Vermont Woods Studios Handmade Furniture

Mission

My Boss is a Cat

January 14th, 2014 by Peggy Farabaugh

My Boss is a Cat

She’s fat, bossy and demanding but when it comes to tough decisions –nobody puts Pepper in a corner.   Article originally posted on medium.com

Editors note: OK, this is really me (Peggy) but I found this old photo of our Marketing Manager Dennis Shanoff and it got me wondering how we ever survived the early days of start-up.

Eight years ago I started this online furniture store. I had no experience with ecommerce— or any sort of business for that matter. I am a chemist by education and a teacher by trade. I had recently lost my job, I was approaching my 50th birthday and I decided my next career was going to be my last. Thirty years after graduating from high school I would finally take the advice my guidance counselor offered: “follow your passion”.

Fast forward a few years after (a slow) start-up. I’ve just hired a “Marketing Manager”, Dennis Shanoff. It’s his first day on the job. I’m imagining this conversation he’s texting to his wife:

Dennis Shanoff: My boss is a cat

Susan: huh?

Dennis: sends selfie (above)

Susan: lol

Dennis: I’m sitting at a desk in this lady’s spare bedroom trying to figure out how I’m going to build a furniture brand around her passion

Susan: which is?

Dennis: saving the rainforest

Susan: from Vermont?

Dennis: most furniture is made from rainforest woods. Peggy’s trying to raise awareness about that and promote sustainable Vermont made furniture instead

Susan: OK so it’s a stretch. Don’t panic

Susan: Yet

Luckily Dennis didn’t panic. Four years after what must have been an unnerving first day at work, Dennis Shanoff has helped transform a fledgling start-up that no one believed would ever get off the ground, into a small business with a reasonable chance of long-term survival.

I don’t think our story is that atypical for small businesses in Vermont or throughout America for that matter. It’s full of hopes and dreams and absurdity. Luck, misfortune and determination. But more than anything it’s a story of how a small group of disparate entrepreneurs managed to leverage their differences in an effort to change the world.

My friend Annette thinks I should start reflecting on this unorthodox journey with Vermont Woods Studios and share my memories here and on Medium.com. Maybe others with a passion to make the world a better place will find or offer encouragement. Think?  Let me know (on Facebook or in the comments section below) if you’d be interested to read more start-up stories about Dennis, Douglas, Ken and the gang.

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The Vermont Center for EcoStudies VCE

January 11th, 2014 by Peggy Farabaugh

Winter Scene | Kent McFarland | VCE

Co-founder of the Vermont Center for EcoStudios, Kent McFarland shares his 13 favorite nature photos from 2013 in this month’s VCE newsletter and on his blog, One Square Meter.

I just received my January 2014 edition of the VCE newsletter and wanted to share some highlights with you.  VCE is one of my favorite non-profits.  It’s a group of dedicated researchers and scientists working to promote conservation and biodiversity in the Green Mountains and beyond.

The hardworking naturalists at VCE have an amazing array of research and citizen science projects going on throughout Vermont.  I first learned about them when Kendall and Riley were little and we got involved with vernal pool mapping and spotted salamander crossing projects.  Over the years we’ve also participated in the development of a Vermont breeding bird atlas and surveys of Vermont’s butterflies and bumble bees.

Another project I follow is VCE’s Caribbean bird conservation which seeks to protect migratory birds that spend their summers in Vermont and winters in Central America and the Caribbean.  This project ties in to our mission of rainforest conservation at Vermont Woods Studios.

If you’re in Vermont or the Caribbean and looking to do some fun and interesting work in conservation, have a look at VCE’s website.  It includes a wealth of information and dozens of opportunities to volunteer with like-minded people who love nature and wildlife.  As noted on their website, VCE’s success is highly dependent on your help.  Their work “gathers strength from volunteers who monitor wildlife in the Northeast and from a network of professional partners that extends from Canada to South America. This approach is successful because conservation is as much about people as it is about science.  With a reach extending from northeastern Canada through the Caribbean to South America, our work in wildlife research and monitoring unites people and science for conservation.”

You can meet fascinating people, have some fun and make the world a better place by volunteering as a citizen scientist for VCE.  Why not give them a call today?

