Feature, V1I5

Set in Cedar


This 8 by 16 boathouse shed was built in Richmond, British Columbia.
This 8 by 16 boathouse shed was built in Richmond, British Columbia.

When Bruce Cheng was a child in British Columbia, he spent hours frolicking in his cedar wood tree house. Little did he know he would grow up to focus his professional life on his love and enjoyment of cedar wood.

Back then, he couldn’t have foreseen how his childhood adoration of cedar would lead him to a life designing and building outdoor products made from cedar that would help people resolve their various storage and housing dilemmas.

For example, when Sonja Davis and her family wondered how to resolve storage issues for different items such as fishing rods and outdoor furniture cushions, they weren’t sure what to do. The family purchased a plastic storage shed, but after two months, Davis says she couldn’t tolerate its appearance any longer.

“I did not wish to see a metal or plastic shed in our yard,” she says.

Then Davis happened upon CedarShed Industries, a website featuring a wide variety of handmade cedar wood shed kits, and she was sold.

After purchasing one shed, and enjoying both the product itself and the buyer experience, she bought a second shed kit to house what she calls “girl’s toys.”

“The sheds are handsome and blend with the tropical feel of Bermuda,” where the family has lived for several years, says Davis.

Where It All Began

In 1988, along with a business partner, Cheng began manufacturing cedar lumber.

“Cedar is great for outdoor projects,” says Cheng.

The company shipped their product all over the United States from their headquarters in British Columbia. That part of the world is ideal for a business focused on cedar wood because it is indigenous to the Pacific Northwest, says Cheng.

In 1992, they happened to meet someone who owned a pre-cut gazebo, and the business partners thought they might find success in that market. They soon found and bought a distributor in New England, where gazebos are popular.

That led to expanding their gazebo kit line to personalized garden sheds. The next hurdle to tackle was how to sell and deliver their cedar kits internationally. The partners needed to figure out how to how to manufacture their cedar panels in sizes that could be shipped properly. Once overcoming that hurdle, CedarShed Industries started delivering their shed kits all over the world, beyond Davis’s Bermuda.

The farthest Cheng has ever shipped one of his products is Sweden. Other faraway destinations where his sheds have been delivered include Holland, France, Japan, the United Kingdom, and South Korea. Without a doubt, the advent of the Internet has helped CedarShed expand its reach to all ends of the earth.

However, just because Cheng might be able to deliver a cedar shed kit somewhere other than Canada or the United States doesn’t mean it’s always a simple undertaking.

“My biggest problem are excise taxes and duties when shipping internationally,” he says.

Two Decades Plus

In the 23 years since CedarShed Industries was established, Cheng has learned a thing or two about running a business. He most enjoys “hearing from customers years later to tell us they are still using our sheds,” he says. For example, Cheng recently heard from a customer in California who reported that she is still using and enjoying her shed, 20 years after first purchasing it.

This Bayside Lean-To Shed from CedarShed was put up in Dayton, Ohio
This Bayside Lean-To Shed from CedarShed was put up in Dayton, Ohio

He relishes photos sent by customers showing how they have used their CedarShed gazebos in weddings and other family events.

“People like to share and then we share those comments with our employees. That teaches them what they do on the shop floor affects others,” says Cheng.

The downside of being the boss is “babysitting” employees, says Cheng. At one point, his company employed over 125 people. Then, Cheng realized the job of managing all of them was too great and he had to let some people go.

“I want to have personal relationships with my employees and be like a family,” says Cheng.

He found that having so many workers inhibited his ability to do so.

Elements of Business Acumen

In his nearly quarter of a century in the cedar business, Cheng has learned a thing or two about running a successful enterprise.

One of his business philosophies is based on listening to his employees.

“I empower my employees to make decisions based on ‘would I want that in my kit?’” says Cheng. Instilling that viewpoint in employees is part of making them like a family, he says.

A bonus system is also integral to the success of CedarShed Industries, says Cheng. The company maintains a bonus system based on an employee’s “good work,” he says. However, if Cheng receives a customer complaint about a certain shed or other product attributable to an error on the shop floor, he deducts money from that employee’s account to rectify the situation.

Another suggestion Cheng has for other business owners is not to force their companies on their children.

“Never tell your kids ‘this business will be yours someday.’ Let them find their own passion,” advises Cheng.

Cheng also advises other would-be entrepreneurs to have a true passion for what they do.

“If you are true to what you believe in, and have a passion for it,” success will follow, he says.

Customizing Sheds and Gazebos

Customers put up their CedarShed kit in Truckee, California.
Customers put up their CedarShed kit in Truckee, California.

The various outdoor products manufactured by CedarShed are designed to be complemented by finishes and touches chosen by customers, ensuring that once erected by the customer, no two structures look the same. For example, while shingles are cedar, customers can change this option if they wish, for example, to add a roof to their structure that matches their home’s roof. Windows are also an available option. They can either slide down or push out, says Cheng.

Gazebos can be customized with benches and screen kits for the unit’s door, if that’s desired. In fact, the entire gazebo can be screened in, if so desired.

Cheng’s cedar shed kits come in two sizes, 8 foot by 3 foot and 6 foot by 3 foot. While prices are subject to change, Cheng says his kits generally range from $1,200 to $9,000, including shingles and delivery.

Corinne Pitre-Hayes is an example of a return customer well familiar with Cheng and his commitment to his products and those who purchase them. Over the years, the Vancouver resident has purchased three different products from CedarShed, a gazebo, a shed, and a yardsaver, which is attached to her shed.

Pitre-Hayes keeps coming back to Cheng and crew because their products are “versatile, high quality and 100 percent cedar,” she says. In addition, she says they are reasonably priced and aesthetically appealing.

Davis agrees that Cheng’s products are not only handsome but flexible, too. For example, her “girl toy” shed is adorned with flower boxes in front of the windows, and she loves that.

Pitre-Hayes was able to add useful design elements into the gazebo she bought by having it insulated, wired, fitted with clear cedar paneling, and fitted with an off-grid, solar-powered electrical source.

The shed she purchased was so flexible that the amenities Pitre-Hayes and her family added have allowed them to use it as a “cottage” on their recreational property in North Salish Sea of British Columbia.

“We love these little gems. They have been our home-away-from-home during summer vacation for the past five years,” she says. Moreover, not only does she take personal enjoyment from the cedar kits she has purchased from Cheng, guests can’t say enough about them, too.

“We have had such positive feedback on all of them,” she says.


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