Profiles of the forward-thinking individuals at the helm of industry-leading companies.
Read More Articles by Karen Koenig Wade Vonasek Matt Warnock
Karen Koenig Wade Vonasek Matt Warnock
With 36 years in the industry under his belt, Bill Weaver has experienced woodworking from the shop floor all the way up to the front office. “Never did I envision at the beginning of my career that I would be where I am today,” says Weaver, the president and CEO of Canyon Creek Cabinet Co.. “It has been a very rewarding career full of great experiences.”
Bill LePage must be a quick learner, because in the short time he has been a part of the wood products industry he has achieved some impressive things. “I had not envisioned having a career in the wood products industry,” says LePage, vice president of Operations for The Simple Furniture Co. LLC. “I was actually working for a large national retailer as its manager of construction and store design.”
“Every day is a new experience and if you are open to learning, the experiences that make you better come every day,” says Kevin Kuske. One of the earliest experiences that shaped Kuske involved developing a treatment for schizophrenia while working as a chemist at Eli Lilly. “Observing, listening and looking at the problem from the customer’s point of view made the solution obvious and the team passionately went home to launch all three [liquid, pill and patch] formulations,” he recalls.
From former journalist and traveling salesperson to president of multi-billion-dollar retail conglomerate IKEA North America, the journey by Pernille Lopez to reach this point has been anything but typical. Born in Denmark, she moved at the age of 23 to the United States. In Florida, she started her own business importing Danish-style accessories for sale throughout the Southeast. She soon entered the retail furniture market, working with the chain, The Door Store. A few years later she moved west, working at another furniture chain later purchased by IKEA.
Though he never intended to be in the closets industry, Mike Carson, founder and president of Closet Works Inc., has become a pillar of it over the last 20 years. “One day at my dad’s house, in 1987, he showed me the white melamine closets he just had installed,” Carson says. “He suggested that since I liked woodworking, I should do closets. I had zero interest until he said, ‘I had one guy here for one day and paid him $1,500.’ At that moment I had an epiphany and started building closets.”
Mark Bernhard must have sawdust in his blood. His father, Pius Bernhard, founded Bernhard Woodwork, and although Mark spent a couple of years outside the industry after college, he came back to woodworking in 1991 and has been at it full-time since. Bernhard says the wood products industry is “a business unlike so many others. You actually create something, as opposed to just pushing paper around. This is what makes it so rewarding.”
Andy Wilzoch may have left school early, but that has not stopped him from growing his company to be a leader in the store fixture industry. From Premier EuroCase’s beginning as a 1,000-square-foot shop with a Powermatic 66, a drill press and hand tools in 1987, to the 200,000-square-foot shop with “more equipment than you should be allowed to have” that it is today, Wilzoch has been at the helm to lead the company to new heights of success.
A look at Mark Richey’s personal pursuits provides valuable insight into his business attitude. “As an avid mountain climber and explorer, I have traveled a lot, seen many cultures and had many intense experiences,” says Richey, the president of Mark Richey Woodworking & Design. “That’s given me a lot of confidence and a unique perspective that has been invaluable.”
Experience, determination and an unending supply of patience have provided Kevin Sauder with the flexibility and know-how to lead RTA furniture giant Sauder Woodworking through these tough economic times. “I am better able to keep the current economic situation in perspective since I lived through the crazy RTA boom years in the late 1980s and the retrenching years since 2001. Also, raising two teenagers, including one with autism, has taught me patience and humility,” said the president & CEO, Sauder Woodworking.