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This Is Why We Do It

January 1st, 2014 by Peggy Farabaugh

Fine Furniture Store | Where Does Your Wood Furniture Come From | Stonehurst

This barred owl visited us at Stonehurst today, reminding us why we located our fine furniture store in the middle of Vermont’s Green Mountain Forest, rather than on a downtown street.   We want to give customers a way to experience the beauty of the forest we’re trying to conserve through the promotion of sustainable wood furniture.  (thanks to Nina for the owl photo!)

People ask me why on earth I would put a fine furniture store in the middle of nowhere, aka rural Vermont.  Finding people who are looking to buy American made sustainable wooden furniture is hard enough.  After all, customers typically have to wait 6-12+ weeks to have their furniture custom handcrafted and specialty shipped to their homes.  Plus… compared to imported furniture, American made furniture is more expensive.  With such a small number of people fitting our customer profile (willing to wait for their furniture to be handcrafted of sustainably harvested wood by Vermonters earning a living wage), wouldn’t it be smarter to have our store on main street in a big city with maximum exposure and traffic?

I’m sure that’s true for most fine furniture stores but at Vermont Woods Studios we’re on a mission to raise awareness about where your fine furniture comes from.  Wood furniture comes from the forest and we believe the people involved in all aspects of furnishing your home have an opportunity to show you how choosing sustainable furniture makes a difference: in forest conservation, global warming, clean air, wildlife preservation and in the way you feel when you’re sharing a meal at your table.

See this barred owl who visited us at Stonehurst today?  He’s able to be here because (under the direction of professional forester Lynn Levine) we’re managing 100 acres of forest for wildlife habitat.  We believe businesses have as much obligation as governments to conserve our planet’s resources and protect endangered species.  We believe our customers support that philosophy and want to see it in action.  As we venture into the new year we extend our thanks to them and pledge our continued efforts in the area of forest and wildlife conservation.

Come visit our sustainable furniture showroom at Stonehurst.  See first-hand how your choice of furniture can make the world a better place.

 

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Buying Handmade: A New Years Resolution 2014

December 31st, 2013 by Kelsey Eaton

Conscious Shopping 2014

 

Now that the holidays are behind us and a fresh new year lies ahead, I can’t help but start thinking about my new years resolutions and the ways in which this year will be different. I’m not one for hoping to lose weight or become rich in the new year, but rather, I hope to make small behavioral changes that can improve communities and help change lives. Shopping small and buying handmade products is one way in which I hope to make a difference this year as someone who loves to shop!

There are many different reasons why shopping handmade is important, and could make a great resolution for you too! It’s important to note that there is no WRONG reason, and that each of us has our own connection with the idea of shopping small.

Here are some great inspirations behind wanting to shop hand made for 2014:

1) Community: By buying something handmade, you might feel a special connection to the place where you bought it from. That feeling of camaraderie makes your purchase that much more special and important, because you know you are supporting a real person and place and that the maker deeply appreciates creating something special for you.

2) Mindful Spending: A phrase I’ve heard a lot recently is “every dollar you spend is a vote.” This has greatly influenced the way I see my spending, as the things we buy can certainly be seen as an extension of our selves.

3) Love: Buying handmade is a wonderful way to show love and support for a local artist, craftsman, local business, etc.

4) Originality: No two items are ever exactly the same when you buy handmade. Besides being able to customize your item to your liking, you can feel good knowing that your purchase was really made just for you.

5) Eco-Friendly: Shopping small and handmade is usually an indication that you are making a sustainably responsible purchase; many crafters use mostly locally sourced materials and do their best to ensure that their creations don’t have a negative impact on the environment.

 

Shopping small is important to each of us at Vermont Woods Studios, and its a central part of our mission. By making small changes in your shopping habits, you can be a part of a huge movement to support what matters… the people.

Wishing you a very happy new year filled with love, prosperity, and health!

-Kelsey

 

 

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Christmas Charity in Southeastern Vermont

December 10th, 2013 by Peggy Farabaugh

Christmas Donations | Southeastern Vermont | Toys for Tots | Feed the Thousands

These guys will do anything for a good cause (Michelle and Loryn ran in the opposite direction when I asked for a blog photo today). Thanks: Sean and Douglas, this makes up for previous pranks and tricks and might even put you on the Nice list.  Who knows… stranger things have happened.

Christmas is the season for helping others in our communities.  Here in Vernon and throughout Southeastern Vermont we have many great organizations that are looking for donations and support.  Your gift of time, money, food or  clothing could change someone’s life.  Often it’s a matter of putting food on a family’s table or helping with heating expenses but it can also mean providing a little girl with the first warm coat she’s ever had.

