Joe Dai – Mackenzie Door Co.
- Written by: Neil Cote
- Produced by: Victor Martins & Sarah Whitling
- Estimated reading time: 5 mins
So how does one enter that most exclusive of Midtown Manhattan neighborhoods, the so-called Billionaires Row along the southern edge of Central Park?
Easily enough, at least at 520 Park Ave., one of the newer skyscrapers and completed in 2018. The doors are open to everyone to view as they stroll by, even if they can’t afford one of the ultra-pricy residential units.
And what impressive doors, crafted by Ellison Bronze and fashioned out of Muntz 280—a bright gold copper alloy fortified by zinc and very weather resilient—with a satin finish. Above the main entrance there’s even a downlit canopy bearing the name of this distinguished address.
Manufacturing these doors and adornments took some doing by Ellison Bronze in Falconer, New York, but that was only half the project. Just as painstaking was the installation, which was handled by another specialized entity, the Mackenzie Door Co., of North Bergen, New Jersey, working through Enterprise Architectural Sales, one of its many glazing partners.
That installation couldn’t be rushed, says Joe Dai, who recently celebrated his 25th anniversary as Mackenzie president. Long before his company could truck the wares to the site, Mackenzie’s field operators were measuring and remeasuring the frames so the doors could fit.
Wind speeds sometimes exceed 60 mph in Manhattan, so Dai emphasizes the need for precision. Once the doors were in place, Mackenzie personnel installed and fine-tuned the automation to allow hands-free access and egress.
“Partnering with Ellison Bronze has been a wonderful experience for everyone at Mackenzie,” Dai tells Blueprint in February. “Park Avenue was a wonderful representation of what we can do together.”
It’s not the only example.
All in balance
Around six miles southwest of Park Avenue, there’s the 28-acre development known as Hudson Yards, which also has become upscale and trendy with its mixed-use skyscrapers and cultural attractions. It’s at a high-end residential building and at an arts center where the Mackenzie/Ellison partnership also is apparent.
The 1,000-foot high, 137-unit known as 35 Hudson Yards, which opened in 2019 as the neighborhood’s tallest structure, is accessed through an Ellison’s balanced door system that’s virtually indestructible and encompasses the frame, doors and all hardware components.
All of which, Dai reminds, required Mackenzie expertise to put in place. All Ellison balanced doors are finally engineered with a pivot point enabling them to open at two-thirds width, permitting internal air pressure and external wind loads to pass on either side upon opening. Hudson Yards within proximity to the Hudson River with New York Harbor not far away, the winds can indeed be strong.
Also in the neighborhood is a more modest but still distinctive facility, The Shed. A cultural and performing arts center located in the Bloomberg Building and attached to a skyscraper, The Shed is a unique enough structure: mailbox rectangular but tilted with a translucent exterior.
Here you’ll find six pairs of Ellison custom balanced doors and a couple additional entries with sidelights. With its balanced doors fully warranted for a decade, Dai says Ellison is very particular with whom the installation is entrusted and that’s why Mackenzie gets the nod.
The entire Hudson Yards Site showcases Mackenzie’s strength with its manufactures and suppliers. Dai states Mackenzie’s manufactures are fully represented in Hudson yards with Ellison as mentioned above, Stanley Automatic Doors, Dorma automatics and revolving doors, Boon Edam, Tormax, and Sellmar just to name a few.
Passing test of time
So it’s a specialized role Mackenzie fulfills for big-ticket clientele mainly in the New York and New Jersey metro market as custom installers, servicer and representative for the high-end commercial and multiunit residential market
Given the prominent projects of late, Ellison Bronze might be Mackenzie’s best-known partner, but it has ties with other manufacturers, including Stanley Access Technologies, DormaKaba Revolving & Automatic doors, Boon Edam automatic revolving & security products, Karpen Steel, Kawneer and Tormax. Be the doors balanced, automatic, high-security, balcony, revolving or custom steel, Dai assures the Mackenzie staff can put a system in place, as they’ve been doing for nearly 80 years.
The company was established in 1944 and some of the workforce predates Dai’s arrival in early 1998. Though a seasoned construction man at the time, Dai acknowledges he didn’t know much about specialty doors, but he learned fast. Among his early projects was the automatic sliding, manual swing and automatic revolving doors at John F. Kennedy International.
More than two decades later, those doors are still functioning. Door technology has advanced since then and become more technological. Meanwhile Mackenzie’s crews must ensure their installations adhere to such regulations as the Americans With Disabilities Act. But Dai says there are some constants, including the philosophy of the late Fred G. Mackenzie, whose grandson Scott recently retired as boss of the automatic door division.
“Door solutions aren’t really one-size-fits-all, and even if it doesn’t always financially benefit us, we still put our customers and their specific needs first,” he says. “Solving their problems is always our main objective.”
Staying on top
The veteran crew at the North Bergen warehouse and the field reps do much to streamline operations without sacrificing quality service, Dai goes on to say. He credits the longevity of the workforce both in the office and the field to help train him as he developed his skills in selling the custom products that he does today. Dai is quick to point out the employees and their knowledge is truly what makes Mackenzie the industry leader in the commercial door space, and why they are known as “the door people.”
Same goes for the vendors who have helped Mackenzie weather storms for which it had no control.
There’s an office on Manhattan’s Reed Street just seven blocks from where the Twin Towers collapsed on 9/11. The Great Recession of the late 2000s had the construction industry reeling. More recently, the COVID-19 had Mackenzie teams complying with onsite health protocols but still on the job.
And Dai might have jobs well outside their usual Eastern Seaboard stronghold. He’s been spending much time in Florida and Georgia as Ellison Bronze’s representative in the Southeast. This will bring his expertise of his partner’s product to an underserved but potentially huge market with so much development and redevelopment planned in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and other sunny destinations.
“While we have competitors in all our lanes of specialties, none can do it at the size and volume of Mackenzie,” Dai says. “There are no equals to what we do.
“From our partnerships with our manufactures and suppliers, to our customers and most importantly to our employees, I’m confident Mackenzie is structured to continue to dominate in this market for the next 80 years.”
View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. IV 2023 Edition here.
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