Founded on invaluable lessons and principals forged over many years and skills passed down generations, Piece of Work is a Charleston firefighter-owned business dedicated to carefully salvaging old materials so that they may tell a new story.
Destined to be the driving force and visionary behind Piece of Work, Les spent much of his childhood riding around his hometown of Society Hill, South Carolina in an old pickup truck with family friend Henry Hudson. With the windows rolled down and Henry’s pant legs rolled up, they scoured the trash cans and dumps of the small town for aluminum cans and anything else of value. Together, they made $1,000 every year simply recovering beer and soda cans. As Henry was teaching him about the value of discarded materials, Les’ dad Lamar Baker (known as “Ole Lamar” or “Dead-e” in the shop) was busy instilling the virtues of dedication and hard work. A perfectionist through and through, Lamar continues to provide Les invaluable advice to this day. As one of Piece of Work’s biggest fans, you can bet that Lamar has a hand in everything from the high level of client service to the superior quality of the work. Constantly inspired by those around him, Les was also influenced by Jerry “Private” Morgan, who taught him (among other things) that you can’t build a shithouse without a plan. This approach made Jerry a successful business owner, so Les tries to embody it in everything Piece of Work does.
Les moved from his small hometown near Florence to Charleston, South Carolina after the Sofa Super Store fire in 2007. A 15-year veteran of the fire service, he is an engineer with the City of Charleston Fire Department, an adjunct instructor with the South Carolina Fire Academy, and founder of Speed Simplicity Boldness, which provides relevant and high-energy training to emergency responders.
Les’ impeccable work ethic allows him to juggle all of his passions with ease, and has also positioned him as a nationwide extrication subject matter expert and (unofficially) the best extrication tool guy in the world. Second best is Les’ friend Jason Bell, who taught him that you can spend too much time and energy trying to stay clean or you can just jump in with both feet and get it done.
In the end you will probably end up dirty anyway.
Growing up, Jacob and his brother Herb III spent a good deal of time at a neighbor’s house (Cal and Pip) while their parents worked. To keep them occupied, Calvin would have little projects for them to work on – 3D puzzles, models, cutting parts out of wood on a band saw to make cars and boats, etc., and then painting them. Because of this, craftsmanship was instilled in Jacob at a very young age. When he was old enough, he started helping his dad, Herb II cut grass for an older gentleman, Doc Smith. His dad had worked with him in the hospital, and as he aged, yard work became more difficult for him. In his basement, he had an incredible workshop with all the tools you could ever imagine. Doc and Herb II would let Jacob and his brother help with little projects here and there. While his friends were out playing, Jacob was cutting grass and building things. These were invaluable lessons and fond memories, all of which contributed to his passion for building and creating.
Jacob always had access to the tools in his basement and countless projects with his dad and brother taught him all the tricks of the trade. Piece of Work’s first project, a unique counter for Pale Horse CrossFit, was built using the tools Jacob grew up with and was made entirely at his parent’s house, which is full of antiques and industrial/vintage décor. (Jacob’s mom, Nina, has a flair for arts and crafts and could easily be an interior designer.)
Eventually, Jacob started college and working full time so he didn’t get as much time to work in the shop, but anytime he could help out with something, he did. After a few years with the Charleston Fire Department, where Les and Jacob first met, Les starting taking him to extrication classes. When Jacob saw the scrapyard for the first time, it really got him thinking. He remembered talking to Les about spending some of their free time building things, maybe even starting a business one day, and the wheels were set in motion.
Piece of Work has come a long way since then and it is in part due to the tremendous support from family and friends throughout the process. Les and Jacob can’t imagine having a better partnership and look forward to what the future holds!