A couple of our favorite local charities are Project Feed the Thousands, Toys for Tots and the Christmas Stocking sponsored by the Brattleboro Reformer.  We have collection bins here at Stonehurst if you’re looking for a place to drop things off.  We’ll be delivering items to the Vernon Police Department next Friday, December 20.  By the way, if you haven’t checked out the PD’s Facebook page (“Ho ho ho from the Vernon PoPo“), it’s worth a look.  Lots of good local information and weather-road conditions reported there.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas season with lots of giving and hopefully some receiving too!

 

 

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A VWS Table Finds a Home in Middlebury College’s Solar House

October 4th, 2013 by Kelsey Eaton

We would like to congratulate the Middlebury College Solar Decathlon team for their hard work and progress on their solar home! The team are currently in Irvine, California constructing InSite for the competition! We applaud the team for their efforts and dedication to creating an unforgettable eco-friendly home, and their passion for helping showcase Vermont business throughout its design!

This is our 3rd year supporting the Middlebury Team in their Energy Solar Decathalon efforts!

Eleanor Krause from the Middlebury Team expressed her excitement about bringing the home and its Vermont made contents, to a global stage. She hopes that “the heart and quality of our local Vermont products really shines through, and will hopefully inspire all who visit to think more about supporting local and sustainable business.”

Below you will find several beautiful photos of the table in the solar home. Good luck team!

For more information on the competition or the Middlebury Team, check out their Facebook, or the Department of Energy Solar Decathlon Website.

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Hike for the Homeless

October 4th, 2013 by Loryn Dion

Hike for the Homeless

 

 

Hike for the Homeless to Benefit the Morningside Shelter!

Looking for an excuse to be outside this weekend and enjoy the beautiful Vermont fall that we’re having? This Saturday you can do just that and support a great cause! Our friends over at the Morningside Shelter in Brattleboro are hosting the third annual Hike for the Homeless on October 5th on Mt. Wantastiquet in Hinsdale, NH. Registration starts at 9:30 am and 11:30 am on Saturday so plan to be there early!

This event is held to raise money that will help to house the homeless in Brattleboro and the surrounding communities during the coming winter. You can either hike to the summit of Mt. Wantastiquet or take a stroll along the River Trail at the base of the mountain. Participants are encouraged to raise funds and walk as a team or individually. The suggested minimum for individuals is $50 and teams is $250. The foliage right now is spectacular, so whatever route you choose to take, you’ll be in for some outstanding views.

The Morningside Shelter offers extended stay housing for up to 29 individuals and families.  Also, they work with other organizations to provide people with services such as job placement, medical treatment, counseling, budget and nutrition management, education, childcare service, transition back into housing as tenants and more. The Morningside Shelter has been helping the homeless for over 30 years and is committed to serving the Brattleboro area.

As a furniture company, we believe that everyone deserves a place to stay and a bed to sleep in. We love the work that Morningside is doing and support the strides that they are making for the homeless community in the Brattleboro area.

Follow them on Facebook to read more about how you can help or visit their website to make a donation now.

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Vermont Artisan Robin Chase of Maple Corner Woodworks

September 23rd, 2013 by Peggy Farabaugh

Robin-chase-furniture-vtFriday Douglas and I traveled around Vermont to check in with a few of our fine furniture makers.  Our last stop was at Maple Corner Woodworks to see our friend Robin Chase.

Robin’s been crafting beautiful fine wooden furniture for over 25 years and it’s always fun to visit his workshop in pastoral Calais, Vermont.  Besides seeing all of his works in progress we got to tour the Maple Corner campus and meet the furry sentinels that guard and patrol the grounds (see photo).

It was a very productive meeting and it didn’t hurt that it was in a setting of Robin and Annie’s herbal gardens and central Vermont’s rolling hills.

I see Robin’s furniture as a reflection of his own demeanor: elegant,
refined and genuine.  He’s a master at combining authentic Shaker sensibilities with modern, contemporary design.  Check out his furniture creations on our website:

Cherry Moon Furniture Collection

Vermont Made Shaker Furniture Collection

American Made Shaker Collection

Each of Robin’s pieces is backed by the craftsman’s lifetime guarantee.  Let us know which ones you like most on our Facebook or in the comments section below.

 

Maple-corner-woodworks

This is Robin Chase’s Maple Corner Woodworks shop where our Cherry Moon Furniture, Vermont Made Shaker and American Made Shaker collections are made.

