The GOLD COAST DESIGN CENTER experience
My name is Mitch Chester, head of operations for Gold Coast Design Center. Here is our story.
They say the mighty oak tree began as just an acorn. I felt like an acorn when I underwent scholastic testing in grade school. Testing revealed a perfect score for spatial relations; the abstract ability to work 3-dimensionally. Wasn’t sure how this would help me grow into an oak tree, but I had a pretty good idea about how all the branches would look! Several years later, this mental gift brought a profound impact to my life.
School kept proving my inclination towards all things “spatial”. Joined the United States Chess Federation, became a classical music performer, aced mechanical drawing, mathematics and physics, which would become one of my great loves.
Following studies at NYU, and brief stints performing classical music and Wall Street, I returned to my roots and spatial design. Construction fascinated me. I wanted to build, to create something meaningful. Took my first construction job in 1988. I loved everything about it. I had found my calling.
In early 1991, I interviewed for and accepted a new position as a kitchen designer for Moben, a British kitchen company. Moben was one of the industry innovators delivering cabinets “flat pack” for on-site assembly. I spent time in England learning about their way of doing things, metric and all. Over the course of the next few years, I designed over 1,000 kitchens and became quite good at it. Nothing can replace experience.
I used my design abilities to upgrade my resume. Over the next few years, I worked my way up to showroom sales and a few of the most famous kitchen companies in my local area. Still, I had to do more. My employers were nice, but not willing to support my design ambitions. So, evenings and weekends were invested in learning more about design & construction. In 1996, following plenty of hard work, I passed the NCIDQ examination. Within six months, I sat as a juror for others taking the exam. Remembering old advice from my father, I strove to be the best I could possibly be. I used my knowledge to get as far as I possibly could. In 1997, I was elected to professional member status in ASID.
I started my first construction company, Absolute Kitchen Corp. We worked hard and managed to get published in several shelter magazines, newspapers and books. I wanted to learn about more than kitchens and bathrooms. We were entering a new millennium and I was ready to expand further.
I began consulting for other contractors, in pursuit of more knowledge and extra income. Then, the terrible events of September 11, 2001, brought a heavy toll upon our country and to my family. I wanted to do something to help. The pieces to that puzzle began to fall into place, first came a paradigm career shift.
One of the men who had worked for me in the past approached me with an idea about importing windows from Europe. He was a gifted technician and showed me windows with features I had never seen before. I was fascinated. We formed a company and started importing windows from a source he had in eastern Europe. I knew good woodwork and this product was beautiful. But we quickly learned there were regulations we needed to meet in order to function lawfully. So, we searched for a manufacturer who was established and willing to meet the regulatory demands of our American market. We ended up calling upon the number one brand in Germany, UNILUX. With some hard work and a visit to the factory in Salmtal, Germany, we were able to land the contract for American distribution!
However, as fate would have it, my partner decided to try out maneuvering me and keep the company all to himself. The end result was both of us losing the contract. I learned a hard lesson about human nature but was undeterred. UNILUX made beautiful windows, but they weren’t custom. Our market needed custom windows in that higher price range.
I reached out to my older cousin, Ed, who was a marketing guru. He was the original American advertising executive for Ferrari in the 1960s. He was currently representing a manufacturer of automated glass entry doors. He knew a lot about windows and wanted to join forces with me for a co-venture. My attorney also became interested and wanted to share in the venture. So, we went on a worldwide search. I found a wonderful manufacturer in Italy. Can you guess what happened next? Oh, yes, the food is that good in Italy. Two trips to Florence and with a reasonable investment into samples, we were in business. Interestingly, less than one year later I went head-to-head against my previous manufacturer for a prestigious landmark project. I had the custom Italian product. Three manufacturers were asked to build a mockup. It was a sweet victory when we were chosen, largely because the German manufacturer tried cobbling together parts and pieces that looked nothing like the original drawings we were attempting to replicate. Only a custom manufacturer could do it and we did it best. To this day, all who go to Oheka Castle can see those beautiful French style doors throughout the ground floor.
Earlier in that year of 2007, I took one of the specialty windows from the Italian manufacturer to display at an AIA (American Institute of Architects) event. The specialty window was a bullet resistant window made with ballistic glass, embedded steel plates and covered in gorgeous French chestnut wood. That evening I met one of the founders of a defense contracting company that was especially well known for ballistic and bomb mitigation products. We became fast friends. I spent the entire rest of that year meeting with the defense contractor and participating in some projects. My desires to do something helpful after 9/11 were coming into reality.
Early in 2008, American Defense Systems formally asked me to join as Director of Architectural Solutions (making top-notch bullet and bomb resistant windows). We began negotiations for my company to get acquired and a golden parachute for my older cousin Ed, who wanted to retire. The next few years were some of the most interesting in my life. Of all the people I had the pleasure of working with, it was the military whom I liked best. They were all about whatever is best for our country, not motivated by personal gain. We’re truly lucky to have such great humans working to defend us.
The company went public in 2008, just in time for the crash in September. A new administration took over the White House. Massive defense funding cuts ensued. Before you could blink your eyes, larger, more powerful companies began buying our assets. I stayed a while longer, but the handwriting was on the wall. I had learned a lot. Maybe the biggest lesson of all was the vital role of an interloper, someone who could spoon feed the technical info from the manufacturer to the end user in a way that was approachable.
I returned to construction consulting. My ability to see things others couldn’t was still sharp. I became more involved with space planning for larger projects, building homes and home additions. There is a natural inclusion of design concepts for all things which are part of a home. They are all, in some way, connected. Windows, doors, bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, all fit together in greater overall space. I spent many years producing beautiful projects. Each had numerous individual elements which blended harmoniously with each other.
In 2016, we started Gold Coast Design & Build, a remodeling company. In 2021, we started the Gold Coast Design Center. We work with other design professionals, architects, interior designers and contractors. We are the interlopers. We sit down with the clients and explain “ad nauseum” about each of the products specified in their project. This relieves the architect of the headaches associated with this type of client education. The architect has a happy client with far less hours invested. The client is thrilled that someone took the time to teach them, and they feel much better about the entire process. Gold Coast Design Center gets to specify and provide certain materials for the project. Everyone wins.
Please see our Products page for more information about the manufacturers’ products we can provide.