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From the Archives: Gamble on apprenticeship continues to pay off

It was just over a year ago that we profiled G. Keener & Co., so this is a relatively short look back. But the story of a young entrepreneur who was willing to take a risk bears repeating.

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Gary Keener runs a four-person shop next to his home in New Carlisle, Ohio. In 1999, he was an industrial arts teacher who stumbled across an advertisement for an apprenticeship at M.T. Maxwell Furniture Co. in Bedford, Va. The opportunity convinced Keener and his wife, Andrea, who is also a teacher, to pull up stakes and head south.

“We were young, had just gotten married and didn’t have any kids, so from that point I started looking for a way to start a business, but I didn’t feel comfortable just hanging a sign outside my garage,” Keener said in our March 2015 feature. “We quit two good teaching jobs, moved to Virginia and paid $4,000 to work for a year for free. It seems insane.”

Maybe, but he felt ready to start his own business in 2001 at 26 years old.

“It’s been a journey and it’s been a blessing,” Keener said. “There’ve been ups and downs both in my professional and personal life. I could have had huge setbacks, but by the grace of God we’re still here and still in business.”

In the last year, the shop has begun sourcing local woods and added to its four custom furniture lines.

“I’ve created a few new pieces based on what I’m hearing from my customers and people who visit me at the furniture shows I attend,” Keener says. “And we’ve just did some special projects with wood from barns that were recently torn down nearby.”

To read the entire 2015 profile, visit and search for “Keener.”

This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue.

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