Wood Talk: Norman Kaswell

Since 1946, Massachusetts-based Kaswell Flooring Systems has been known for end-grain wood block flooring. A family-owned and operated business, Harold Kaswell founded the company in 1946, and his son, Norman, joined him in 1971. Today, Norman and his son, Joshua, have expanded to serve the upscale commercial and residential markets with end grain, edge grain, and composite block flooring products.

Norman Kaswell was recently featured on the NWFA Wood Talk podcast, so Hardwood Floors magazine caught up with him to ask a few more questions.

Tell us something interesting about yourself. Years ago, we built a beautiful floor at Michigan State University in their biomedical physical sciences building. They had major flood damage about 10 years later and asked me to come out to look it over with their insurance company to help decide what to do. I told them I’d give them my time at no charge. After the meeting was over, one of the school officials thanked me for coming out and asked how they could pay me. I said, “I don’t know, send me a diploma,” and we all laughed. A few months later, they sent me a real diploma and gave me an honorary Ph.D. of “blockology.”

How did you get started in the industry? In 1971, I was graduating from college, not knowing what I wanted to do with my life. My dad asked me if I wanted to jump into his business. After working with him for 10 years, I decided to go beyond the factory floor and get more creative with our end grain, looking at different species of wood and different shapes and sizes, and built a product line in 1980. Today, I don’t think there’s anyone else in the country that does what we do.

Who has influenced your career the most and why? My dad. The business I’m in today was a smaller business for him back in those days, but in 1971, he said he thought I could make a bigger business out of it, so I did. He was a great influence on me.

What is your favorite wood floor project that you’ve participated in? One of our products is at the World Trade Center Museum. I don’t think it gets much more special than that in the United States.

What energizes you to stay in the wood flooring industry? I enjoy watching my son run the business, and he is better at it than I am. I enjoy seeing this little business prosper; it is a niche business. I take a lot of pride in it, the products we have, and the places it
takes us.

What are you listening to right now? I grew up in a musical family. My father was not only a successful businessman, but he also was an accomplished pianist and played the accordion, trombone, and even the baritone horn in the army. So, I like lots of different kinds of music. I listen to Dionne Warwick, Whitney Houston, and John Denver.

Do you have a morning routine that sets you up for success? I go to the local bagel shop every morning, and I have a toasted onion bagel scooped out with a touch of cream cheese and some lox, and iced coffee. Then I listen to some political podcasts before I get
to my desk.

What keeps you busy outside of work? I like to play cards and am in several poker groups. I am a Boston Red Sox fan and have season tickets at Fenway Park. In addition, I enjoy watching sports and videos on YouTube.

Photos courtesy of Norman Kaswell / Kaswell Flooring Systems

You can listen to a technical-focused discussion between Norman Kaswell and NWFA’s Brett Miller, as well as other hardwood flooring experts by visiting
hardwoodfloorsmag.com/nwfa-wood-talk-podcast.

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