Like father, like son and grandson

Published 9:45 pm Saturday, June 20, 2009

With cardboard strewn across the ground to cover the incomplete hardwood floor, Donald, Kevin and Eric Worke — three generations of Workes — install new kitchen cabinets.

After Kevin cuts a hole in one section of the cabinet, he and Eric lift the section to fit the opening over a pipe as Donald, 83, observed from a few feet away, noting that the walls and the floor aren’t squared. No homes are, he added.

Donald’s son Kevin, 50, said it’s nice to work with his father because Donald still keeps tabs on him to make sure he does things correctly. And this is something Kevin said he tries do with his son Eric, 22.

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“We try to do as good as we can. My dad’s always told me, ‘If you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all,’” Kevin said.

Worke Construction bought this home on Independence Avenue in Clarks Grove. After a job to build a fence canceled, the three spent their time working to renovate the home.

Donald and Kevin started the business in 1984, and it was called Room Service until about 2004. The Workes used to work in smoke, water and fire restoration. Kevin said they still do that, but they work more in water and mold restoration.

Worke Construction is a full-service general contractor that works with things like shingling, doors and windows. Typically, Kevin said they’ll work on five to six construction jobs at a time, and they’ll restore the repossessed houses in between jobs.

“When you have a family business, it seems like you have a little more personal pride,” Kevin said of how a family business is different.

The Workes now buy homes and use their experiences with construction and restoration to renovate and sell the home. The house on Independence Avenue had been left moist and sealed. This formed an atmosphere Kevin described as a terrarium, and he said mushrooms were growing through the carpet. Kevin is a certified mold abatement contractor.

When the Worke family begins a restoration job, the men need to wear respirators and protective gear.

While all three are finished carpenters, they all have different preferences. Donald works a lot on rough carpentry, which includes walls and framing. Kevin said he’s more meticulous, and they all enjoy working on kitchens and bathrooms, because it’s closer to the finished product.

“That’s the part of the job that we all look forward to, because we get to see the finished product,” Kevin said.

While Kevin said there are good days and bad days like any family, he said the family tries to stay focused, form a plan and do things the correct way.

“Family business, no matter what business you’re in, you’ve got to be close. Because if you work together, you’ve still got to be able to play together,” Kevin said.

Kevin said it can be easy to point fingers at family, but he said the three are able to combine their different perspectives.

Kevin describe Donald as old school and Eric as the new school. One of the biggest changes has been improved power tools and pneumatic equipment.

“The main thing is to get along,” Donald said. “That’s the whole thing right there. Everybody’s got to agree with things.”

Kevin said the typical day starts at 8 a.m. and lasts until “whenever we get done at night.” Even at 83, Donald has a reputation as a workaholic. He still works six days a week, but he now works 9:30 a.m. to around 2:30 p.m.

“I kind of poop out,” Donald said.

“He works six days a week, and yet has time go out to spend with his friends,” Kevin added.

After working six days a week, Donald find time to dance, play cards and play the accordion, and he said he enjoys going to Diamond Joe Casino in Northwood, Iowa.

”You’re better off if you stay active — way better off,” Don said.

“Keeping active is the key to being able to still do what you do and love what you do,” Kevin said.

Kevin said Donald used to work at Wilson & Co. from 3 a.m. until 2 p.m., when he’d start his construction work.

“I hope to live to 83 years old, let alone be working,” Kevin said.

Kevin said he and his brother Gene Worke learned the business from Donald. Gene worked with his brother and father for 10 years, but he injured his shoulder and now works for District 241 schools.

Kevin said he’ll also work six or seven day weeks.

“The workaholic in my parents rubbed off on me,” he said.

Eric attended construction school at Riverland Community College in Austin, but he was a part of the family business before that. As a junior, Eric would get out of school around noon each day as part of the work release program at Albert Lea High School.

“It’s nice to have your children follow in your footsteps. We’re three generations now of carpenters. There’s nothing more rewarding than to have your kids following in your footsteps,” Kevin said.