Larry Kurtz – Old fashioned or new, every kind of wood work

January 28, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Larry Kurtz has owned and operated his business, Kurtz Millworks, since 1990, settled in the same location on Broadway, Orangeville Memorials. 

To visit the office is to see the workshop, machinery at the ready and quite varied boards stacked for choosing, drawers full of samples of what might suit a heritage home or building.

This place was a road he travelled well to, as he told the Citizen, “Before I opened Kurtz Millworks, I started working for myself when I was 20. I was doing all sorts of renovations, painting, carpentry. I got bored with that – the same thing all the time.

“I was building custom kitchens in my garage when this place came up for sale. I like old houses but I could never find the trims [and gingerbread] for the older homes so I decided to start making them myself.”

The idea stood on its own and Mr. Kurtz assured us that “there are enough old homes and buildings in this area to keep us busy. As far as me travelling to install it myself, I don’t go more than an hour.”

His business does make and ship trim and pieces far and wide, though.

“We shipped to Newfoundland,” he said. “An electrician there heard of us and wanted some gingerbread for a house. So, we built a crate and shipped the order out.”

He went on to say, “We are also working something to ship to Michigan. We’re copying a design from an old home down there. They are different designs from homes here.” 

He showed the curved trim they were making, one section at a time, “from architectural drawings. It will be a three-colour scheme but they’ll do the painting; we’ll send the pieces with a white base wash.”

Initially, with the idea of reproducing old trim, Mr. Kurtz was on his own to learn how to do it.

“I didn’t have a Victorian mentor,” he admitted, “or school to learn from. I did work for Orangeville Kitchen for a while and certain trades people so they were mentors of woodworking.” Also, “my dad is a wood worker. In fact, he was working for a company that laid him off. So, he went to work for himself at about the same time as I did: I mean the same year, not the same age. He’s still working.”

Of his relationship with his 80 plus parent, he remarked, “I make a point of playing hockey with him once a month. He’s a person who leads by example.” 

He told us the story of his early success. “In my very first year I was doing this business, I took a small loan to buy some machinery for making this stuff. Then, I took a display to a event at the [Orangeville] Mall with some samples and there were line-ups of people wanting to talk to me about it. I did so well at that time, that I picked up enough business for the rest of the year.”

One of the biggest boosts to his first year was the contract to replace and repair the old trim on the tower of the Dufferin County Courthouse. 

“My dad and my brother helped me,” he commented.

This was no small feat, with the height of the tower and the many challenges it presented but Larry Kurtz, his father, and his brother were ready to do the work. The north side of the four-sided tower was covered with metal, under which, as Mr. Kurtz discovered, was the original surface, matching the rest, but needing considerable repair.

“I got busy enough to hire someone. Then, a young guy came and was pretty persistent.”

The “young guy” in question is Kevin who had come to Orangeville from his hometown Atikokan, the canoeing centre of Canada. 

“I met my wife from Orangeville and we came here to live,” he said. “I had been laid off and the government paid me to go back to school, to Humber College, to learn wood working.

“When we came to Orangeville, I went looking for a job and did all sorts of work. Then, I came here and Larry said, ‘I can use you for the Christmas rush.’”

Mr. Kurtz picked up the story: “The other guy just didn’t come back and we heard he got a job somewhere else. Kevin asked, ‘How can you run a business without  your right hand man?’ And the answer was, I can’t.” He said, “I hired Kevin on and he’s been here ever since.”

Mr. Kurtz took us across the driveway to his Showroom house, noting, “Kevin and I built this house.”

There displayed were samples of trim, a beautiful kitchen wall with deep panelled cupboards and doors, sink, counter. There were also plenty of choices of handles and styles that were as modern as Victorian is old fashion.

“We want people to have choices, whether they want something modern or [a heritage look],” he informed us.  

About Kevin, he remarked: “I feel proud that Kevin, working for me, has been able to raise a family and own a nice property with 12 acres, just outside of town.” 

For information, nice photos of some of their work,  contact www.kurtzmillworks .com

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