News and Reviews
Act 250, Water and Building Permits Good to Go
Woohoo! After 5 months of working through engineering and architectural plans for our sustainable Vermont furniture showplace, we have finally been approved by the state of Vermont to begin renovations at Stonehurst. YAY! It’s really not so easy renovating an historic property for commercial use in Vermont but we think it’s worth the trouble.
Vermont requires three permits for this kind of endeavor: a detailed environmental assessment called the Act 250 permit, a water and wastewater permit and a building permit. Together with supporting documentation, the three permits create a stack of paper about a foot high, requiring an army of expert consultants to complete them. And we’re not done. There are many caveats and contingencies that will have to be satisfied as we progress. Ken and I never imagined this extreme when we purchased the building. It was our architect, Jeremy Coleman who walked us through the maze of bureaucracy and red tape and patiently explained the codes and our compliance options.
Vermont’s Complex Building Regulations
At first we were in disbelief at the overwhelming extent of requirements and expense to comply with Vermont’s complex codes. There are several government agencies to deal with and get approval from. Sometimes they are at odds with each other. But as we finally get to a point where our plans have been approved and renovations can begin I guess we are beginning to see some method to the madness.
Stonehurst is Worth the Trouble
After all Vermont is a very special place for nature lovers and we want it to always stay that way. Detailed environmental and building regulations help to ensure that. Like many Vermont businesses, Vermont Woods Studios is built on a green mission. Ours is forest conservation and environmental preservation, so (in spite of the high cost of regulations) I can’t imagine finding a more suitable home for it than Stonehurst in Vernon, Vermont.
Stay tuned for more updates on our sustainable furniture showroom over the next couple months and plan to visit us for an open house in the early summer. Till then keep updated by subscribing to this blog or visiting our Facebook.
See you at the Grand Opening (TBA)!
I can’t believe how lucky we’ve been at Vermont Woods Studios Fine Furniture this year. Somehow we’ve been able to find 6 new staff members, all extraordinary in their capabilities and drive, not to mention passion for our green mission. If you’ve ever owned or worked at a small company, you know it’s not easy to find just the right professionals to bring on board. Small businesses need people who can work under pressure but go with the flow, leap tall buildings in a single bound and take out the trash, be friendly to customers and co-workers but clam up and put their nose to the grindstone when it’s time to crank out the work. Already Sean seems to be juggling those things with finesse.
He’s working for Douglas alongside Liz and Heather G as a Sales and Customer Service Representative. I’ll try to give you some inside scoop on him, so you can surprise him if he answers the phone next time you call. Let’s see. Before Sean came to us, he owned and operated his family business–one of Brattleboro’s favorite restaurants, the SteakOut. Owning a restaurant? That was our first clue that he knew how to work hard.
Sean holds a BS degree in Business Administration from the University of Vermont where he studied financial and office management. While working his way through school, he sold Cutco knives. Now I love Cutco products (they’re made in America, by the way) but they’re not exactly an easy sell. When was the last time you happily welcomed a door-to-door salesman into your home? Right. So anyone who can sell anything door to door gets my respect.
Liz and Heather have been trying to dig up some dirt on Sean (it’s so competitive around here) but at this point– still nothing. It’s early though so stay tuned. They’ll manage to unearth something good.
And speaking of Liz… could it be that she actually believed Douglas when he said we were interviewing for a personal assistant for her? Hmmm. That could explain why she keeps asking Sean to get her coffee and shine her shoes.
Stay up to date on Sean’s adventures with Liz, Heather and other enigmatic personalities at Vermont Woods Studios by visiting our Facebook now and then.
If you’re anything like me, the hardest part about the holiday season is finding the right gift for everyone. I don’t mind the price tag or where I have to go to get it, it’s the pressure of finding something that a person will love that always gives me trouble. With the added challenge of finding something American-made this year for our Made in America Shopping Challenge, I seriously considered using the upcoming “2012 Apocalypse” as an excuse for skipping gift-buying altogether. Luckily, shoppers like me have the magical World Wide Web to assist us with our holiday dilemmas. Here’s my guide to finding gifts for the hard to buy for.
Gifts for the Foodie
My Vermont pick for American-made kitchen wares would definitely be Simon Pearce. We’ve talked about their beautiful pottery and glassware before on our Facebook, but I’ll have to mention them again. Any cook would love to have a Simon Pearce piece in their kitchen. If you’re shopping for someone like me who would rather consume the food rather than produce it, check out some locally made specialty stores near you to find scrumptious treats and local delicacies If you’re in Vermont, try Snowflake Chocolate Baskets, Vermont Grafton Cheese Collections or check out the Vermont Specialty Food Association for more ideas.
