High-end work on the high seas - High-profile clients

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Greenwood originally set out to explore the world after his apprenticeship was complete and hoped to end his journey in Australia. But he never got past Fort Lauderdale after meeting his wife, Lara. He initially found work in construction, building concrete forms. But his “big break” occurred working on a 150' sloop, Zeus.

“Zeus was like doing another apprenticeship,” says Greenwood. “I worked under shipwright John Angermeyer and, while the medium (wood) was familiar, the woodworking had to be far more precise.” The two-year project employed a large number of tradesmen, and Greenwood started cold-molding the exterior, the process of laminating wood to make the hull of the boat. He then joined a crew building cabinets for the interior.

Greenwood left the Zeus build with a solid reputation. He went on to work for several area cabinet shops and private clients, basically as an independent contractor from the back of his Chevrolet Astro van, until he rented a small shop to start Yorkshire Woodwork in 1994. At the time, it was an easy decision to pursue marine work over residential work. “There was no comparison, either creatively or financially,” he says.

But it wouldn’t have been possible without having proved his skills.

“The marine industry in Fort Lauderdale is small, so your reputation is key. In 1998, we moved to a larger shop, and then moved to our current location. This shop gave us the space to obtain the equipment needed to complete large-scale jobs more efficiently. Our first employee came along as part of this transition.”

High-profile clients
During the last 14 years, Yorkshire has completed approximately 200 projects. Roughly 80 percent of its work is repeat business.

Greenwood’s primary role is to manage the business. He frequently travels to meet with prospective clients, discuss pricing and bid jobs. His clients are from Russia, Spain, Mexico and most of the ports in between. But he hasn’t completely left the shop. Some of his clients demand he personally build the designs they sign off on.

“With many of our older clients, when they call, they want me to do the work. In some cases it would be difficult to get a job if I didn’t agree. I have to be sensitive to their needs. They pay top dollar for the work that we do, and I want to give them the best service I can.”

All of the fabrication is done in the shop. The installs are done in the boatyards, mostly around Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach and Miami. Some boats are so massive they have to remain in a deepwater marina.

The schedule is a bit loose in the summer, but extremely busy for most the year. During the late summer months, the work comes flowing in as vessel owners and their captains prepare to sail their yachts south in warmer waters.

“In the busy seasons, we get all kinds of calls and unfortunately for a new client, regardless of the size of their boat, if we’re too busy, I’ll try to help them find someone else.”

Business is very good now and has been for a long time. Greenwood says he doesn’t have to worry about the economy affecting his woodworking business because his clients are extremely wealthy individuals. In general, Greenwood is not permitted to discuss his clients, many of whom are either celebrities or politicians, or are so wealthy that their privacy needs to be protected.

The exception is Merv Griffin, the late game show creator (Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune) and television host, who commissioned Yorkshire in 2006 to begin a six-month renovation of his 142' yacht, The Griff. The yacht was designed by Frank Mulder and built in Marinteknik Shipyard in Sweden. Yorkshire’s task was to precisely match exotic woods, special finishes and fixtures, and create a stateroom suite with a disappearing widescreen plasma theatre.