As a young teen, Aaron Harshaw discovered he could turn a piece of wood into homemade projects such as furniture.
Harshaw was a freshman at Ottawa High School when he stepped into a woods class taught by Fred Wolfe.
“He really got me fascinated with woods,” Harshaw said. “When other guys were making tool carriers and cedar boxes, I was building cedar chests and china cabinets. I found that had a real affinity for it, but I loved building, not only furniture, but crafting.”
That was the start of a lifelong endeavor. Harshaw, the summer after his freshmen year of high school, worked for a Lawrence carpenter scraping out houses.
“I was in and around construction from an early age,” Harshaw said. “During my seminary days, I worked for commercial builders and a couple of different residential framers. I learned from some of the best carpenters, mudders and framers in the Kansas City area. I found that anything I put my hands to — whether it was be installing new commercial door units or learning how to mud, tape, paint, commercial framing to residential framing — I really enjoyed it.”
Harshaw spent most of the past three decades tinkering around with carpentry work, getting paid on the side for different projects. Harshaw supplemented his pastor’s salary by creating and completing projects around town.
Harshaw was at a cross roads late in the summer with his career. He returned to one of his first loves and ventured out with a new company, Harshaw Home Renovators LLC. He has officially been in business since Sept. 1.
“This is actually the first time I have launched out on my own,” Harshaw, a father of four, said. “This is the first time in my whole life that I have owned my own business where everything has been on my shoulders. I did not really know right off the bat what I thought it was going to be. It has been an enjoyable experience in the sense that we did not pull the trigger until Sept. 1. Because of that aforementioned happy clientele that has existed for the past couple of decades that we have done things for periodically, folks caught wind we were going to be doing this. They got their name down early. We are already booked with both inside and outside projects through mid to late October. I expected everything was going to be OK. I believed this was the direction God wanted us to go. Sheri [his wife of 25 years] was on board with me 110 percent.”
Harshaw’s reputation for his carpentry work and life was built in his hometown.
“The advantage of being a hometown guy doing projects in Ottawa is that I left a decent fingerprint and a fairly sizable clientele,” he said.
One of Harshaw’s most visible projects is remodeling the first floor of the Lawyer’s Building at Second and Main. Harshaw said his dad, the late Bob Harshaw, hired him in 1999 to remodel the downstairs.
“He decided he wanted to move his office downstairs,” Harshaw said. “I single-handedly completely gutted and remolded the entire first floor of the Lawyer’s Building. That still stands today. It is relatively high-end and sharp. That was more of commercial side of things.”
PASSION FOR PEOPLE
Harshaw loves to see people’s reactions to the finished product.
“It is definitely enjoyable for me to complete a project where the clients are pleased with the end result,” Harshaw said. “I love being able to capture, sit down and talk and get the vision of what the client wants. If you can work with the client throughout the process and allow them to tweak, then they are happy with the end result. That is what I am most passionate about. Doing the work is very cathartic and enjoyable for me. Getting an end result where folks are geeked out and love what they have been a part of designing and dreaming, bringing that concept to reality is a good [ending]. I enjoy the ability to do nice, finished things that create a ‘Wow.’”
Sheri Harshaw said her husband can do anything with wood.
“He fits wood like it is a puzzle piece,” she said. “He will mold it around what it needs to be molded around. He is very detailed. He will re-do it if it looks wrong.”
Harshaw has a passion for Ottawa and its people. He spent his whole life in serving people through the pastorate and other ways.
“It is enjoyable to not only rear our family here, but serve in a different capacity that we have served in the past decade or so in the full-time pastoral ministry,” he said. “We live here, people matter. Their projects matter. I will see them at Wal-Mart. It takes a long time to establish a good reputation and not very long to ruin it.”
Another area Harshaw likes is there are so many possibilities when it comes to remodeling.
“I love being able to show folks what is available in their choice options that did not even exist 10 years ago,” he said. “The industry is so vast, so broad and so creative anymore. It is kind of fun to let folks’ eyes pop on things they did not know was out there. There are so many new products out on the market that did not exist 20 years ago that allow folks to have no limits on products. As far as finishes go, sky’s the limit. I enjoy letting them dream and sketch things out.”
Harshaw learned some business savvy from his father.
“My dad would tell me ‘Aaron typically what you will find is that any kind of project always takes you three times as long as you think, costs three times as much and will be three times as frustrating,’” Harshaw said. “If you go in knowing there will be bumps in the road, that is okay. We will meet them as they come, address them in the right way and make sure the end result, the final destination, that is worth getting there, is done in a way that is easy as possible with as little of friction as possible. Communication is key. You have to let your folks know up front. You can have it done quickly. You can have it done with real high quality materials. You can have it done inexpensively. Pick two because you are not going to get all three.”
Harshaw said at the beginning he is just renovating and not building new structures. He said he will remodel any room of a house, take out walls, install new doors, windows, flooring and other finishes.
“There are no limits to the inside of the structure,” he said. “I am doing sun rooms, porches and decks.”
To reach Harshaw Home Renovators, visit their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/renovate.well/ or call 785-893-2731.