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Ventura County Man Creates Hidden Woodworking Workshop In Retirement Community

Larry Thrasher with part of his hidden woodworking workshop at University Village in Thousand Oaks
(KCLU photo)
Larry Thrasher with part of his hidden woodworking workshop at University Village in Thousand Oaks

Builds toys in an apartment in the middle of Conejo Valley's University Village

Larry Thrasher is doing something which has become sort of a lost art. The 79-year-old retiree is making handmade, wooden toys. It’s pretty unusual in itself, but what makes it really unique is where he does it.

Thrasher lives in University Village, a Thousand oaks retirement community. We’re in his home, a beautiful two bedroom, two bathroom apartment. When you walk in, it looks like an elegant unit, with a nice kitchen, well decorated living room, and comfortable looking bedrooms.

He leads us into one of the bathrooms, which looks normal, until he pulls back the shower curtain to reveal what should be the bathtub. There is a huge, custom built cabinet built over the bathtub area, with a work bench and a number of power tools like a drill press.

Next, he leads us back to what looks like a coat closet near the unit’s front door, and rolls out more tools on a cart. There’s more equipment tucked away in a bedroom closet, and a storage closet on the balcony.

Thrasher has a hidden woodshop, which is completely invisible unless you know where to look.

He had a complete woodworking shop when he and his wife Joy lived in the nearby Santa Rosa Valley. But, when they downsized, and moved to the retirement community, he thought his woodworking days were over.

More than a year ago, he lost the love of his life, his wife Joy. With the pandemic turning him into a shut-in, he started thinking about woodworking.

He knows how to design things. Thrasher was in the manufacturing business for decades, first in the Midwest and then with a Ventura County pool supply company.

Thrasher started designing and building his hidden workshop, which includes soundproofing to avoid disturbing neighbors. He’s in a second floor unit:. he told his neighbors what he was doing, and asked them to speak up if noise was an issue. he it's been so far, so good after more than six months in action.

Thrasher says he love making the handmade toys for his family. He has three kids, 10 grandkids, and says he is now making toys like wooden cars and ducks for the great-grandkids he hopes he’ll have soon.

Larry Thrasher with some of his handmade toys
(KCLU photo)
Larry Thrasher with some of his handmade toys

Thrasher has become a celebrity of sorts in the retirement community, with word out among fellow residents about his hidden workshop, people want to see it.

He says as much as he enjoys making the throwback style wooden toys, what he enjoys even more is the faces of kids as they see them for the first time.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.