Although he had a love for woodworking from an early age, Kent Gilchrist, president of architectural woodworking firm Fremont Interiors, was completely unaware of the opportunities available in this industry, like many young people.
“While in high school I spent most of my time at the career and technical school taking all of the architectural drafting and woodworking classes available, to the extent of creating my own position as a teacher’s assistant during my senior year,” says Gilchrist. “My guidance counselor unfortunately did not see the value in this effort and did not offer much support going forward.”
After high school, Gilchrist worked for his family’s agricultural construction company as a project manager. When industry conditions brought on the closing of the construction company in the mid 80s, Gilchrist was left struggling to find his next career.
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Gilchrist and his wife Susan decided to take a chance and follow their dreams. The couple moved west, where Gilchrist apprenticed in a custom cabinet shop in California. This began his “journey” into woodworking, which has taken him to Indiana; then to Colorado, and back to Indiana where he started Fremont Interiors in 1990 in the family’s one-car garage.
“Twenty-three years later we operate out of an 8,000-square-foot shop and office in Carmel, IN,” says Gilchrist. “Our projects range from high-end residential and commercial cabinetry and furniture to plastic laminate casework, and custom architectural woodwork.”
According to Gilchrist, one of the wisest things Fremont Interiors ever did was join the Architectural Woodwork Institute (AWI) in 1996. He was elected to the AWI board of directors and executive team, and in the past year the company also has joined an AWI Best Practice Group. This move exemplifies some of the best advice he has ever received, “stay engaged in the industry, share with those who came before you and those who will follow.”
“I feel very strongly that for our industry to survive we need to share our knowledge and expertise,” Gilchrist says. “We continue to compete for skilled labor in a much smaller labor pool and with more industries than ever before.”
For the past eight years, Gilchrist has served as the chair of the AWI SkillsUSA committee, and on the boards of WoodLINKS USA, SkillsUSA Indiana and the Woodwork Career Alliance. Fremont Interiors also offers internships and work-study programs to high school and college students.
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• College and technical school, continued industry education through AWI
• Number of years at the company: 23
• Number of years in the industry: 28
• Word or phrase to describe you? Dedicated, persistent
• Who is the one person you’ve tried to emulate in business and why? I don’t have any one person, but a variety of friends that I continue to network with for continued growth.
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