September 12, 2013

A Word With the Boss: Moser continues legacy: Building things that last

Reflecting on his life at 51, he views furniture projects as something that will resonate after he's gone.

By Edward D. Murphy
Staff Writer

Aaron Moser, 51, is the director of Moser Contract, the division of Thos. Moser Cabinetmakers that handles sales of furniture to institutions, companies and hospitality. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America as a certified chef and rejoined the family business in 1990. The company recently made headlines when it created furniture for the George W. Bush Presidential Library in Texas, which opened in April. The company has 130 employees, about half of them woodworkers, and ships its pieces to libraries and corporate boardrooms across the country, including the libraries of Harvard and Yale, among others.

click image to enlarge

Aaron Moser, director of Moser Contract, a division of Thos. Moser Cabinetmakers, works on projects that take years to develop, while forming long-term relationships with customers.

Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Q: One imagines you either grew up with a hammer in your hand or stayed away from woodworking entirely.

A: We were all involved at a very early age. My dad was a college professor when I was a kid. When he was going to school and teaching, he was supplementing his income by fixing up antiques. My mom and dad loved to go on drives on the weekends and they'd pick up furniture and bring it home and fix it up.

We also restored probably 18 old farmhouses while growing up. Some of them we lived in. Dad and Mom had a motto that every gallon of paint was worth $100 (on the resale).

Then we moved into the Grange Hall in New Gloucester; that was our first production shop. I was a little boy at that time and my brothers and I all worked in the shop. It was our church and it was our school and it was our after-school sports program.

Q: But then you went to the Culinary Institute of America. Why?

A: It wasn't that I wanted to leave the family business; I just fell in love with this very exotic thing called cooking. I spent some time with an uncle who was the director of a community school and I spent the whole day in the cooking program and fell in love with it.

The following summer, I cooked for 150 girls at a camp and it became addictive to me. I loved the smell of the kitchen and the camaraderie and the hard work. I worked for a restaurant in Boston where I rolled meatballs, and that restaurant started a pizzeria. I got to go to school at Boston College and work there 50 hours a week. I had to do that because they wouldn't allow me into the Culinary Institute of America without it -- I had to have a year in an industrial kitchen before they would let me in.

That helped inform my management approach and informed my respect for those who paved the roads before and I look back and say, maybe I wish I had more time to go the MBA route, but I never would have gotten the experience I did.

Q: How did your parents feel about you choosing such a different career path?

A: My parents allowed it. That's not to say they didn't judge, but they did allow it and financed it and supported me.

I spent a few years working in New York and New Orleans and Dallas. I had 70 people working for me doing banquets and I worked in some very fine restaurants and that's where I really learned the craft. But when I got married and we started thinking about having kids, I realized the lifestyle of the hospitality industry was not for me, so I decided to try something different and I went to work for a guy building houses.

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