Renita and Mark Roden, owners of M&R Millwork in Belvidere, have been designing and building custom furniture pieces and cabinets for residential and commercial customers throughout the region for 30 years. (Dustin Waller photo)

Success Story: M&R Custom Millwork Inc.

Thirty years in custom carpentry wasn’t enough for this innovative couple. Discover this company’s latest product, and the simple device that spurred it all.

Renita and Mark Roden, owners of M&R Millwork in Belvidere, have been designing and building custom furniture pieces and cabinets for residential and commercial customers throughout the region for 30 years. (Dustin Waller photo)

Mark and Renita Roden are used to doing things in a big way. Just look at the display of large fish along the back wall of their Belvidere office.

Mark lives by a “go-big-or-go-home” philosophy in business, too. His company, M&R Custom Millwork Inc., 1979 Belford North Dr., Belvidere, manufactures custom cabinetry for residential and commercial customers throughout northern Illinois. M&R builds custom kitchens, one-of-a-kind desks, den paneling, reception desks, bank teller stations, closet systems, fireplace mantels, dining room furniture, entertainment wall units, living room furniture and bookcases.

Mark caught the building bug from his father and grandfather. He took vocational woodworking classes at Belvidere High School and participated in a co-op program, where he worked for a local shop each day after school. After that, he spent 12 years working for John Fridh and Sons, Rockford, as a general contractor. “I received valuable experience at an early age,” Mark says.

That know-how helped him to open his own business more than 30 years ago, in a small farmhouse along Newburg Road. Mark’s wife, Renita, is the company’s vice president and treasurer. “Our business would not be where it is today without my wife’s hard work and dedication,” Mark says. He also credits the company’s six employees, along with a solid standing in the community, as keys to weathering the unpredictable economy. “We have a 30-year relationship with many banks, as well as high-end residential homeowners,” Mark says. “We rely on word of mouth due to our reputation, so we can continue to produce high-end, custom cabinetry and furniture to customers in northern Illinois.”

During three decades of business, the Rodens have accomplished a great deal, but they’re especially proud of their community involvement. “We give back, through Renita’s involvement as Belvidere Chamber of Commerce President, and co-chair for Belvidere’s two school referendums, plus many charitable organizations she supports,” Mark says. “I’m involved in the Belvidere North High School baseball program.”

Jody Goad, a local insurance agent, hired M&R eight years ago to build the cabinetry in his new home, in addition to four work stations in his Belvidere office. “I’m particular when it comes to this stuff,” Goad says. “Mark and Renita are very meticulous. They do things the right way. Whatever they tell you is what you get. I’m pleased with the end result. It was well worth the money.”

That seems to be the consensus among the Rodens’ customers. “We’ve only had one client who wasn’t happy,” Renita says. “We try to do the best job we can. It’s the only way we know. We’re perfectionists.”

The Hide Away DeskBed maximizes space in a small area. The unit transforms into a bed, without disturbing anything on the desk. Roden designed the new product after he discovered a special type of hardware at an Atlanta trade show.

“I’m proud that we’ve lasted 30 years as a business, that we’re still married and still working together,” Roden adds. “We’ve had good employees over the years. They’re the backbone of the company. We just keep doing our thing.”

M&R has relocated twice in the past 12 years, and the Rodens are now contemplating their next move. If all goes according to plan, the company will need additional space to accommodate its newest product – the Hide Away DeskBed – an innovative piece of furniture that combines a desk with a hidden bed, providing convenience and saving space in any room.

It works like this: Lock the Hide Away DeskBed into one position, and it becomes an upright desk. When you’re sleepy, unlock the desk, and without removing anything, transform it into a bed. No need to worry about moving a computer, printer, papers or even a cup of coffee. The bed holds up to 300 pounds. The desk is simple to maneuver, thanks to easy-glide silent pistons.

Mark says the DeskBed is ideal for several applications, including dorm rooms, loft apartments, fire stations, medical facilities and the home. “This product is so exciting, bringing form and function together,” Mark says. “We know the Hide Away DeskBed is a game changer for our business.”

Before discovering the DeskBed, Mark had long searched for a new product to market. He contemplated different versions of bookcases or desks, but nothing inspired him. Then, he attended a national woodworking show in Atlanta, where he saw a booth for Häfele, an international hardware distributor that produces what would become the key component in the DeskBed. “When I saw the bed, I thought, ‘This is something I can get behind,’” Mark says. “I came home, enhanced the design and started planning a new division of our company.”

The Rodens introduced the DeskBed at a few local events, including the Home Show at CherryVale Mall and the annual dinner for the Belvidere Chamber of Commerce.

“Everyone thought it was the coolest thing,” Mark says.

To speed up its marketing efforts, M&R hired Howard Marketing Group of Loves Park for the product launch of Hide Away DeskBed. The marketing company oversaw the name creation, logo design and collateral material, as well as the Web site,, photography and social media.

“When viewing the prototype for Hide Away DeskBed, we focused on three different markets that this product would be perfect for: residential, hospitality and commercial,” says Cindy Sanford-Barr of Howard Marketing Group. “The Hide Away DeskBed is a uniquely functioning piece of furniture that every household would appreciate. We’re thrilled to be a part of the launch.”

The Hide Away DeskBed comes in three sizes – twin, twin extra-long and full – and four finishes – Pristine White, Asian Cypress, Biltmore Cherry and Midnight Espresso. The suggested retail price of a twin bed is $2,495 and a full bed costs $2,895.

With the marketing plan well underway, the priority now shifts to sales. In March, M&R struck a deal with Häfele to have the Hide Away DeskBed displayed in the furniture dealer’s downtown Chicago showroom. M&R hopes to soon place the DeskBed in Häfele’s other showrooms in New York, Los Angeles, and Archdale, N.C.

“Hide Away DeskBed is featured on the Häfele Web site and has a link to our site,” Sanford-Barr says. “Häfele gets 100,000 unique visitors to its site a month. We’re very excited about

the opportunity to be associated with such a prestigious international company.”

In July, M&R received more good news – the first order placement for the Hide Away DeskBed. Developing a new product means other changes, too. For starters, M&R will have to add a shipping and receiving department along with additional staff to handle orders from across the country.

M&R continues to manufacture custom cabinetry, even as it ramps up production on the Hide Away DeskBed. “We’re not going to turn our back on 30 years of business, but it’s exciting to offer a new product that no one has seen before,” Mark says.

The Rodens are cautiously optimistic. “We were in the right place at the right time, being one of the first companies to get the new deskbed hardware,” Mark says. “It meets our need for offering a niche product and thinking outside the box.” ❚