First it was the weather, then it was the people that brought Geoff Grout and Karalyn Demosky back to the Kootenays.
It was a cold winter during 2002 in Calgary when Geoff worked in an oil change shop. Before that, he had taken a half year of general academic studies at Selkirk College in Castlegar.
“I have since learned that’s not necessary,” Geoffrey said, with a laugh twinkling in his eye. We then talked a little about how academic study is often the path that high school kids are nudged toward, whether or not it’s what suits them or is what they want to do.
In 2003 Grout went to auto body school in West Kelowna, and found the industrial and chemical-filled environment of auto body work wasn’t what he was looking for either.
“As soon as I finished auto-body schooling, I knew I would be doing something else,” said Geoff with his trademark quiet humour. But Geoff says he walked away with lots of transferrable skills from the experience. Learning the fine art of applying finish came in handy with his next move to cabinetry.
After a short stint in 2004 working construction, when he discovered that working in the Okanagan heat wasn’t where he wanted to be either, Geoff was fortunate to find a cabinet maker looking for someone who wanted to enter the trade. Geoff learned on the job and picked up extra side work that his boss directed his way.
In 2006 Geoff’s life partner Karalyn Demosky began to help with the designing and building, and she and Geoff make up Counter Intelligence together, when she’s not busy being a mom. Although the pair are comfortable working larger, more conventional jobs, they prefer the challenge and satisfaction of using reclaimed or site-harvested wood. Many “problem” trees that need to be cleared from a building site can be milled and turned into flooring, doors, cabinetry and even furniture.
“It takes a lot of forward planning,” said Geoff, “but we like caring for the wood through the whole process.” And the duo makes the most out of scraps, crafting them into crates, cutting boards and other “value-added” pieces.
It was the imminent arrival of their first child that motivated their move back to the forested mountains where they both grew up. It was an easy choice to move back to the Kootenays and near family – Geoff and Karalyn love the Kootenay vibe and culture.
“Everyone’s laid back, and most people are interested in getting along and helping out. It’s much less about consumer culture,” said Geoff. “And our customers are fantastic. Everybody here is friendlier.
“And my dad shamelessly promoted us, which made it easy,” added Geoff.
Thanks to his father Gary’s help, Counter Intelligence had work lined up and were able to work out of Gary’s shop right away. The help gave them time to get established, adjust to life as parents, and build their own shop.
The next big move for Counter Intelligence is the addition to their shop of a CNC router, which Geoff calls their “robot slave.”
It keeps his hands away from the blade, and makes work roll along at a faster clip. One day Geoff plans on challenging the Red Seal certification, because he sees that it can open up opportunities for the future.
Geoff acknowledges it was a process of trial and error finding his trade, but it didn’t take long. He’s only had five jobs, including waiting tables when he was first working. And now he’s also found the perfect home back in the Kootenays where the weather is mild and the people are friendly.