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E.F. San Juan • The All-American Dream Is Alive

E.F. San Juan • The All-American Dream Is Alive

E.F. San Juan, The All-American Dream is Alive
E.F. San Juan, The All-American Dream is Alive
E.F. San Juan, The All-American Dream is Alive
E.F. San Juan, The All-American Dream is Alive
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E.F. San Juan, The All-American Dream is Alive

Third-Generation Family Woodworking Firm Stands Tall

“We Make Things from Trees!” reads a hand-drawn advertisement in the 2000 yearbook from the Holy Nativity Episcopal School in Panama City, Florida. The ad—complete with stick-figure people—was created by six-year-old Eddie San Juan and his little sister, Lydia, for E. F. San Juan, Inc. Their family’s third-generation architectural millwork and cabinetry business is located in nearby Youngstown and was founded in 1976 by their grandfather, Edward “Ed” F. San Juan. Their father, Edward A. San Juan, later joined him, and the pair began creating custom wood products for architects and contractors along the Emerald Coast of Northwest Florida and beyond. The firm grew from a sawmill with basic equipment to a bustling campus of facilities combining state-of-the-art technology with the old-world woodworking techniques that Ed learned from his father, who had a small cabinetry shop in Miami.

“We had a Craftsman shaper and table saw, and that’s how we started,” says E. F. San Juan president Edward A. San Juan in a recent documentary film produced by The Idea Boutique, the company’s agency of record for the past three years handling branding, publicity, marketing, and consultation. The agency teamed up with filmmaker Shane Reynolds of Color Earth, who has hosted travel segments worldwide for clients including National Geographic, Discovery Channel, and BBC. The E. F. San Juan documentary highlights the brand’s history and legacy through the eyes and voices of its founders, leadership team, and prominent architects and town planners in some of the Gulf Coast’s most distinguished communities.

Today, Edward’s wife, Mary Kathryn, their children Eddie and Lydia, and Edward’s brother-in-law Buddy Czubaj all hold positions within the company. The true family business has grown strong roots spreading throughout the local architecture market and across the Southeast. E. F. San Juan’s custom creations include mouldings, paneling, cabinetry, flooring, archways, trim packages, wood beams, brackets, doors, gates, stair parts, and more. These details are the beautiful accents that can sometimes be considered unsung heroes, Mary Kathryn says in the documentary. They elevate a grand custom home, but the average person might not notice a beautiful oval window casing or a set of wooden brackets beneath the eaves until they later see a house without them. Each piece of wood has a distinct grain pattern, and each species requires specific care and crafting to make these high-quality architectural elements—skills that the team at E. F. San Juan has studied and mastered throughout decades of hard work.

“To me, wood is alive; it’s warm, and each piece is unique,” says Eddie San Juan. “It allows us to take the beautiful piece that nature created and turn it into our own man-made display of that beauty.”

Edward expounds upon the bespoke quality of their work, saying, “You don’t buy any of these parts off the shelf. These are all things that are custom made specifically for each project; you won’t find them anywhere else.” This is evident when one views some of the stunning residences in local communities, including Alys Beach, Seaside, or Paradise by the Sea, where E. F. San Juan’s work is showcased and has stood the test of time.

Still, a tree doesn’t grow tall and strong without overcoming immense adversity, nor has this American dream become a reality without doing so. Ed says that two of the most challenging setbacks since founding E. F. San Juan have been the 2008 financial recession and Hurricane Michael in October of 2018. The Category 5 storm decimated the business’s main production facility and most of its offices, forcing the team to rebuild from the ground up.

“There was a point right after the storm when we were forced to decide if we were even going to reopen,” Edward recalls. “As we spoke with our leadership team about it, the answer was a resounding yes. We told all of our employees to take care of themselves and their families first and check in with us when they could. Many of them lost their homes, along with so many others in our community. And we knew that the best thing we could do to help them was rebuild and reopen as soon as we could. We had team members out surveying the damage the day after the hurricane, forming a plan and protecting as much equipment as possible. The production facility reopened about four months later, and in the meantime, we were able to get the smaller shop up and running thanks to our incredible team. Even those who aren’t directly related are like our family, and they take immense pride in their work. We’re so grateful for each individual who lifts the company higher through their dedication and talent.”

The team also found the silver lining in the storm clouds by treating rebuilding after Hurricane Michael as an opportunity to make improvements not only to the facilities but also their protocols and other practices. The result is that E. F. San Juan stands stronger than ever thanks to a smart, resilient, and optimistic outlook from its leadership that carries over into every facet of the business.

“You build something, and you want it to be something that continues past you,” says Ed, who at 82 is still involved daily at the company. Beyond his role as the CEO and mentor to many young woodworkers throughout the years, he directly oversees many projects and is very hands-on in the workshop. Looking back at his humble beginnings, countless accomplishments, and the legacy that his family will carry on, he says, “The All-American dream does exist.”


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