Encore July 2015

Page 14

Enterprise ENCORE

Like Father, Like Daughter

Refinishing furniture is in Kate Henley’s blood by

Lisa Mackinder

When Kate Henley was a child, her father,

on pursuing law, until attending a natural resource summer program in Northern Michigan during his junior year. While there, he connected with trees, wood and woodworkers and had an epiphany while gazing at the Northern Lights. Seeking woodworking apprenticeships, Trenkle found one of the top programs at Western Michigan University and came to Kalamazoo. Now old school and new school meet as Henley and Trenkle work together. Henley hopes to see more architectural preservation and restoration projects for the business — such as the one Benno’s Woodworking recently finished at the First Presbyterian Church in Battle Creek. Benno’s restored all the interior millwork in the church’s sanctuary. Despite wanting to implement certain ideas, Henley recognizes her dad’s JunFu Han

Benno Trenkle, arrived at school to pick her up covered in dust. In typical kid fashion, she felt embarrassed. “Now I’m picking up my kids covered in dust,” Henley says, laughing. Although her dad never placed expectations on Henley or her brother to take over the family’s 30-year-old business — Benno’s Woodworking, specializing in wood floors, cabinetry, restoration, refinishing and custom furniture — she ultimately realized that’s exactly what she wanted to do. And not only is she doing that, but she has also started an “upcycled” furniture business with a friend. After graduating from the University of Michigan in 2000, Henley spent a year studying law at DePaul University College

of Law in Chicago and several years working as associate producer for “The Jerry Springer Show,” as a professional actress and as a marketer. She returned to Kalamazoo from Chicago a little more than a year ago and began working in her dad’s shop. Although she’s officially the shop manager, Henley identifies her role as “sidekick.” “I’m a lot like an apprentice,” she says. “I’ve done sanding and stripping since I was a kid. Now I’m learning how to use the equipment — like the saws.” With polyurethane-tinted fingers and a discolored, cracked phone that hint at her new profession, she acknowledges her big learning curve. But Henley points out that her dad faced the same situation 30 years ago. Then a student in economics at the University of Michigan, Trenkle planned

14 | Encore JULY 2015

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