Joe runs the shop, operating the company’s one-of-a-kind cutting machine, and working with owner/architect Paul Freeman on questions of practicality and function. He’s usually the one who stays in the shop when the others deliver and raise the frames, starting the next frame and coordinating any necessary changes.
It’s all habit and deeply ingrained knowledge for the veteran of S.P. Brooks (where he started working in 1983!). “I’ve been here long enough that I can do just about everything down there (in the shop),” he says.
Joe had been working for Frye’s Measure Mill – a Shaker box maker in nearby Wilton – when he heard from a coworker that Phil Brooks was hiring.
“I applied because I wanted to get outside,” he says. “I’ve been here ever since.”
“I always say they’re gonna have to dig a hole out back for me some day.”
It was just Joe, Phil, and one other worker putting up between 10 and 12 frames a year back in the early ’80s, with no computer system and no crane. Phil’s spline system and some ingenuity allowed them to put up an entire frame, one piece at a time, with just two workers.
Things have changed: The cutting system is computerized, the company uses a crane to raise frames, and there are a couple more employees around, but Joe’s enjoyment of his job hasn’t changed.
“Even if you have a bad day, there are way too many good days around here to let a bad day get the best of you,” he says.
Joe is married to Bonnie and has four adult kids. He built their home – an S.P. Brooks timber frame he finished in 1993 – at night after work and on the weekends. It took a year, with the help of friends.
“I didn’t have a clue,” he says. “I just said, ‘yeah, okay, I can learn anything.’ ”
Joe likes to fish in coworker Mark Bersen’s pond, and bow and rifle hunt for deer and turkey. He and his family eat a lot of venison. “We haven’t bought beef in six years,” he says.
He hikes and camps with his youngest kids, and Parker, in his early 20s, still enjoys hunting and fishing with his dad.