She is a CEO who brakes for salamanders, has bottle-fed rescued squirrels and spent her vacation building furniture for a rural school in Costa Rica. She believes in the future and in the people who will build it. A former distance-learning professor at Tulane University with a master’s in environmental health & safety, she turned an interest in forest conservation and endangered species into a growing, local business. She delivers rainforest statistics at breakneck speed, but knows how to slow down and appreciate the beauty of a newly finished piece of heirloom furniture.
I guess word is getting around about our unique Vermont furniture store because we’re starting to get many visitors from New York, Boston and other metropolitan areas. Customers tell us they’re looking for something beautiful, sustainable and uniquely theirs. That’s why we’re here, of course but “here” isn’t necessarily easy to find.
Directions to Stonehurst, Our Fine Furniture Showroom
So Rebecca and I teamed up with next-door neighbor, Drew Amidon to make a video showing the route to Stonehurst, our Vermont Woods Studios furniture showroom. Drew made the scenic journey and filmed it from Interstate 91 (exit 28A, Northfield, Route 10), past the Inn at Crumpin Fox, left onto Bald Mountain Road, right onto Huckle Hill Road and 5 miles to Stonehurst. He used his GoPro and drone helicopter to show visitors just where we are and what to expect when they get here.
Most Furniture Stores Don’t Have to Make a Video on How to Get to Their Showroom
Who had the crazy idea of putting a fine furniture store in the middle of nowhere, anyway? OK that was me. Well… sustainability is important to me and it’s part of the mission of our company. Customers come to us because they want to feel good about their furniture. They want to know where their furniture comes from. They want to be sure it originates in a sustainable forest that provides recreation & habitat for wildlife, a forest that’s going to be around for future generations.
So when the Stonehurst property on 109 acres of pristine woodlands became available in 2012 I knew it was the perfect location for a Vermont Woods Studios showroom. We’re 3 1/2 hours from Manhattan and 2 hours from Boston. It’s a beautiful drive to get here and once you arrive, you’ll feel a relaxed Vermont vibe before you even get our of your car. Be sure to pack a picnic basket and a bottle of wine because fine furniture shopping should never be rushed.
OK, maybe it’s not your classic go-to for perfect pairs but we think they’re a pretty natural combination. Over the last 2 years we’ve been putting different home decor designs together at Stonehurst, our fine furniture showroom. I think our best combination is the marriage of Vermont’s handmade wooden furniture and Hubbardton Forge’s hand-forged lamps. Customers agree! So we just added a wide selection of Hubbardton Forge table lamps, floor lamps and chandeliers to the home decor section of our website. Here are some of the most popular lamps that customers are pairing with our Vermont made furniture:
The little village of Vernon, Vermont that houses Vermont Woods Studios is in the very southeastern corner of our state. It’s an entry point for monarch butterflies migrating North from their wintering grounds in Mexico. We’ve written earlier about the plight of the monarch and the fact that it’s on the brink of extinction due to the pervasive use of the herbicide RoundUp. But residents of Vernon are not inclined to sit idly by and watch this iconic butterfly disappear.
In June, a group of nature lovers got together on the back deck of Vermont Woods Studios and shared milkweed seeds and plants (milkweed is the monarch’s only food source and the use of RoundUp has nearly eliminated it from today’s landscape). We are planting milkweed in our gardens and backyards with the goal of providing habitat that will bring monarchs back to Vermont. If you’d like to join us please let me know. I have plenty of milkweed seeds and plants for anyone who would like to plant them.
Foster A Monarch Caterpillar
I also have 20 tiny little monarch caterpillars who are looking for foster parents willing to rear them. Would you like to be a foster parent for a monarch? Many of you will remember Carol Richardson who introduced Vernon’s kindergarteners to monarch rearing every Fall for many years. What a wonderful teacher she was! In those days Monarchs were abundant and Carol would bring several caterpillars into the classroom in late August/early September. The kids would watch them transform from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly over the span of a couple weeks.
That was only 15 years ago but now there are no caterpillars to be found. What nature invested 50 million years of evolution into, man has nearly wiped out in less than 2 decades. But there’s still hope! At Vermont Woods Studios we connected with Dr. Chip Taylor at the University of Kansas. Dr. Taylor has created MonarchWatch, an organization that’s dedicated to bringing the beautiful orange and black butterfly back from the brink of extinction.
Today’s Huffington Post features an article about Vermont Woods Studios by our favorite journalist and champion of women in business, Laura Dunn. The article is part of a series spotlighting the contributions of a diverse spectrum of women leading commercial businesses, academic institutions, media outlets, governments and non-profits. We are infinitely grateful to Laura for including me and Vermont Woods Studios in her line-up of famous and not so famous people who are working to change the world.
In addition to writing for the Huffington Post, Politico and The Daily Beast, Laura has her own successful blog, Political Style, which discusses politics, fashion and culture. Although she hails from across the pond, Laura interned in the US House of Representatives for Rep. Patrick J Kennedy and has worked on many election campaigns. She currently works for an Assembly Member at the National Assembly for Wales. Her feature on Vermont Woods Studios explores why we started the company and highlights the green mission that holds us together through thick and thin.
I want to take this opportunity to shout out a word of thanks to our customers, employees and other partners who have made Vermont Woods Studios successful over our 10 year existence. You are the real heroes — the ones who are fueling the movement and making our sustainable furniture business possible. We are deeply grateful.
Every couple weeks, Sean sends a survey out to customers who have recently had our Vermont made furniture delivered to their homes. We want to make sure that we’ve met & hopefully exceeded customer expectations. And of course if we’ve fallen down on the job in any way, we have to ensure we’ve made things right with the customer and upgraded our systems so mistakes don’t happen again. Surveys also give us a chance to ask our customers what changes they think we should make to better serve their future needs. Occasionally though, we slip in a question that quite honestly, could be seen as a little self-serving… like:
What were the most important factors in your decision to buy from Us?
Quality craftsmanship is always a recurring theme in response to this question. Here are some other specific responses that Sean and I were reading today:
“We wanted to support a local business when its price-point was the same as large online retailers. The personal touch was important as well”
“Styles available; quality and source of woods; friendly, knowledgeable, helpful sales person (Rebecca)”
“The guarantee; that it was made in the U.S.; the pleasant people who responded to our question”
“You build with walnut and cherry. Best woods for furniture. I had just finished a walnut table and needed the chairs to be of the same wood. The combination is spectacular!”
“Price and having a basic design that you were willing to alter, and having had a sale that covered the cost of the alteration to the design. It was also a help that you’re close enough to Boston that I could go arrange the alterations in person – we looked at a several of tables.”
Then there was this one from Phyllis W:
“I am not a wealthy person, but when I buy something, I want to love what I buy”
To me, that says it all. It’s the bottom line and the reason we work so hard to keep this small business in business. We want our customers to love what they buy. To Phyllis and everyone who has invested their valuable time in responding to Sean’s customer satisfaction surveys: thank you for helping us to continually improve and further our mission of furnishing a greener world. We hope you love your new furniture!