NewsPositively Milwaukee


A one-of-a-kind cabinet maker from Milwaukee's inner city

Posted at 10:36 PM, Jun 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-21 23:41:24-04

MILWAUKEE — He left a job to chase his passion. Fred and Bonnie Lewis are offering city residents custom woodworking not often seen these days.

It's work that comes from the heart and not mass production.

They own "Fred Lewis Custom Cabinets." The shop is a throwback to a different time.

It's located near 35th and Townsend in Milwaukee and is owned by 74-year-old Fred Lewis and his wife, 73-year-old Bonnie Lewis.

Fred Lewis is a self-taught cabinet maker. TODAY'S TMJ4 caught up with him while he was working on an order of summer screen windows

"I spent a lot of time trying to learn this craft, and every job and every day I learn something."

The couple takes pride in giving Sherman Park and Milwaukee residents homegrown craftsmanship.

"They need help with beautifying their home and they don't have to go spend a mint to do that. The Lord has blessed us so that we can help them," Bonnie Lewis said.

For 15 years Lewis worked at Harley-Davidson and ran his own shop at the same time. When he was 60 he left Harley to focus on woodworking.

"The best job I ever had was Harley Davidson. I hated to leave there, but my dream was to follow my dream which were woodworking."

Lewis even created pieces for his former employer.

Watching Lewis work, you witness precision. A true artisan.

"If I don't like it I don't think your going to like it."

Lewis admits a project can overtake his life.

"If something about it doesn't please--in the middle of the night it will come to me...I'll change something around and then when I look at it I'll say now that's it."

Fred Lewis Custom Cabinets is believed to be the only certified Black-Owned mill shop and Cabinet Maker in Wisconsin. He builds everything from entertainment centers to storm windows. He constructs the pieces, Bonnie stains them.

Bonnie Lewis admits, "We could have went somewhere else and did this but we wanted to stay in the inner city cause this is where our peoples are."

Bonnie Lewis is clearly proud of her husband.

"He keeps striving and want to show himself..having this job have touched the seed of him and brought him out.

The couple wishes they could find young people willing to keep their store and tradition alive.

"I've had a couple of guys in here, and they wasn't here for the job, they was here for the money they weren't here for the job or here to learn," exclaims Fred Lewis.

And for now it's just Fred and Bonnie building loyalty through quality

Fred exclaims, "When I see a smile, I'm ok."