.”

In one area of the shop, a stack of mahogany porch posts were nearly completed, part of a project for a hunting lodge in Dover Plains, N.Y. In another corner, a collection of dark gray doors and gables have been made for Yale University’s music shed in Norfolk. In another section of the building, Randy Root of Torrington was busy staining wood, while Otis James of Waterbury and Joe Zepperi of Torrington were hand-clamping and securing cabinet parts.

In White Dog’s finishing room, Matt Mueller carried wooden pieces in and out, and Jordan Redente was sanding pieces at a large table nearby. The aroma of sawdust, stain and wood was in the air.

“We do most of our work using solid wood; we do the sizing, the planing, the sanding, and then the finishing,” Tom Officer said. “Our team does all the installation. When we do an office, it’s gutted down to the studs, and we do it all.”

To improve their workmanship and quality, White Dog recently added new equipment, including a machine that’s programmed with software to cut plywood, and a Biesse CNC router.

“We’ve invested a lot in equipment in the past year,” Andy Officer said. “We’re making a very big oak master closet (for the hunting lodge). This machine cuts all the parts.”

But White Dog Woodworking depends on its trained employees to learn new techniques and how to use that machinery, while keeping in step with many of the traditional skills of a carpenter or cabinetmaker. Zepperi and James, for example, were doing their jobs by hand. Officer said he hires people with knowledge and trains them further to improve their skills.

“Most of our staff has been at this for years,” he said. “Joe Zepperi’s kids work here during the summer, and we’re hopeful that they’ll want to learn more about the job.”

“It’s definitely a trade you have to learn,” Andy Officer said. “The people we see with experience and expertise are older.”

The company name is a tribute to the family’s love for Samoyeds, the white, fluffy, good-natured dogs that always appear to be smiling. Tom Officer’s latest pooch, Daisy, loves to visit the workshop and say hello to everyone. “We’ve had six of them in the last 40 years,” he said. “It just made sense to name the company after them.”



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