 

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Fashion On a Budget — And Supporting a Great Cause

September 11th, 2013 by Michelle Rooks

Created in loving memory of Jessica Bolognani, Jessica’s Closet is dedicated to helping young women build confidence & self esteem as well as to promote good health & hygiene (after all, beauty begins on the inside!).

I love a good bargain. Being a family on a budget with two fashion-conscious daughters, it can be tough to be budget-smart and keep up with fashion trends. Enter the women at Jessica’s Closet in Wilmington, VT and their lovely dresses available for rent. I first heard of this gem when Douglas’ daughter found her prom dress there. Our turn came when we were invited to a wedding this summer at the Harvard Club in Boston. None of the women of the family was happy with the dresses she already had. We made the journey to Wilmington and were very impressed with the boutique we found there. More than 1200 dresses, long and short, in any color imaginable…and all the accessories to go with them. The cost? A donation of $10 is suggested to cover dry cleaning costs.

Jessica, daughter of founder, Debbie Bolognani, was an active young woman “with a smile that could light more than a room.” She died in a tragic accident in 2010. “She LOVED to dress up and was always willing to share her closet with others.” In her honor Debbie and her friends established Jessica’s Closet as well as a a scholarship fund and Jessica’s Locker which is dedicated to providing sports equipment to the youth of their community.

Just two of our selections for the big event.

The mission of Jessica’s Closet is to build confidence and self-esteem in young women.  They provide formal and semi-formal dresses to those who otherwise would not be able to attend homecoming, prom or other special events. If you have gently worn formal wear—donations of dresses, purses, shoes, and accessories are welcome!

My daughters and I spent about an hour at Jessica’s Closet. We had our own “stylist” and every dress was beautiful. It was difficult to make a decision and in the end, we took home more than we needed. The price was so reasonable and we didn’t buy dresses that may never be worn again. That is true sustainability.

While Vermont Woods Studios is known for beautiful, American-made furniture crafted from carefully harvested wood, we also believe in recognizing other individuals and organizations who have a mission and make a difference in their community. Debbie and her friends have done an amazing job of fulfilling Jessica’s legacy for helping others …because every girl deserves to feel like a Princess.  

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Every Dollar is a Vote: Sustainable Shopping Matters

August 29th, 2013 by Kelsey Eaton

Vermont Woods Studios encourages sustainable shopping.
Spending more time outdoors encourages reflection on your eco footprint! This is me enjoying nature in Poultney, VT.

My Opinion

Sustainability matters, it really does. Our planet is going through some major changes that I’m sure many of us have noticed– from entire species of animals being wiped out, to our rainforests being clear-cut, to the majorly devastating natural disasters occurring throughout the world. Big things are happening, and I don’t mean to scare anyone, but it has come time for us as people to take responsibility for our contribution to global climate change and its consequences. We have to start acting responsibly and be very conscious in our efforts to reduce our individual impact on the world!

 

It won’t be easy, but as a leading nation, it is up to Americans to set a positive example to the rest of the world! Can you envision a green future for the USA? A place where we manage our forests responsibly, care for our animals, & support sustainable business rather than greedy CEOs who allow child labor and unsafe factory conditions? A place where we take a second to think about what we are supporting when we make a purchase? A place where sustainable shopping is the norm? I can!

 

The tragedy that occurred in Bangladesh was extremely eye opening for me– especially when it comes to the companies who refused to agree to safer factory standards. It makes sense… these giant corporations are profiting majorly off of practices that are extremely harmful to the environment and the people who work for them. It’s unacceptable. I like to think that every dollar you spend is a vote, and my question is, who (and what) are you voting for?

 

I vote for companies with strict environmental standards, companies who believe that our future (and the future of our children, grandchildren, and beyond) is in our hands. I vote for companies who take responsibility and make positive efforts to decrease their environmental impact. I vote for companies who pay their workers fairly and don’t expose them to dangerous conditions. I vote for a green future, a happier, healthier future!

 

I challenge you to take a look around your home and think about where your products are coming from. Were they made in a factory overseas or by an American craftsman? Were they made from sustainably managed forests or were they made from wood harvested from the rainforest? Does the company you “voted” for have safe, ethical standards of pay and work conditions for their employees?

 

Just think about it. Literally envision your favorite items in your home being made, and the hands that created them. That’s the first step– just become aware that as consumers, we have the power to change the world. Every dollar is a vote!

 

 

 

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