It was 1987. Carnac the Magnificent was still mystifying – and cracking up – audiences on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. The Simpsons debuted on the Tracey Ullman Show. Dirty Dancing, The Untouchables, Lethal Weapon, and Good Morning, Vietnam were box office hits. The Bangles were telling everyone to “Walk Like an Egyptian.” A Chevrolet Celebrity cost US $11, 010. Retail stores couldn’t keep up with the demand for Talking ALF The Storytelling Alien. Reaganauts stood behind then Vice President George H.W. Bush as he postured for power. And John Hudec began working alongside his father at home in Indiana in a two-car garage making simplistic laminated cabinetry for a small handful of local builders. Since then, John’s feverish dedication to custom architectural millwork and superior service has raised many an eye brow, including one or two at Inc. 5000: Hudec Woodworking was named one of America’s fastest growing companies in 2014, 2015 and 2016, a three-year period that saw John’s 29-year-old brainchild grow 52% and bring home – from Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas and National markets – US $8.3 million.

By David MacDonald I f you are – to employ an idiom that’s seldom used without humorous or passive aggressive intent and I assure you, neither is its function here – of a certain age then the above references have got you. You’re gripped in the throes of nostalgia. Stevie Wonder’s “Stay Gold” is in your head and it’s not going away. Well, don’t fret because you’ve got a friend in John Hudec, President and CEO of Hudec Woodworking. He’s a leader in, as he puts it, “an extremely demanding industry where time is everyone’s worst adversary.” “That continues to be one of the largest challenges we face,” he explained. “The expectations are increasingly growing as the industry evolves and this significantly impacts lead times. We have nurtured an exceptionally committed and seasoned staff that is committed to meeting these growing demands. Likewise, we rely on the efficiency and commitments of our proven vendors and suppliers to ensure we exceed the expectations of our clients. We are fortunate to have excep- tional industry partners.” “Architects, designers, and business owners all want symbolic uniqueness in their projects.” John explained that the architectural millwork industry as a whole has been evolving these last four decades at an unprecedented rate. CAD (Computer Aided Design) software has been the backbone of commercial and indus- trial manufacturing since the 1960s when famed computer scientist and internet pioneer Dr. Ivan Sutherland devel- oped Sketchpad – the original CAD program – as a Ph. D Candidate at MIT. The cost of early computers, however, limited future development of CAD to the worlds of aero- space and automobile giants McDonnel-Douglas and General Motors, respectively. As personal computers and CAD software became ubiquitous in the 1980s, John said his industry began “exploding with greater demands.”



ference room with several millwork details. The team volun- teered to make our 20’ conference table as a reflection of their passion for the craft.” “Our corporate culture revolves around an integral partner- ship that we share with our employees. We have some of the most talented employees in the industry. They are also equally committed to Hudec; some have been with us for over 15 years. That talent is the reason for our success and ongoing growth. In turn, we are enthusiastically committed to the success of each of our team members and strive to provide them with a level of appreciation and compensa- tion that cannot easily be found in other companies. We seek the most talented persons in their respective fields that have a desire to be a part of something special at Hudec. We pride ourselves on the capabilities of our team and the internal relationships we all share. It takes a special blend of qualities to be considered for employment at Hudec.” “We have about 50 employees and they all make equal con- tributions in their respective roles,” explained Hudec Wood- working General Manager, Gary Hulen. “They consistently give of themselves, and go above and beyond on a daily basis to ensure the company exceeds our clients’ expecta- tions. We want our employees to have a level of satisfaction and appreciation in their careers at Hudec that they cannot easily find elsewhere. We are as committed to our team as they are committed to the company. It’s a phenomenal part-

This surge saw Hudec Woodworking move twice. In late 1987, John and his team moved to a facility in Highland, Indiana. “We occupied three different tenant spaces within this building for nine years,” he said. “They were cramped quarters but in 1996 we designed and built our present – and spacious – facility in Griffith, Indiana.” As his team expanded and diversified, so did office needs in Griffith. “Over the past year, we completed another remodeling project for more office space and constructed a large con-

American millwork.

nership we share with our employees.”

“Serving the needs of architects, designers, building owners and developers, restaurants, hotels, and other hospitality establishments is top priority,” Hulen said. “Whatever the ambiance, we can make it happen.” “We truly go to whatever lengths imaginable to ensure that we consistently exceed their expectations. We once flew two employees to the West Coast to sort antique lumber reclaimed from the bottom of Salt Lake, then drive the load back to Chicago in a rental truck. The client was seeking a specific look and needed the product A.S.A.P. The supplier could not meet the expectation, so we invested our own resources to make it happen for our client. We overcome these types of issues every day.” Hudec sponsors myriad charities locally in Indiana and across America, including Opportunity Enterprises, American Heart Association National Center, Orak Shine Circus, Friends of Children, Griffith Lions Club, and A Wider Circle.

Hulen emphasized that theirs is an industry where “Archi- tects, designers, and business owners all want symbolic uniqueness in their projects.” This trinity is wonderfully realized in all Hudec Woodworking projects and there is no better example than Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak, & Stone Crab in Washington, D.C. operated by Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. In a pulled quote from the Projects menu at, John Cinelli, a member of the AIA (American Institute of Architects) and the Director of Architecture for Lettuce Entertain You, sums up the Hudec experience: “I have been collaborating with Hudec Woodworking Cor- poration since 1996. From initial rough sketches through the final punch list item John and his team have been able to keep up with Lettuce Entertain You’s evolution. With restaurants across the country and demanding schedules, Hudec’s design, shop drawings, project management and customer service have always been there for us.” “So the mesh of various materials, such as wood, glass, metals, stone, and repurposed materials, is redefining what millwork entailed 20 years ago. The integration of various materials and the pressing need to go green is quickly archiving earlier millwork products.” When I questioned Hulen about Mr. Cinelli’s comment, his answer was blunt: “The single greatest philosophy we live each day with our employees, suppliers, and customers is that ‘We make commitments and we keep commitments.’ We are committed to meeting the changing needs of both our employees and clients. That level of commitment was a founding core belief,” said Hulen, who joined the Hudec Woodworking team in 2013 as the Director of Projects. “Our urgent commitment to our clientele is the backbone of our business and those values have only intensified with our explosive growth.” The demands of clients have even changed the materials used in the industry. “Green philosophies have become a major influence on millwork trades,” Hulen said. “So the mesh of various materials, such as wood, glass, metals, stone, and repurposedmaterials, is redefining what millwork entailed 20 years ago. The integration of various materi- als and the pressing need to go green is quickly archiving earlier millwork products.” That’s not to say that a truly vintage feel is lost on contem- porary design. The Labriola Café on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, for example, is unmistakably inspired by Late-Vic- torian millwork – what’s considered to be the golden age of

HUDEC WOODWORKING (219) 922-9811 Main (219) 924-0134 Fax

148 N. Ivanhoe Ct. Griffith, IN 46319

as spotlighted in the OCTOBER 2017 issue of SPOTLIGHT ON BUSINESS MAGAZINE

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