GD Inside and Outside In: An “Outsider’s” Perspective

by Jayden Mikkonen

Some of you may be thinking, “Who the heck is this Jayden character?” Well, if last name is any indication, I’m the younger brother of one of the co-founders, Blain Mikkonen and I am the fourth and a half member. I say half member simply because I am the half or part time guy; the guy they call upon when projects are backed up or when desperation is upon them. I get the GD call when the going gets tough or the tough gets going  when three of the guys go on a fishing vacation and they need another hand at the home show. Often times the target of ridicule and error more often than not it is deservedly so.

I was called on this week to help out with a few projects and was tasked with tackling my first blog post as well.  First, I thought I should introduce the stranger that is writing to you.  I’m also going to reveal what I know about the team, what I’ve personally learned in my tenure here, as well as what I know about Grain Designs.

Who am I?

Before I get into anything too deep I’ll give you a short backstory on me; I grew up in Frederick, South Dakota working on our family farm. I have two older sisters, Shrylle and Mariah, and my older brother, Blain. As his little brother I’ve always been fascinated by what he does whether it was pursuing his degree in architecture at North Dakota State or helping start and build Grain Designs. From this fascination came my involvement, ever since the inception of Grain Designs, an occasional helping hand has always been just a phone call away. Whether that hand is there for cutting, sanding, assembling, or when I’m lucky, a few rounds of golf but no matter the need, the call can be made.

The GD Team

Blain and the guys have given me a first hand look at what it takes to efficiently run a small business and it is a whole heck of a lot more than I had imagined. But if you know Blain at all, it should come as no surprise as to what he has helped accomplish. He’s always been a businessman; when he was in high school, the guy would buy a case of Mountain Dew and make me buy cans from him for a dollar each for gosh sakes! Some strange kind of brotherly love if you ask me.

Grant was introduced to me while Blain and him were living together during their years at NDSU. He is one wild time, attending concerts and music festivals when he can whether it’s EDC in Vegas or Ultra in Miami don’t be surprised if you catch Grant in attendance. He knows how to have a good time but also has the eye for design.  If you’ve been in the shop you’ll more than likely see him upstairs designing the next new GD piece.

Phil, ole’ Philsy as many of you know him, was the third member to join the team.  Keeping true to his hipster subculture, Phil just returned from a 2 week nomadic vacation, traveling with a friend from New York to Fargo.  The photo captures a stop on the way in Jack White’s record store.  Phil is often times the first one in the building to give me a lukewarm welcome and put me to work. Unchanged over the years, Phil still controls the radio… Chamillionaire’s Ridin’ Dirty blesses our ears as I type.

Pat is the 4th member of the GD crew.  When you receive your finished product, he is more than likely the one who put the finishing touches on it.  Pat’s natural habitat is most often out in the shop or on some type of sports field cracking some ridiculous joke or creating a new word whose meaning may leave you with your mouth open but either way is almost guaranteed to make you laugh.

The Mascots – I can’t forget the cats… Pat is the zookeeper and wrote a blog post welcoming them to the team.  Pat loves the cats.  Blain doesn’t.

What seems glamorous from the outside looking in looks quite a bit different when you’re in the trenches. It’s pretty unbelievable to get your hands dirty and understand the time and attention to detail that goes into a table or any other product that leaves the shop.  Once you’re around this team for a while you begin to understand that the mantra, “Hand Made Well Made” isn’t a tagline; it’s the goal to be obtained with each piece. The 14 hour day isn’t all that common but sometimes that’s what it takes to get the job done and get it done right.  When those deadlines loom you’ll surely find a team of four… but maybe 4 and half.

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