Gat Creek Crafts Strong Business with Handmade Furniture - Business, Government Legal News from throughout WV

Gat Creek Crafts Strong Business with Handmade Furniture

By MISTY HIGGINS For The State Journal BERKELEY SPRINGS — Fifteen years ago, Charleston native Gat Caperton was looking to buy a small manufacturing operation in his home state when the opportunity to purchase a Berkeley Springs furniture factory presented itself. Caperton said the usual assumption is that someone in his position had been born into the business. He said he had no lineage in the industry and no real affinity for fine furniture, noting he earned a “B” in high school shop class. But, he said, as far as manufacturing went, furniture was a very cool. Despite not having a background in furniture, Caperton has settled in and built a surviving business for himself and his 110 employees even in a struggling economy. The business has a solid foundation of great craftsmanship and excellence in design, as well as a dedication to environmental, management and safety practices. “We like to say surviving is the new thriving,” Caperton said. As CEO of Gat Creek, located in Berkeley Springs, Caperton heads up the 100,000–square foot, $11 million manufacturing company he describes as a world-class operation that produces handmade antique reproductions and contemporary designs. Prior to his purchase, the company had built antique reproductions for 40 years. Many of those employees from the former Tom Seely Furniture remain. Gat Creek is an American producer of solid wood furniture that uses sustainable sourced wood coming from Appalachian forests and other nearby locations. Under Caperton’s direction, craftspeople build more than 20,000 oak and cherry pieces yearly. Each piece takes up to 28 days to complete and when finished is signed by the craftsman. The pieces are then sold online or at more than 300 retailers along the East Coast. More than 95 percent of raw materials are sourced from within a 350-mile radius of the award-winning factory. Gat Creek works exclusively with domestic hardwoods that are harvested by suppliers that meet state and national standards for land and timber management. For more than a decade, Gat Creek has been a successful domestic operation. The company has recorded growth over the past two years, and Caperton said executives are close to closing a deal that will export to a showroom in China. “We have been fortunate to continue to be competitive as the industry opens up to worldwide competition,” Caperton said. At the base of his business are people, not furniture, Caperton said. “We are focused on people,” he said. “People make our furniture.” Strong employee benefits programs, best management practices and a commitment to safety help to attract and retain employees who come mostly from the region, including Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Many have been with the company for decades. “I grew up in West Virginia, and I take great pride in owning a West Virginia company that employs West Virginia people. It’s nice to be someone who helps support the community and provides jobs,” Caperton said. “It’s definitely a source of pride.” And it’s not just the West Virginia economy that benefits from buying the American-made furniture produced in Berkeley Springs. During his years in business at Gat Creek, Caperton said furniture imports from China have grown from 10 to 73 percent.  The company has been featured on “ABC World News with Diane Sawyer” in its “Made in America” segment highlighting the amount of foreign-produced furniture in many American homes. Buying American products creates jobs, Caperton said. “One of the great ways to make this economy grow is to buy American.”
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