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Economy

Berkeley Springs Furniture Company To Add Rural Jobs With Factory Expansion

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Shepherd Snyder
/
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Gat Creek craftsman David Gray at his workstation.

Furniture manufacturer Gat Creek is undergoing an expansion of its Berkeley Springs factory that will see more jobs for local workers.

The factory ships around $25 million worth of products across the country annually and employs 150 workers. The expansion is expected to bring 65 more to the facility and double its production capacity.

Owner Gat Caperton says producing domestically in an era where most furniture companies contract to foreign manufacturers is a point of pride for him.

“I think it's important to produce things locally. And in our case, in particular, we're really sustainable at the time that sustainability has become more and more important,” Caperton said.

The Morgan County-based factory was founded in the 1950s as Tom Seely Furniture before it was bought and renamed by Caperton in 1996. Each piece of furniture is handmade there.

“It’s like a reproduction of antique furniture. Everything’s built by hand,” said shop lead Michael Snow. “It’s just very interesting how it all comes together from start to finish. We take a (wood) panel down and we make a shape out of a square panel, and then it ends up turning into a bed or a table.”

Last week, workers celebrated the expansion by signing a steel beam that will be part of the new wing’s foundation. Caperton says it’s part of a factory tradition where each piece of furniture is signed by the craftsperson who built it.

“It’s kind of a nice way to celebrate the expansion,” Caperton said. “We have to build so much furniture inside, and we couldn't build a building and not put our signatures upon the face.”

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Shepherd Snyder
/
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Gat Creek factory workers sign a steel beam that will be part of the foundation of the factory's new expansion.

Rural Eastern Panhandle communities like Berkeley Springs have to compete with larger towns like Martinsburg, which continue to see rapid increases in population and job growth. However, Gat Creek workers like Erin Lancaster say they’d rather work closer to home, preferring the more rural lifestyle.

“I love that this place is expanding and it means a lot for people as a place for people to come and work and be part of the community, but I also don't want too much growth in Morgan County to where we're just packed and overwhelmed,” Lancaster said. “I like low key, you know, not clogged.”

The expansion is expected to be finished within a year and will add 40,000 square feet to the factory.


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