– ABOUT –
My name is Gary Forte. I’ve been married to my wife, Caroline, for 36 years and we have 7 children- 4 our own, and 3 adopted nieces we raised as our daughters. Next to the love and devotion to my family, my biggest passion is woodworking. I have been involved in the woodworking trade for over 55 years.
I already knew I wanted to be a ‘carpenter’ by the time I was 5 years old. It started with my Great-Uncle on my Father’s side. This old Italian with the broken English from the old country was a carpenter who taught my Father a lot of things about building things with wood. One day, he went up into the woods behind our house with an ax. I watched in awe as he chopped down a tree and made a table right before my eyes. I was bitten by the woodworker bug and never looked back.
I started working when I was ten years old- delivering newspapers (even though it was technically illegal to work until you were 12 years old)- and that’s also when I started my first business, doing odd jobs in the neighborhood while making woodcrafts in the basement and selling them. I bought ink stamps, carbon paper, and receipt books from the local stationary store with my paper route money and sat in my room typing out invoices on an old Royal typewriter. I couldn’t afford to replace the ribbons when I got to the end, so I would take the spools out, rewind them in reverse and use them over and over until there was nothing left. That was all before ‘copy and paste’.
I got into doing custom carpentry and home repairs, but my real dream was to be a cabinetmaker. Not what it had come to mean back in the late 1960’s when everyone was making particle board boxes covered with Formica and calling it furniture. But what it used to mean a 150 years ago when being a cabinetmaker meant going from apprentice to fine furniture master craftsman in the span of a lifetime.
It was frustrating for me in school, because my level of academic achievement dictated that I had to go to college. Teachers and counselors could not or would not accept or understand how desperately I just wanted to be a cabinetmaker. Then, one day, my best friend and I were walking to town for pizza. We stopped at his Father’s place of business to get some money. As I walked in to the back of what I came to realize was an antique furniture refinishing shop, I was struck by the smell of turpentine and lacquer, and the vision of old broken furniture being transformed into things of beauty. I may as well been struck by lightning. I had to get a job there, and I did. I was only 15, and soon enough I was working back and forth between there, the cabinet shop, and the upholstery shops next door. I was that eager to learn and experience every aspect of this trade.
I went into my first real business when I was 18, restoring and selling antiques, and building custom furniture. I moved to South Florida in my early twenties, worked at a small shop for a while before starting my own business while raising a family, and devoted the next 33 years to those endeavors. I built a solid reputation in South Florida for honesty, integrity, and workmanship that brought me relationships with a wide range of faithful clients that lasted for many years. From just your average working people like myself to a broad clientele of actors, professionals, and politicians. My many years spent tirelessly offering my talents and services to all communities throughout Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties brought me everywhere from the low income and middle class neighborhoods to some of the most exclusive neighborhoods in the nation. But I treated everyone I ever encountered with the same respect I felt they deserved, regardless of social status.
Eventually I made it up here to beautiful North Carolina in 2008. Today, I still operate what is and has always been a family business out here at my country home on four+ acres and a pond. My wife and son work right beside me, repairing and restoring antiques, and building custom furniture, wall-units, and antique furniture reproductions.
What has made me stand out from all the other people in my trade, in the eyes of my customers, is that I look at every project, every restoration, and every craft that comes from recycling, as a work of art. My customers have always appreciated that aspect of how I approached each project.
The way I see it, anything, whether it be an antique artifact, vintage remnant, or a discarded piece of broken furniture has, within it, a rough uncut diamond, waiting to be salvaged or created. Out of what might be destined for the landfill, can come a masterpiece. With all things that others see as having become useless or worthless in the disposable world we live in, I only see possibilities.
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