Gifts for the Animal Lover
Being an animal lover myself, I can assure you that animal people love gifts for their pets just as much as if you’d bought something for them. The Vermonter will love anything from Vermont Gourmet Dog Treats. If you’re looking for something a little bigger, check Just Dog Treats article about American-made dog treats. USA Made Pet Supplies will also give you some great ideas for animal gifts.
Gifts for the Adventurous Friend
We all have that one enthusiastic friend who is always suggesting that you go skiing, mountain climbing, hiking or bike riding with them with them. American Made Outdoors has great gift ideas for those who like hunting, camping, and fishing. Ragged Mountain also has some great toys for the outdoor enthusiast and they’re all American Made.
Gifts for Kids
Children normally won’t care whether their toys are made in America or nut, but their parents will! Check out Toys Made in America for a very extensive list of fun toys and games for kids of all ages that are made exclusively in the US.
Check out our Facebook for more great ideas to buy American made!
Here’s a little known fact about Vermont Woods Studios- every month we give away a cutting board! The cutting boards are crafted by our own Ken Farabaugh and are available for purchase on our website. The potential recipients of these fine, handmade kitchen wares are our customers. Those who kindly take the time to complete a short customer satisfaction survey are entered in our monthly drawings.
The survey is designed to let us know a bit about your experience with Vermont Woods Studios- from the moment we first appeared in your Google search to the time the furniture came to rest in your home. Look for it in your inbox, post-delivery!
This month we were even more enthused to pick our winner in light of our Made in America Christmas Challenge. Congratulations to Kristina in Florida and have a happy holiday!
Veterans Day is a time to pause and thank those who served or are serving in our armed forces and support the military. As part of the celebration, Vermont Woods Studios ran a four day benefit sale to raise money to donate to the Adopt a Soldier Program. With $20 of every sale being collected, we are proud to announce that we were able to raise $350 towards adopting Sgt. Peter A. Avila’s family.
Sgt. Peter A. Avila is currently serving with the 25th Infantry Division, 3rd Brigade, D Company located in Hawaii. Peter began in the military as a Marine and now is a US Army Soldier. He has served four tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and will soon be deployed again. Peter’s wife Crystal is suffering from kidney disease and debilitating complications. Peter and Crystal’s two little boys (Kenan and Kaleb) and a baby girl (Deanna) are growing up without their father’s presence nor do they have family members living close enough to assist in times of need. Many other military families are in similar circumstances, serving their country without complaint.
The Adopt A Soldier website provides easy ways to help, such as:
- Donate a holiday gift or phone card
- Send letters to our troops
- Send a care package to a soldier or his/her family
- Make a financial donation to a soldier’s family
Thank you to everyone who purchased from us or donated to the Adopt a Soldier Program during Veterans Day this year. And a big thank you to all of our military personnel! That staff at Vermont Woods Studios appreciates the sacrifices and dedication of our service men and women.
Our web developer, webmaster, problem solver, debugger and Go To Girl for all things technical is leaving us. We are sad to see Manjula go but happy to wish her well as she heads on to bigger and better things. Under Manjula’s steady hand, we’ve gone from a teeny tiny online furniture company offering a few hundred specialty products 3 years ago, to a (still relatively tiny but rapidly growing!) web-based furniture store selling thousands of customizable Vermont made furniture pieces to customers in every state across America. Thank you Manjula!
Now it’s time for another superstar to carry the Vermont Woods Studios ball and if you landed on this page, maybe it’s you? Check out our web developer – webmaster job posting to see the details. Naturally we’re looking for someone who loves working with shopping carts, content management systems and all those acronyms everyone else knows nothing about: PHP, HTML, CSS, CMS, MySql. But equally important we’re seeking someone who’s passionate about the environment, shares our green mission and is fun (or at least easy) to work with.
We are flexible about logistics and scheduling for this position and will consider part-time, full-time, consulting arrangements and a combination of these. Initially we will need someone to work with us in our Vernon office to learn about our business and our highly customized CMS and become integrated into our team. Once the basics are out of the way, we can consider alternative arrangements.
