I began my apprenticeship at a very young age, over 35 years ago in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district in Oak Park Illinois. At first, I was what the other tradesmen i served called their “Gopher”. I was an apprentice to an Irish Carpenter, Polish painter and an African-American plasterer. We made a great team and I miss those guys. Rip Dan, Bill and Jim.
I learned the value of hard work, keeping your skills and tools sharp, and your work areas clean. We worked in all kinds of homes in the Chicago area from the grandest stately mansions designed by famous architects, to humble modest apartments in bedroom communities. The attention to detail and care for the customers overall experience is always the most important no matter how grand or modest the budget.
In 1988, I hung out my own shingle as an independent contractor under the unreasonable assumption that I would be independent. I soon realized that instead of having one boss, I had 20 to 40 bosses a year with all the clients I worked with. Demand for my work was always greater than my ability to keep up with the needs, so I soon hired apprentices. We all focused and developed our skills of collaborating, listening and customizing the final product according to each homeowner’s custom needs.
in the nineties, I moved to Madison Wisconsin and the business grew through a series of successful, successively greater, larger and more efficient commercial spaces. Ultimately, i had a crew of as many as seven apprentices and a high-visibility retail location of 4,600 square feet. My enthusiastic team and I tackled tricky projects that needed just the right approach around the Midwest. I even had some high-profile customers fly me out to Silicon Valley for some specialty work in Mountain View California. Trying to juggle and manage such a large operation became too stressful and complicated. I ultimately decided to let my apprentices graduate and I downsized to a point where the work became fun and inspiring again. Several of the apprentices I introduced to the craft and mentored went on to build highly regarded and successful businesses.
In 2017, I packed up the kids and the tools and we moved to Saint Paul Minnesota. My tools and skills are always portable and my wife got an offer she couldn’t refuse with an awesome employer in St Paul. Though, my reputation and word-of-mouth still calls me back to Madison for projects here and there, I have been blessed to take my skills to restore some really jaw-dropping and inspiring projects in Minnesota. I’m very inspired by the depth of craftsmanship around here, even in the smaller modest homes. I’ve been finding great joy working in the houses constructed between 1890 and 1940. Many of the Twin Cities most highly regarded professionals working in these older and high-end houses, have showered me with great praise. They have welcomed me with words like, “we really need a guy like you around here”, and …”there just aren’t enough people who know what you know, and can do what you do, to serve all of these great old houses the way they deserve.”
Once Again, demand for my skills has out paced my ability to keep-up. Sometimes the large-scale of some projects I can execute well, has made me feel like some of the long timelines are unsustainable.. Most people cant really have projects that take 5 months or more, myself included. So, we have been expanding again and growing a team of enthusiastic apprentices. I make sure that everybody involved with my process has the same attention to detail and love of “The Craft” and respect for the customers’ environment and experience as I do. It is also very important to me to pass down these skills I have been building over a lifetime of service to Homes and customer satisfaction.