Wood Industry Market Leader: John Gahm, Kitchen Kompact


Like his grandfather and father, John Gahm always wanted to be a woodworker.

Dwight Gahm purchased Kitchen Kompact in 1955, and John’s father Walt, and uncles Gordy and Phil, joined after college. “I followed in their footsteps and began working at Kitchen Kompact after I graduated from college,” said John.

Today, two second-generation and five third-generation Gahms are involved. “It is quite a unique situation, and one that I am very proud to be a part of.”

As vice president of manufacturing, John Gahm plays an integral role in Kitchen Kompact’s success. While crediting the manufacturing knowledge and “people skills” he learned from his father, whom he worked alongside for 22 years, Gahm said the experience of working in all departments “also gave me a tremendous amount of respect for all of the employees who do the many different jobs required to make Kitchen Kompact (KK) successful.”

Another reason Kitchen Kompact is so successful is its simplicity. “Keep it simple, stupid” has been the company’s mantra since day one, Gahm said.  “We know what we are, we know what we do well, and that’s the only thing we are going to do.  If a customer wants a pink, raised panel kitchen, then they can go to a manufacturer who makes pink, raised panel kitchens. But, if a customer wants a kitchen that falls into the lineup of products that we make, then we can talk,”

Simple, however, doesn’t mean stagnant. “My goals for KK over the next few years are to arrange our plant and manufacturing process to enable us to diversify our product offerings and allow us to become a player in parts of the marketplace that we currently are unable to serve,” Gahm said, referencing a part of the stock cabinetry market in which the company currently has no presence.

KK does have a large presence within the community. It has fulfilled the kitchen needs of many schools, churches, and shelters in the community, as well as those of the local police and fire stations.  Most, if not all of the local Habitat for Humanity houses in the community also have KK cabinetry installed in them. 

The company is also a longtime supporter of the industry and was a founding member of the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Assn. Along with other members of the company, Gahm has been actively involved in KCMA, including the role of president. Outside of work, “If your last name is Gahm, then golf is in your blood,” he joked. “I also enjoy running and watching my daughters play lacrosse.”

Quick Glimpse:

  • Education: Bachelor's Degree in Finance, University of Kentucky
  • Number of years at the company & in the industry: 23
  • Phrase that best describes you: I have often been described as a quiet person who is more passive than aggressive.
  • Business mantra: Keep it simple, stupid
  • Who have you tried to emulate? My father, Walt Gahm. He always worked through things very methodically and thoughtfully and never rushed to judgment. He had the respect of each and every person that worked at Kitchen Kompact and never considered them his employees; everyone was a co-worker.  He only asserted his authority if absolutely necessary, was very humble and never sought attention.
  • Best advice (from his Dad): The people who are most affected by the change should be a part of the decision-making process.

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About the author
Karen Koenig | Editor

Karen M. Koenig has more than 30 years of experience in the woodworking industry, including visits to wood products manufacturing facilities throughout North America, Europe and Asia. As editor of special publications under the Woodworking Network brand, including the Red Book Best Practices resource guide and website, Karen’s responsibilities include writing, editing and coordinating of editorial content. She is also a contributor to FDMC and other Woodworking Network online and print media owned by CCI Media. She can be reached at [email protected]