WORCESTER – Having been in business for 30 years, Gerry Brodeur and his team are known for the high quality of craftsmanship in their work. Brodeur owns the Cabinet Rehab Shop along with The Stripping Workshop in Worcester.
“People find us from Boston, New Hampshire, Maine, and New York too,” said Brodeur. “There are fewer shops doing what we do.”
One of his challenges is the difficulty in finding workers to keep pace with the demand for the shop’s services. He notes that the industry has been fractured since high tech has come in.
“Every five years, we lose more tradespeople,” said Brodeur. “We’re working with an older crew right now. It’s going to take a generation to revive the trades.”
At the vocational schools, there are not as many students going into trades like carpentry or electrical work.
“Since the pandemic, people have decided they want to work from home,” Brodeur said. “They don’t want to come in to work. They don’t want to get their hands dirty.”
While Brodeur’s team is busy, he speaks of the falling-off of quality of manufactured goods. A trend toward consumerism that started in the 1960’s was accelerated in the 2000’s. True appreciation for high-quality products has significantly decreased.
“As a society, we’ve become used to disposable furniture,” he said. “People buy from stores like IKEA, where furniture is mass-produced. People have been conditioned to get upgrades every six months. Quality is low, and if something wears out, people just throw it away and buy a new one.”
Coupled with this lack of appreciation for quality, Brodeur notes that since the pandemic, it is increasingly difficult to obtain high-quality materials.
“You pay a premium and wait a long time for them,” he said.
His crew has over 100 window sashes onsite for restoration, some going back as far as 300 years. These are from antique properties, some of which are on historic registers. Brodeur remarks that sentiment is the one thing that keeps people tied to the restoration and refurbishing of older pieces. Over 50% of his shop is made up of sentimental pieces.
Such items are loaded with stories. Brodeur speaks of an elderly woman whose friend passed away. She brought in her friend’s rocker to be refurbished. It was not high-quality, but it held great emotional value for the woman.
“You can’t age-out sentiment,” he says. “It may be a teddy bear or a lamp or a rocker, or even a computerized avatar. It’s human nature to hold deep emotional connections with pieces from their past. People still want to have roots. It’s the glue of society.”
Visit the Cabinet Rehab Shop and The Stripping Workshop and Cabinet Refacing at 100 Grand Street, Worcester, Massachusetts. (508) 986-8450.
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