Sonny Ridgeway Brings New Life to the Old Town He Loves!

Sonny Ridgeway, carpenter extraordinaire

Sonny grew up with construction in his blood. “My dad worked as a drywall finisher and painter for over sixty years,” says Sonny. “I worked with him as far back as I can remember.  I started by helping the carpenters when I was very young. I really feel like it was a gift I was born with. And those early years with my dad honed my skills.”
 
Sonny determined early on to learn everything he could. “There really weren’t many specialty jobs back then. You had to learn it all. But even today, the learning never stops. I want to always take on new challenges. Nothing does that quite like Lower Town! In those old homes, you really have to think things through. There is lots of improvisation.”
 
Sonny’s first challenge in Lower Town came when the city called him to stabilize 524 Harrison, which would later house Mark Palmer’s gallery. From there, Sonny took on his most ambitious project—Mentor House Gallery. “That was such a large project,” says Sonny. “It was a four-plex, so we had to open up the floor plan from wall to wall and shift the loads as we worked.  We had to keep the roof up and basically clear everything out from the basement to the tops of the walls.  You just don’t go to school for something like that. But Paulette Mentor had a vision that was out of this world. Every time I go into a project, I have to do it with an open mind so I can catch the client’s vision. If I can do that, I know we can accomplish anything.”
 
Another challenge Sonny faced was the renovation of The Stranded Cow. “That is a wood frame building, and it went through the flood. We ended up lifting the entire building to put in a new foundation and footer.” Such tasks prove to be inspirational. “I had leveling problems with some early Lower Town projects, so I started using a water level. We took a clear hose and attached it to a high point inside a structure. We could roll the hose out anywhere in the house and level the entire structure with water in the hose.”
 
And even though Sonny’s craftsmanship and innovation cause the casual observer to marvel, it’s Sonny’s ability to provide his customers with peace of mind that makes him a popular contractor of choice. “People can get really stressed out when remodeling,” he says.  “The artists coming in are basically forced to trust people they don’t know, and they are often not in town as the work is being done.  I want to be able to catch their vision, see it clearly, and see it through to the end.”
 
For clients not yet at home in Paducah, he photographs his progress and sends them the updates.  Paulette Mentor recalls Sonny’s dedication to his clients when one winter, after her home and studio were completed, she looked out the front window to see Sonny shoveling snow from her walkways. “When I met him, I knew I was going to love working with him,” says Paulette. “That was my lucky day.  After working with Sonny, I not only had a beautiful home but I gained a wonderful friend.”
“I couldn’t be where I am without Paducah Bank,” adds Sonny. “I started that relationship with Tom Clayton. We were working together on a Habitat House and really built a great friendship. Tom encouraged me to step out and grow my business. He really had a great deal of faith in me. When I started working in Lower Town, Larry Rudolph gave me a lot of support. Other banks drag their feet, but not Paducah Bank. It really goes beyond the business of banking and construction. When I lost my dad earlier this year, I got a ton of cards from the Paducah Bank staff. They were really there for me and have helped me in so many ways.”
 
“I just love what I do,” says Sonny. “When I can take those old buildings with no floors, no ceilings, and barely any walls and turn them into masterpieces, I feel a great sense of accomplishment. You can see new life down there now. I will never tire of seeing new life in the town I love.”