by Gary LeClerc
As we approach Thanksgiving of 2022, I wanted to share a snapshot of my story. First of all, my name is Gary and I am the founder and owner of Stripwell. I am the husband of my beautiful wife, Lisa, and father to my 6 year old daughter, Via and 5 year old son, Lucas. Via and Lucas are adopted and many times adoption is presented as “changing the lives of children,” but I will say that I would not be who I am today if it were not for the two of them. Lucas and Via may not be blood, but they are so much more and are 100% my children and will be forever. They make me so proud. They are filled with such beautiful energy and vibrancy.
So, with that being said, let me tell you a little more about myself. To start, we need to go all the way back to the 1980’s. Who loves the 80’s? Who’s trying to forget the 80’s? Anyway, back in 1986, the song “Walk Like an Egyptian” by The Bangles was one of the longest running number one singles of that year, and the original Top Gun movie hit theaters. Also in 1986, my dad made a change that profoundly impacted my life and the future of our family. In order to spend more time around my mom, my older sister, my older brother and quite possibly even me, he decided to take a big risk. He left his career in the aerospace industry working on jet engines and started a furniture refinishing and restoration business in the garage of our home in Cheshire, Connecticut.
I call my Dad a Swiss Army Knife sort of person. He was working on cars before he could legally drive one and if something broke, he would figure out how to fix it. Just a quick reminder that this was before Google and YouTube turned everyone into “experts” of anything and everything. His parents immigrated to America from Canada. My grandfather and many of my Dad’s uncles were incredibly hard-working farmer and carpenter-types. These were the kind of guys who, when I was a kid, would take my hand to shake it and nearly break it with their incredibly tight grips. They were trained to firmly grasp saws and swing hammers. My Dad leaving a successful career to become a furniture refinisher may sound like a crazy decision, but working with wood and with his hands is exactly what my Dad needed to be doing… and he became very skilled at doing it.
One fun little fact about my Dad is that he’s color blind. He spent decades refinishing and restoring furniture without being able to see color like you and I see it. Another little fun fact is that my Dad is a car guy and has completely restored three woody wagon cars. The only one I remember well was the one that he personally owned. It was a 1941 Plymouth Woody Wagon. The paint color was a sort of maroon and because it had no seat belts, I would slide across the rear bench seats with every turn after he applied Armor All in preparation for a local car show. It was a blast! He now currently owns two cars which he has fully restored from the frame up. One is a 1955 Chevrolet two door sedan and the other is a 1955 Chevrolet Nomad. They are painted to match. One day my siblings and I will find out who Dad loved most based on who gets left the Nomad. The runner up will get the sedan and whoever is left will get therapy. Just kidding!…sort of.
Well, I did imply that this blog post was about me, but to know me, you need to know my Dad. I love my Dad. I remember at 5 or 6 years old working with him. He taught me how to sand with the grain of the wood and watching him made me feel like he was so much cooler than all of my friends’ boring dads. I hope Via and Lucas (and our biological daughter that is on the way!) think I’m cool in the same way. Besides being “cool”, my Dad was and is a man of integrity. We was very involved at our local church and always used any opportunity he had to lift others up. Much like me, restoration was a belief and way of life and not just a job. He showed me what perseverance and faith really looked like, and over and over again I saw him do the right thing even when it was the hard thing to do. He is now in his 70’s and I am grateful for all that he was and all that he still is even as the years fly by.
Now, let’s flash forward about 13 years. So what brought me into the world of furniture refinishing and restoration as a job and career? Well, it was 1999 and before Y2K was going to shut down the world, I thought I should really learn a trade. Ok…not really. Y2K wasn’t the reason, but it was the reason many of us started gigantic pantries in our homes and became members at Costco.
What actually brought me back to the family business was my need for gas money. At the time, I was in high school and had dreams of becoming a world-famous drummer. Well, working with my Dad would solve the gas money dilemma. As an artist and creative, I did not see myself ever staying in the family business, but I could not have been more wrong. Once I realized the artistic nature of furniture refinishing and restoration, I was hooked and never looked back!
Now flash forward another 23 years, and here I am sharing with you about myself. I have worked on hundreds of amazing projects. I have restored furniture crafted by George Nakashima. I have repaired a table that was owned by Abraham Lincoln in the White House. I have helped countless clients restore or renew family heirlooms. It has been such a wild ride and now I have the honor and privilege of helping you, through sharing knowledge and providing products to help you do what you love simply and safely.
As I worked to develop our QCS Vintage Finish Remover, I did so for myself. I did it for my health and safety as well as the health and safety of anyone I employed. I never in my wildest dreams believed that I would need to close my restoration shop in order to manage the operations here at Stripwell. In such a short time thousands of furniture refinishers, restorers, and flippers from all over the world have seen the same value that I see in QCS, and have shown a level of support that is nothing short of mind-blowing.
So, as we all spend some time focusing on what we are thankful for, I can’t help but say thank you to all of Stripwell’s early-adopters and loyal customers. This is just the beginning and now a big part of my story includes YOU.
My family and I thank you, and the entire Stripwell Team thanks you. We are looking forward to many, many years of helping you in many different ways and adding value to your furniture refinishing, restoring, and flipping endeavors!
Thank you and I hope you have a simple and safe Thanksgiving!
Gary LeClerc is the founder of Stripwell and personally developed the Stripwell QCS product. He is passionate about helping others strip, flip, restore, and refinish vintage furniture in a simple and safe way. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids (with another on the way!).