Gat Creek furniture is handcrafted by employees who care.
When Gat Caperton founded Gat Creek in Berkeley Springs, he took a traditional furniture manufacturing company and transformed it with innovative manufacturing techniques. Since 2010, Gat Creek has grown almost 10 percent a year and employs 140 West Virginians. Caperton says, “I love the fact that I can have a business in my home state and that I’m a manufacturer in West Virginia. We create good jobs and have an incredible work force, which produces quality products in a sustainable way.”
While the furniture bears his name, he is quick to point out that it really comes from the dedicated work of more than 140 people who share a passion for woodworking. Gat Creek products are tangible stories, handcrafted by skilled builders. Meet a few of those builders.
Bob Cartmill grew up near Charleston, where the actual Gat Creek runs. Bob is a lifelong woodworker with a long family heritage with the craft. His great-grandfather built furniture and gave many pieces away to friends. People still approach Cartmill to tell him that they have furniture signed by his great-grandfather in their homes. Cartmill is leaving a similar legacy today.
Paige Wagner is a self-confessed “furniture addict” and keeps a nice collection of pieces from the factory in her home. She began building furniture with Gat Creek in 2004 and since then has built nearly 2,000 tables. Wagner loves the peace and quiet of living in the country in an old log house with her husband—a bed builder—and several cats and dogs. The two travel regularly in a motorhome with their pets, meeting new people and seeing new places. “I’m addicted to furniture. I’d buy every piece if I could. Each piece is different, and if you study it, it is like art. The grain is beautiful. … After you sign your name, you know that piece is going to someone who is going to pass it down from generation to generation.”
James Becker started building furniture for Gat Creek in 1987. He had just moved to Pennsylvania from Kansas to help establish a new Mennonite congregation. Down the hill from his home is his workshop, which he once shared with his teenage sons when they were starting a business making wooden toys. Polly, a “high altitude” beagle, has now moved into the shop and is typically found napping high atop Becker’s machinery.
Willis Troyer lives and works on a farm that his father purchased in 1964. His parents operated a dairy and ran a bakery situated in a little barn along the road. They finally abandoned the dairy after realizing that “the little barn made more money than the big barn.” His shop originally served as a chicken house and later housed pigs and cattle. “The smell of this building today far surpasses the rest,” Troyer says. Pictured here with two of his five children, Troyer builds nearly all of Gat Creek’s huntboards and never complains about sawdust.
Rick Kidwell hails from a family rich with old-fashioned ingenuity. His uncle earned local fame from building an airplane out of used bicycle parts and a Corvair motor. Rick started building furniture professionally in 1983 and has built most of the original prototypes of the pieces Gat Creek sells today. “One of the interesting things of working here is that every individual builds a piece of furniture. It isn’t set up on an assembly line,” Kidwell says. “Everyone has to make decisions and make choices as they go along with the piece of furniture from the front-end until the builder has completed it.”