I’ve been thinking about writing this blog post for over two years. When my father first came to me with the idea of his retirement, I literally felt frozen with fear. He has been my mentor, my partner, my safety net for over a decade. Could I do this without him? Could Design Manifest still succeed without being a father-daughter duo? Could I even talk about it without bursting into tears?
So. Many. Emotions.
For awhile the answer was murky.
But as life tends to go, things fell in place to help us transition quite smoothly. Over the past 15 months I connected with a few excellent general contractors who were eager to collaborate on new work, while my father took on his final two construction projects. He completed his last renovation this summer – an impressive and complicated historic home – and officially retired from Design Manifest.
He is still on my speed dial, but his days of 24/7 contractor are over. I’m so excited for Dad to put down his hammer (ha!) and begin a new chapter of his life. I know he will continue to create and build and take on ambitious projects. It’s just who he is.
As for me, I’m so sincerely excited to share Design Manifest’s new growth and change with all of you (and will do so in the next post!), but for today I want to pause in thanks and gratitude to my dad, Andrew Stein, and honor his legacy of love for great design, hard work, and taking exceptionally good care of his clients, colleagues, and family.
My dad’s career began at his father’s side – assisting with hobby carpentry as a boy, and taking on his own repair projects by the time he was a teen. By 19, my dad was working for a contractor rehabbing row houses in Northern Philly. His first on-the-job responsibility was to move a giant pile of lumber in a gutted home from the first floor to the third – by himself! He took each piece of lumber and tossed it up by hand to the next floor, then the next, and the next – and he’s not a big guy: 5’8” and maybe a buck/130! I’ve never once doubted where my work ethic came from!
By 20, my father was managing a crew of up to 50 people hand dismantling buildings, which gave him a unique education on how structures are built. One of his more memorable jobs was taking down an industrial building in Pulaski, Tennessee. His crew salvaged 300,000 bricks, 80,000 lbs. of cast iron, 2,000 lbs. of copper, and thousands of board feet of incredible lumber including large beams of clear hard red pine. The building had to be taken down in sections, requiring that traffic be stopped on both adjacent highways when they did the pulls. The crew would sound the air horn, and everyone in town would come out to watch them pull a piece of the building down. Remarkably, no one was hurt on that job beyond standard cuts and bruises. Upon completion, the bank that hired them held a banquet in celebration of a job well done.
In his mid-20s, my dad began work in masonry under a man named Otto, who took an old-world approach and reinforced my dad’s respect for doing a job properly, without fear of hard work. I’ve heard him tell of a cement mixer that would never start, thus requiring him to mix concrete by hand while his boss yelled out, “more mud, more mud!” Aside from getting much stronger, my dad learned stone, brick, and concrete skills that rounded out his knowledge of carpentry and general construction, and served him well as he began to do more residential renovations.
In 1979 my father Andrew, my mom Carol and their baby daughter Megan (my sister) made the move from Bucks County to Bala Cynwyd PA, establishing themselves (or re-establishing, as they both had grown up there) on the Main Line. My dad began to find his niche in kitchen and bathroom renovations. He discovered there was a high demand for design and planning services as well as construction, and realized that he could be even more successful by offering a full range of design-build services to his clients. He incorporated Design Manifest in 1987. Around this time he also joined the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA), and became a Certified Kitchen and Bath Designer. He went on to serve as the President of the Mid-Atlantic NKBA, and enjoyed involvement in that community.
True to my father, this hands-on, self-starter approach continued for the rest of his professional career. He did much of the work himself – on his hands and knees – making sure it was done right, never afraid to get his hands dirty, and never wanting to cut corners. He was available to his clients at all hours, day and night, and was known for his impeccable work ethic and honorable character. These traits bore fruit in repeat clients throughout his career – and in many cases, multi-generation clients, as the children of clients grew into homes of their own and sought out my dad for their own renovations.
I joined Design Manifest in 2004 with no experience but big dreams of my own. After a couple years of training my father gave me full control of the design end of the business. He let me explore new areas of design, expand our services, re-brand the company and even butcher his beloved logo. There was never an ego about it. He has been the most giving, patient and selfless mentor and partner a girl could ask for. I have been so fortunate to learn and grow under the wing of this incredible man. His expertise and pragmatism have helped me every single day of my career. Undoubtedly I am the strong, respected designer that I am entirely because of him. And now, as I lead Design Manifest into this next chapter, I do so rooted in a commitment to integrity, quality, and good ole fashion work ethic.
Happy for me and Design Manifest’s clients and fans, my father will continue to consult on renovations as needed, and has already contributed to several projects since his “retirement” last summer. We have great new things afoot, and I’m as appreciative as ever of his sage guidance as we grow into this next thrilling phase!