Doorway to success

Former executive opens gateway to creative career

Some call them midlife crises. Others, like Greg Doublestein, call them awakenings.

Why would a Johns Hopkins University graduate, and former Reagan administration aide and corporate vice president, leave his starched shirt and tie behind?

“One day I woke up and said, ‘What am I doing?’” Doublestein says. “I knew the only place for me was to work for myself. I needed a creative outlet.”

Doublestein found that outlet in an unconventional manner. “I looked around at everything, to see what wasn’t getting done well, and I kept seeing all these million-dollar homes with cheap entries,” Doublestein says of the front doors, frames and surrounding windows he found on some homes.

That discovery led Doublestein, whose woodworking experience amounted to constructing a clock and coffee table kit during high school, to found his own company – The Front Gate – in 1994. After learning from some of the country’s best wood finishers, he formed a small team of talented pros focusing on architectural elements, particularly antique doors. They’ve transformed hundreds of entryways ever since. 

Restored doors typically start at $1,000-$2,000, while new handmade ones run $3,000-$4,000. Expensive, sure. Doublestein’s business hinges on one clear question. “If you have a gorgeous house, why would the entry be an afterthought?” he says.

One of Doublestein’s favorite jobs: restoring an old chair. He says that project not only touched his soul, but his customer’s. “That was his grandma’s grandma’s chair, a slave,” Doublestein says. “When you get something like that, you go ‘Man, I can’t charge for that.’ And I’m going to handle it with utmost care.”

 Along with the quest for visual and protective perfection, each piece’s connection to the past drives Doublestein. Many of his restorations date back to the Civil War era.
 “If I can make [a door] last another 150 years, I’ve left something,” he says. “Having fun for me … it’s ending the day feeling like you’ve done something that takes someone’s breath away.”