The American Home Furnishings Alliance has awarded its highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award, to manufacturer and environmentalist William Gaston “Gat” Caperton IV.
The honor was presented November 4 during the organization’s Annual Meeting and CEO Conference in Sea Island, Ga.
The award is presented each year to an industry executive selected for his or her contribution to the home furnishings industry, to AHFA and to their local community. Caperton is the 55th recipient of the award, which was first presented in 1966.
In announcing the honor, Farooq Kathwari, chairman, CEO and president of Ethan Allen, described Caperton as a compassionate individual and a builder of innovative home furnishings business strategies over almost 30 years in the industry.
After graduating from Davidson College in North Carolina with a degree in economics, Caperton went to work for a real estate mogul in Chicago while working on a master’s in business administration at night. An essay he wrote as part of his application to the University of Chicago graduate school foreshadowed his future. It was titled, “I Want to Own My Own Business and Create Jobs in West Virginia.”
Caperton purchased Tom Seely Furniture in Berkeley Springs, W.V., in 1996 and transformed the ailing company into a robust enterprise. He named it Gat Creek after a backyard creek he used to play in as a boy. Kathwari described him as “super smart” and fearless, characteristics that helped him persevere through tough times. In addition to nurturing a devoted workforce and loyal customers, he embraced innovation, especially technology to make his operation more environmentally friendly.
“He is a benevolent and humble man who cares deeply about the people in his organization and takes tremendous pride in the community where he has built his factory,” Kathwari said. “A generous sponsor of education and youth programs in his district, he is the go-to community trailblazer when leadership or unbridled enthusiasm is needed.”
Caperton served as chair of AHFA’s Board of Directors in 2019. He received AHFA’s “Sage Award” for environmental excellence in 2012. He helped found and serves on the board of the Sustainable Furnishings Council. He served on the boards of the Eastern West Virginia Community Foundation, the West Virginia Nature Conservancy and was chair of the board of directors of the Natural Capital Investment Fund, a $45 million fund providing flexible financing to small and emerging natural resource-based businesses primarily located in the Appalachian region.