Harrisburg Patriot-News

The Harrisburg newspaper ran a story on Olde York Homes today. It made front page of the real estate section and, thanks to Gary, Speedwell Forge was prominently featured.

York-area firm has crafted a
RESTORATION REPUTATION

Sunday, October 30, 2005
BY JOEL BERG
For The Patriot-News
Reprinted with permission
Gary Geiselman was ready to throw in the trowel.

Harrisburg Patriot News features Speedwell Forge B&B

Harrisburg Patriot News features Speedwell Forge B&B

He had spent weekends for nearly two months fixing up an old row house in downtown York. He was starting to wonder whether he was in over his head.

Then his father, Donald Geiselman, broke down the project into steps and listed them on 10 sheets of paper, which he handed to his son over breakfast one Saturday morning.

Dawn makes News for Speedwell Forge B&B

Dawn makes News for Speedwell Forge B&B

“Now I’m really depressed,” Gary Geiselman remembers thinking.

With his father’s help, he persevered one step at a time. Nearly 30 years later, Geiselman continues to tackle renovations as the owner of Olde York Homes.

This year, the York-based company was recognized by This Old House magazine as one of the top 40 contractors in the country.

“It’s a real honor,” said Geiselman, who founded the company in 1980. The top 40 list appeared in the magazine’s October issue.

While new homes have been sprouting across the midstate, companies such as Olde York Homes have kept busy repairing and restoring the region’s older dwellings.

Companies engaged in renovating old houses typically have a backlog of projects, said David Zwifka, executive director of the Historic Harrisburg Association. “There’s fairly strong demand.”

Geiselman said he rarely advertises, relying instead on word of mouth to spread his company’s reputation, both among customers and among the skilled craftspeople who work for him. The business employs 18 people at its shop in York.

“I’m fortunate to find people that still want to take the time to do things,” Geiselman said. “That part is key.”

Olde York Homes has annual revenue of about $2.5 million. About half comes from restoration work on houses in York County and surrounding areas, Geiselman said.

A quarter of the company’s revenue comes from making custom cabinets and woodwork. The company derives the remainder from work on newer homes and from construction.

Projects cost from $5,000 to $1 million, depending on their scope, Geiselman said. Most projects fall between $100,000 and $200,000.

“If they’re calling us, they want something out of the ordinary,” he said.

Polly Stetler called Olde York Homes to work on the vacant house in York that she and her husband, Stephen, bought for their family 12 years ago. Olde York initially redid the kitchen and has done other work since.

“It wasn’t cheap,” Stetler said. “But it was worth every penny.”

Stetler said she appreciated Geiselman’s eye for detail and the pride he and his employees show in their work. “They take their time, and they do things right,” she said.

Geiselman started out as a banker. But he couldn’t resist the pull of working with his hands and being his own boss. He comes from a family of builders.

His father, a full-time engineer, worked part time fashioning cabinets for Gary Geiselman’s grandfather, William Altland. Now retired, Donald Geiselman works part time making cabinets for Olde York Homes.

Altland, who died 14 years ago, built some of the first housing developments in post-World War II York County.

As a child, Gary Geiselman enjoyed riding around with his grandfather to visit work sites during the summer. Now that he is less involved in his company’s hands-on work, Geiselman finds himself doing the same thing.

“I know every back road in York County,” he said. “Just like my grandfather did.”