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Meet the Man Who Builds Aikens

oct. 14, 2017

If you’ve been to Aikens, you’ve marveled over his handiwork and slept in buildings he built. You might not have had a chance to meet him, but the fact of the matter is he’s one of the unsung heroes at Aikens. A quiet, kind and immensely talented man we’re lucky to call part of the Aikens family: Grant Watson, our head carpenter.

Grant first came to Aikens 20 years ago to help Gerry with setting up camp. He continued coming during Molly week over the years to lend a helping hand, and then in 2013 he was hired for a major project: finishing and furnishing our new Lost Lake outpost cabin. 

The following summer he came back and worked the full season, and with our endless list of projects and unwavering commitment to continually improve all aspects of our operation, Grant has been busy with us ever since!

It’s nearly impossible to list all the projects he’s worked on over the years. In the past couple years alone he’s built the new Master Angler’s Row porch, re-did GGO and the Park Place cabins, and renovated staff housing.

Several of his biggest projects include working on the Boardwalk cabins, renovating Big Molly’s Bar and of course our new Lost Lake outpost cabin in 2013, which was named the best outpost cabin in North America by the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper.

Similarly, Grant’s creations were also highlighted in North American Fisherman several years ago when the magazine named Aikens one of the top five fishing vacation destinations in the world. The article praised our “lavish accommodations,” which would not be what they are today were it not for Grant’s unique skills.

Our guests frequently compliment his handiwork as well. “I call it a 5-star hotel in the wilderness,” said Joe Harrington, of Monticello, Arkansas. “It’s the neatest place we’ve ever been. The accommodations are really great.”

Grant’s biggest accomplishments, however, are not the buildings he’s constructed but rather the relationships he’s forged and the positive impact he’s had on our Aikens community.

“Getting to learn from someone like Grant is one of the reasons I keep coming back to Aikens,” said Joel, who’s spent six years in a variety of construction, maintenance and hosting roles at Aikens. “He is so incredibly knowledgeable and knows so much about so many different things. Getting to work closely with him and learn from him is fantastic.”

Julie also enjoys working closely with Grant, as the two scheme together on many building projects. The two collaborate on blueprints and building plans, with Julie often sketching or describing rough drafts, and Grant translating them into final action plans then bringing them to fruition.

“He has a knack for knowing exactly what we want, and he’s very creative and resourceful, as well,” said Julie. “Grant has great vision and takes tremendous pride in his work. We are so lucky to have him as part of our family.”

Pit couldn’t agree more. “Grant does a fantastic job. With a lot of his projects, he’ll add a signature piece to surprise us,” Pit said. “In the Lost Lake cabin, he told us not to get a table and surprised us by building that handcrafted table. He also did the fish engraving in the kitchen and the fish door knobs all on his own as a surprise. Without exception, his surprises always look great!”

Outside of work, Grant delights in his family. He enjoys making them various items in his workshop back home. He also has a special relationship with Pit and Julie’s 8-year-old daughter, Natasha. Natasha and Grant are best buddies, and Natasha can often being found hanging out around Grant and chatting away with her friend.

“Grant calls Shasha ‘Squito,’ as in mosquito, because she’s always around,” Julie said. “Shasha started calling Grant mosquito.”

Grant typically avoids the spotlight––Julie teases that the handful of pictures she has of Grant came from running by and snapping the photo without him realizing––but the soft-spoken carpenter can’t say no to Natasha.

This past summer, Grant built “Squito” and the other Aikens kids a deluxe tree fort he calls “The Bird House.”

Given the quality of the man who built it, it’s only a matter of time before it gets named the best tree fort in North America.