Gray Matters

When we bought our house six years ago, it was a bit of a fixer-upper. And by "fixer-upper," we mean "handyman's special" or "money pit."

This was what we wanted — a house that needed love. As first-timers, we didn't understand quite how much love it would end up needing, but that's a story for another day. We've always been old-house people, and despite all of the headaches we've had over the renovation/restoration, we still maintain that they don't make 'em like they used to.

This is a good thing in the sense of superior craftsmanship, even in a plain farmhouse such as ours. It's a bad thing when, say, whole windows are missing their molding. If you're shopping off the rack, even at higher-end home-supply stores, you can't find anything close to antique molding anywhere these days. At the big boxes, you're lucky if the molding is actual wood.

We didn't think we'd be able to afford custom woodwork, and for a while, we grappled with the idea of saving what we could and finding a suitable, if inferior, replacement for the rest. Then we found out about Owen Gray & Son in Brewer.

Many of the houses in this area were built during the lumber boom of the late 1800s, and the molding — even in the finest homes — was supplied by the Morse mill, along the Kenduskeag Stream in Bangor. Owen Gray & Son now has the original knives used to cut all of that molding, and if you bring in a sample, chances are they can replicate it — for way less than a custom woodworker and not much more than a big-box store.

This place, in a humble gray building just off the Wilson Street strip-mall extravaganza, is old-school in a good way. A few employees mill everything by hand, using a variety of woods, and while you won't get your order on the same day, you know it will be done right the first time. We were so impressed with our molding, we ended up ordering stair treads, and we've referred dozens of our friends to Owen Gray, too.

If you live in an old house in Eastern Maine, Owen Gray is a must. We'd even make the trip from southern Maine (although we'd love to hear about it if you know of a similar business elsewhere — e-mail us at

It took a little bit of the sting out of our renovation. Now, if they only did drywall, we'd be all set...

Owen Gray & Son is located at 300 Chamberlain St., Brewer, Maine. For information, call 989-3575.


Laura's Style said...

They do excellent work! Such sincere nice guys too. It's hard to find both of those qualities these days. I hope to hire them one day!

Falbert said...

This is the kind of service that I love finding out about. Hard to know about unless you live within a few miles, and maybe not even then - but the kind of place that I want to send more patronage to. Kudos on the write-up!

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