Think the job might be a match for you? Check out our fine furniture website and learn more about your future co-workers, then email your resume, salary requirements, availability and 3 personal or professional references to email@example.com. We can’t wait to hear from you!
Sandy Dog Nannies of Vermont
After Hurricane Sandy tore through the Northeastern coast leaving a mess of destruction in her wake, many families had to evacuate their homes and are now living in temporary shelters until they can find a way to put their lives back together. One of the consequences that many people over look when a disaster occurs is what happens to family pets when people move into these shelters. Some shelters will take pets for a few weeks but after that, these families must find other solutions for their animals. Usually this means surrendering them to animal shelters and groups that are already filled with animals displaced by Hurricane Sandy. While local humane societies are doing a fantastic job at keeping up with the influx of abandoned pets, many people are just not willing to part with their beloved pets for good.
Luckily, there’s the Sandy Dog Nannies of Vermont! This group, founded by eight caring individuals, is working on connecting families in need with reliable, acceptable fosters in Vermont. Fosters will take pets in for up to 6-8 months while their owners look for more permanent housing. The group is currently looking for volunteers to foster animals, transport animals from NJ to VT, coordinate transport missions, respite support, perform home inspections and volunteers for general administrative work.
While I wasn’t able to convince Peggy to foster a dog here at the office (yet!), Vermont Woods Studios is currently looking for ways to get involved with the Sandy Dog Nannies. We’ve volunteered to transport dogs to Vermont and conduct home visits before dogs are placed with families. I’ll keep you posted on our progress!
Other Ways You Can Help Sandy Victims
Blood Donations: The American Red Cross is in need of blood donations after the cancellation of over 300 blood drives. A few of us here in the office will be heading into Brattleboro to give blood in a few weeks. (Check back on our blog in early December to see how it went).
Meals on Wheels: Citymeals.org delivers prepared meals to thousands of housebound elderly New Yorkers everyday. After Hurricane Sandy, there was an increased need for non-perishable meals for NY CityMeals recipients. Being volunteers for Meals on Wheels here in Vernon, this organizations’ efforts resonate closely with us. They are accepting monetary donations that are 100% dedicated to the preparation and delivery of meals.
Help by Request: AidMatrix along with the National Donations Management Network and the American Logistics Aid Network has a consolidated list available for responders to see exactly what is currently needed in problem areas.
More Help Links: The New York Times Blog is a great place to find more links and lists of exactly what is needed.
Looking for luxury furniture? Maybe you’re in luck. Are you a Brad Pitt fan? I liked the Oceans movies and Seven Years in Tibet. I’ll admit Brad’s easy on the eyes but a lot of his movies are over the top in action and violence so I don’t watch them. Thus I really don’t know how good an actor he is. Mostly what I know of Brad Pitt is from reading the covers of tabloids while waiting in the checkout line at Price Chopper. He seems like a pretty busy guy, doesn’t he? Glamorous mega movie star, Chanel Ad Guy, Mr Angelina Jolie, world famous director and producer, humanitarian, political and environmental activist. Not to mention father of 6 children.
Why is Brad Pitt Designing Luxury Furniture?
And now he’s adding furniture designer to his workload. Go figure. Is he bored? Does he need money? I wonder what is it that would compel him to add another career to his seemingly colossal workload… and by the way he’s adamant that this isn’t just a case of putting his name on someone else’s work. He says it’s all him. Whatever.
Anyway, seeing (at least from the headlines) that Brad’s a passionate environmentalist, I assumed he took up luxury furniture design to lead the rich and famous into a greener, more socially responsible direction. He’s probably using recycled plastic, reclaimed barnwood and natural materials for his eco friendly, minimalist furniture designs, right?
Well, not exactly. Let’s see… he’s got a a bed built with rare tropical rainforest wood and leather from sting ray skin; a white Italian marble bathtub, built for two and shaped like someone’s derriere; a glass top table with a 24-karat gold-plated base and a $45,000 molded white plastic arm chair trimmed with fake fur.
Did you even know there was such a thing as sting ray skin leather? Who buys this kind of stuff anyway?
Now I don’t want to criticize Brad Pitt. I realize everyone’s idea of home decor doesn’t include natural, eco-friendly wooden furniture like the stuff Vermont is famous for. But for someone who professes to be so altruistic, I feel like he might be missing the mark a bit.
What do you think? Would you want to have any of Brad’s luxury furniture designs in your home? Here’s what one observer said about his prolific talents: “Is there anything Brad Pitt can’t do? Answer: Yes, design furniture.” Let us know your thoughts on our Facebook.
