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Local designer receives award

Lindsay Heitz is reaching new heights in the world of interior design.

Heitz, the Sales and Design Manager at Danlee Wood Products in Forreston, was presented with the Woodworking Network’s 40 Under 40 Award this past summer for outstanding accomplishments in the woodworking industry.

The 40 honored were chosen from more than 120 nominees, and were recognized in an online ceremony on Aug. 26.

Heitz, 38, has been with Danlee Wood Products, which is currently celebrating its 25th year in business, for the last 1 1/2 years, after 13 years as a kitchen and bath designer at Floor to Ceiling in Freeport. The award, which has now been presented for 5 years, is a result of some changes and additions at Danlee.

“It wasn’t for just one thing,” Heitz said. “Basically it was me being an agent of change for this company, being brought on with my knowledge and experience to improve the company and set us up for growth.”

She implemented policies and procedures, and introduced various forms, such as when a customer needed to change an order, to streamline the custom cabinet purchasing and installation process.

Heitz’s biggest change was creating a cabinet selection center at Danlee’s facility in Forreston. It features 10 different styles of doors, as well as a specially curated palette of stains and paints.

Instead of a catalog or computer to peruse, customers can look at actual doors, and choose what color they want them to be. It can also a mobile display. Danlee has a small shop in Minneapolis, and is hoping to expand into Wisconsin.

“Then we can place that selection center in kitchen and bath showrooms or builders showrooms, where it can be used to easily sell our cabinetry,” Heitz said.

The custom cabinet industry is booming, at least in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic. People are staying home more than ever, and want their homes to be as nice as possible.

“I had a lady the other day say, ‘We normally travel 6 months out of the year, but we’re here in our home now. We’re not going anywhere,’ “ Heitz said. “It’s two-fold. They want to be in a home they enjoy and they love, but they also have money because they’re not spending it on things they normally would, like travel. It’s been a bonus for our industry.”

Heitz is doing what she can to keep that industry a healthy one. She has judged 4H interior design projects for several counties the past 5 years, and also judges design products at the Stephenson County Fair.

On the manufacturing side, Danlee partners with CareerTEC, a local organization that provides career guidance to six local school districts. There is also a Manufacturing Day at Highland Community College in Freeport, but that was pushed back to February.

“I think the industry is growing and sales have never been better,” Heitz said, “but I feel our high schools need to do a better job of training students to come into the industry. We have a lack of training for the trades.”

It was in high school, at Dubuque (Iowa) Wahlert, that Heitz got interested in what would become a career. She was involved in a building trades project.

“The boys built the home, and then we girls designed everything inside,” Heitz said. “That was my first taste of interior design. I did know in high school that I wanted to be an interior designer.”

Heitz resides in Freeport with her husband, Zack, and children Sophia, 10, and Ameliah, 7.