The NKBA Past President shares his insights about the past, present and future of the association and the K&B industry.
By Elisa Fernández-Arias
Gary West, CMKBD, President of Great Kitchens & Baths and former NKBA President, has been involved in the kitchen and bath industry for more than 50 years. He served on the National Board of Directors, Executive Committee and was President of the NKBA in 2001. He has also been involved with the association in myriad other ways, including serving on the Hall of Fame Committee and the Kitchen & Bath Guidelines Committee. He was also President of the Indiana State Chapter in 1981,1982 and in the early 1990s.
NKBA recently sat down with West to ask him about his time at NKBA, the work and projects he’s undertaken post-NKBA presidency, and what he sees as the future of the kitchen and bath industry.
What was it like being President of the NKBA?
It hardly seems like it has been 22 years since my Presidency. But on the days I’m around our six grandsons, it seems an eternity ago. I fondly remember writing my last column for an NKBA publication and I think my last sentence was something to the effect of “the last ten or so years working alongside our dedicated volunteers and staff were some of the most memorable years of my professional career and I would do it again in a heartbeat.” However, as I’ve gotten older, or really lost my energy to undertake such a responsibility again, I’m not sure whether I would be able to do it now.
What is your most memorable moment during your NKBA Presidency?
When thinking back, the memory that strikes me the most, to this day, is September 11, 2001. I was in the air that morning, flying to a Chapter meeting, I believe, in Texas. I had a plane change in Minneapolis, and as I got off that plane, I could see a television in one of the bars, showing a skyscraper in flames, hearing the commentator saying that a plane had hit one of the towers. My first thought was the twin towers in Malaysia… but a few minutes later I realized it was one of the New York City World Trade Center towers. And then the next moment, a picture I still see today of the other tower being hit by the second plane. Ironically, NKBA had a board meeting in one of the towers three years earlier. I sat in a hotel room for four days waiting to be able to rent a car to get back to Indiana, as flights all over the world were canceled for the next week or longer. That day changed my life and I believe the lives of the citizens of the United States forever. No longer were we on the outside of what had been taking place throughout the world for the last number of years.
What is the biggest change you have seen in NKBA?
The biggest change I have seen is the growth of our association, both nationally and internationally — as well as the consolidation of our industry and associations within the building and remodeling sectors.
Since being President of NKBA, what have you been doing?
Since my “retirement” from NKBA, I have continued to work in our now 62-year-old family business, turning over the major responsibilities to one of our sons, now the third generation. He has led us through the recession, moved us to a more modern facility, and grown our client base and maintained our hallmark of trust that we have built over more than 60 years.
Where do you see the kitchen and bath industry going in the future? What are you feeling optimistic or excited about?
I believe the K&B industry is in the midst of a revolutionary change. Global products, global ideas in design and business structure are the future. We will not be dominated by the “mom and pop” manufacturers and K&B dealers. There will still be the “niche” markets and clientele for the entrepreneurs who choose to enter our industry, but with artificial intelligence on the horizon, the design community will change forever.
Throughout your career, what is the best advice you have received?
The best advice I have ever received was to do what is right. It sounds cliché, but we are individuals and have a responsibility to help our clients improve their lives and living environments through our work.