Rising from the ashes

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Lead finisher Jeff Neeley works in one of the 10' spray booths at The Burkhart Co., in Louisville, Ky.

Tom Burkhart operates his shop in an old-school way. For 31 years, he has operated a woodworking company in Louisville, Ky., and he's conducted business on his own terms. His shop does 100 percent custom work and Burkhart says it is more versatile than any shop of its size in the Louisville area. At The Burkhart Co., you won't find any CNC machinery or the use of any CAD programs. Burkhart sketches his designs, hands them to a draftsman and the plans eventually make their way to the shop floor. The process may seem slightly out of date, but it works. Frankly put, don't knock success.

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The Burkhart Co. is now at its fourth location after its third shop burned to the ground in 2000. Burkhart bought a 65,000-sq.-ft. building listed on the National Register of Historic Places following the fire and the shop presently occupies about 25,000 sq. ft. The facility was built in the 1800s and was originally the Falls City Jeans and Woolen Mills, and was later home of the Enro Shirt Factory.

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Plantation shutters are a big item in the Midwest and South. Before he began his woodworking career, Burkhart worked with some interior decorators and one of his main jobs was to install plantation shutters. So when he opened his first shop in the basement of a rented house in 1978, finishing and installing plantation shutters was a main source of income. Gradually, he began manufacturing them.





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