The End of an Era

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.

naomi andrew ardmore kitchen laughing

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!

andrew on ladder

Scaling a ladder while building an addition in Lower Merion.

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.

 

andrew on inlay cork floor

My father hand set this custom cork inlay medallion / mandala in my parent’s kitchen.

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.

andrew naomi becca on backho

Me and my little sister, Becca, visiting a jobsite.

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.

andrew nkba president

Being inducted as President of the NKBA Mid-Atlantic chapter.

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.

andrew on jobsite

Don’t let the smile fool you, AS is no-nonsense on the jobsite. Go-Go- Go!

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.

custom hood andrew stein design manifest

Receiving a custom range hood we designed.

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!

  1. Andrea

    What a wonderful sequence, explaining the evolution of your firm.

  2. Adrianne

    Congratulations to your father on retirement and to you on this exciting new journey! Your work is incredible and I hope you continue to share your talent with us!

  3. jon nemer

    what a wonderful tribute!! well done!!
    and to Andrew’s new adventure!!

  4. Carol

    Love the heartfelt story and the pics, Naomi. We will miss Andrew, but are grateful he has left the business in such capable hands. We wish he and your mom all the best in their well deserved retirement! Carol and Steve

  5. Theresa

    What a wonderful tribute to your Dad. He has laid a great foundation for you to continue to build upon! What a blessing for you to have been able to work with and learn from him. Keep up the good work and hope your Dad enjoys this next stage in life.

  6. Jen

    What a beautiful tribute to your Dad. I can read through your words the impact he has had and will continue to have on how you continue to move Design Manifest forward. What a great legacy he has left you. Congratulations to you both.

  7. Such a beautiful, touching, inspiring and well written tribute Naomi. All good wishes to you and your family. I thank your father for being a strong supportive man for me.

  8. Kathleen

    Such a wonderful tribute to your dad! Congratulations on his retirement and the continued success of Design Manifest. Your work is beautiful.

  9. Amy

    What a lovely tribute to your Dad. You are a lucky girl! Hope your Dad is enjoying his retirement.

  10. Charlie Smith

    What an amazing tribute to a beautiful man. Thanks for sharing this. Congratulations on this next chapter of your lives!

  11. diane stokes jones

    What a beautiful tribute to your dad !

  12. Lisa Harker

    Congratulations Andrew! And wishing you lots more success with Design Manifest!

  13. stuart goldman

    Naomi,

    I have been your dads friend for 25 years. As he has been a blessing in your life so has he in mine. Your words honor him and reflect the beautiful man he is.

    God bless you both.

  14. Carol

    Thanks for this great history and tribute, Naomi! Having lived through most of that, I can concur that the hard work, sacrifice, and high standards built DM and sustained our family. Our family homes have all benefitted from his talents and generous spirit. We are blessed.

  15. Jerry Skobinsky

    Beautiful words for a beautiful man. With a mentor like dad, you are sure to succeed. Whenever it gets tough it will be easy. Just ask “What would dad do?”

  16. Mark Christman

    Beautifully done.

    Andrew has also touched and positively influenced the lives of countless men through his community work, me included.

  17. Mike Keebler

    What a beautiful story, and a beautiful life. God bless you on retirement. Great pictures too.

  18. Emily

    Beautiful tribute to your dad! Congratulations to him and best wishes on your new chapter! I always look forward to following along with your projects 🙂

  19. Robert Dann

    Naomi, what a beautiful tribute to your dad and the many gifts you have both received from each other. I know seeing you thrive has made it easier for him to move into this next and exciting phase of his life.

    Long live you both and Design Manifest !!!

  20. megan

    I could have sworn I saw your dad in the ardmore farmers market/trader joes lot a few months ago. If I see him again, I’ll be sure to congratulate him on his retirement!

  21. Sochi

    Such a great story! I’m excited for your next phase of living, Andrew!

  22. Megan Stein

    They don’t make many like Andrew Stein. So much love and respect for you, dad. Excited for the next chapter and all the great things to come.

Leave a Comment