About three weeks ago, we held a one day sale for the Bonnyvale Environmental Educational Center. BEEC is a member-based non profit organization founded in 1991 with the mission to develop a more ecologically informed citizenry through education and action in order to enhance and sustain the vitality of southern Vermont’s bioregion. BEEC organizes and leads many community-based environmental research and conservation programs, including watershed stewardship, reptile and amphibian conservation initiatives, and biodiversity planning and protection.
Last Friday, Manjula and I traveled to BEEC to meet with Patti Smith and Belle Coles, two of BEEC’s amazing staff, to share the details of our sale and present them with a check for $800. They revealed to us that this money will go towards future wildlife rehabilitation efforts that they have been working on. BEEC is currently looking at the feasibility of being a hub for wildlife rehabilitation activities in Southern Vermont. If you would like to learn more about how you can help with their efforts, take their wildlife rehabilitation survey.
Part of our mission is to be involved with local non profit organizations, like BEEC, that support sustainable forestry projects. Vermont Woods Studios was founded to help protect trees and forests around the world, so we take our community service very seriously. We are proud to have been able to support such a great organization and we look forward to working with them again in the very near future!
Follow our blog to learn about how non profit organizations like BEEC fit in to our mission and how Vermont Woods Studios remains active and engaged in our community. You can also check out our Facebook to see other ways that we support local businesses and organizations.
Hurricane Sandy: What Vermont Can Do to Help
Just over a year ago, Hurricane Irene tore through Vermont leaving much of the state flooded, damaged and powerless. Many Vermonters lost their homes, their belongings or their loved ones because of the storm. Luckily, our neighboring states pitched in and offered disaster recovery assistance on the ground, collected supplies and supported us with monetary donations. While damages from Irene can still be seen across the state, we’re much stronger thanks to the help we received from our fellow New Englanders and Northeastern states.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Vermont was luckily spared minus a few thousand power outages, which is nothing compared to the devastation found in other Northeastern states. With over 8 million without power, as much as $50 billion in damages, over 3 feet of snow, and a death toll of 80 and rising, Superstorm Sandy is the costliest Hurricane to hit the Northeastern states in history. Many coastal communities are still underwater and much of the area is in the dark.
As Vermonters, it’s time to pay it forward and help out those who helped us during dark times. Vermont Woods Studios is shocked by the photos and stories that are popping up all over the news and we’ve been scouring the web looking for opportunities to lend a hand. It’s still very early to assess what kind of assistance is needed, but here’s a list of helpful links that have some great information on what you can do.
- VT Flood Response – Part of the Vermont Community Foundation, this website started back when Irene hit to help Vermonters find necessary resources. The site is again working to help those affected by disaster, but this time they’re reaching out to our neighbors. Check out their blog for up to the minute information on volunteer opportunities and resources for those affected in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York.
- Volunteermatch.org – VolunteerMatch has compiled a great list of information about assisting with Hurricane Sandy. This site also has a great database to find volunteer opportunities in your area. You can search by cause, age group or location and find a program that’s right for you.
- American Red Cross – The American Red Cross is a major hub in disaster recovery. While the money you donate is not guaranteed to go to Hurricane Sandy victims (donations go into a fund for any disaster recovery effort), the money will help someone in need.
- Food Banks in CT, NJ, and NY – Donating to a food bank is a great way to donate to victims of a storm when you are not able to physically lend a hand. Food Banks in the affected areas are working hard to feed those who lost their homes and belongings to Sandy.
When a disaster like this happens, especially one so close to home, our first response is usually to jump in and lend a hand on the ground or bring supplies to those in need. Right now, many areas are still in disaster mode coming out of this storm. Emergency crews are working tirelessly to help those in danger. If those areas were flooded with inexperienced volunteers or with mass amounts of unnecessary supplies, it would make the jobs of rescue workers even more difficult. Until the major areas affected are in recovery mode, there is not much that the rest of us can do except donate what money we can and send thoughts and words of support.
Vermont Woods Studios expresses our condolences to families affected by Hurricane Sandy. Since we have customers and employees with families in those regions, we feel a special need to offer our help and support. While we have not organized anything yet, we are currently looking for ways to volunteer or raise money to support the victims of the storm. Keep an eye on our blog as we update with new resource links as they become available and opportunities for you to give back.