In the furniture world, High Point, North Carolina is the place to be in October. All the big, multi-national furniture wholesalers are there at the Annual Furniture Market selling to retailers from across America.
For the past 30-40 years these companies have been manufacturing their furniture in China, Vietnam and other third world countries. They moved there from places like North Carolina and Virginia in the 70s and 80s to take advantage of cheap labor, illegally harvested wood and lax safety and health regulations.
Well, now that wages and safety are both on the rise in China, the furniture companies are moving back to the USA. This year they are pushing two new over-arching sales themes at the High Point Market: American Made Furniture and Eco-Friendly, Green Furniture.
Hmmm. That sounds familiar, doesn't it? In Vermont our furniture makers have embodied these themes throughout our history. Vermont furniture has always been true to its American heritage, American quality and American jobs. And our states' furniture craftspeople have consistently used eco-friendly, sustainably harvested wood and non-toxic finishes for their work.
From the small custom shops that make one of a kind studio furniture to our medium and large scale furniture makers like Lyndon Furniture, Copeland Furniture, Pompanoosuc Mills, New England Woodcraft, Vermont Furniture Designs and Maple Corner Woodworks, Vermont craftsmen have been authentically American and eco-friendly throughout our history. It's not just a passing fad in Vermont and you can rest assured that we will be providing heirloom quality, natural, handmade furniture for generations to come.
We've been working hard to promote American Made products lately, in support of American workers who need jobs. All of our furniture is 100% American Made (100% Vermont made actually– well OK, I think we have a few chairs that are made in Massachusetts) but we wanted to do more. Dennis started our "Made in America" Holiday Gift Challenge event last month asking people to purchase "American Made" holiday gifts. We've got about 46 takers so far and you can add your name to the list if you're on Facebook.
Well, more and more with each passing day, it seems that buying American isn't just a patriotic thing to do– it's an economically smart strategy. In his Harvard Business Review column, Harold Sirkin sees a resurgence of USA manufacturing coming in response to changing economics. Chinese workers are starting to fight for higher wages at the same time that the cost of fuel and shipping from China to the US are also on the rise. Companies like Volkswagen are noticing– they recently opened a new $1Billion factory in Tennessee.
Now what will the big so-called "American" furniture companies do… like Furniture Brands International, the huge multi-national company that's bought out many of our iconic American furniture companies (Broyhill, Lane, Thomasville, etc.) over the last 30 years? Well they anticipated this years ago and have moved many of their overseas operations from China to Viet Nam where wages are still deplorably low and regulations are even more non-existent than in China. But that's for another day and another discussion.
The good news is that there is still plenty of American made furniture being built in the USA and the best of it is right up here in Vermont!
Remember this photo? Well, I mentioned in the summer that Ken and I were looking to purchase a property that Vermont Woods Studios Furniture could call home.
This week we signed an offer to purchase the old Skyline Restaurant property on Route 9 in Marlboro, Vermont (across from the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum and Giftshop). It's just a first step and there are many hurdles to be jumped before a sale can happen but even so, we're pretty excited about it. And nervous.
We looked at dozens of properties throughout southern Vermont (courtesy of Suzanne King at Masiello Real Estate) and liked this one best because of its beautiful location in the foothills of the Green Mountain National Forest. We wanted a place where we could welcome customers and let them experience the link between Vermont's handmade wood furniture and the forest where it comes from.
So today starts our journey to take Vermont Woods Studios to the next level. We'll keep you posted as to how things go. We were lucky enough to persuade Brattleboro's best architect (J Coleman and Co) and engineer (Stevens and Associates PC) to help us out by doing some initial feasibility studies to see if the (distressed) Skyline property and existing building are up to the task of renovation and re-birth. We'll be immersed in that assessment for probably the next couple months. We'll be asking your opinion as we go– either through the comment link below or on our Facebook or preferably over a glass of wine in our kitchen.
We're looking to make this a green project that produces a showroom worthy of the elegant handmade furniture inside and the incredible natural beauty of the Green Mountains outside. Check back in now and then and give us your thoughts and advice.
The 2011 Solar Decathalon final judging results are in and Vermont's own Middlebury College Team came in Fourth overall in a world-class line up of contestants.
Congratulations from all of us at Vermont Woods Studios!
The team cam in FIRST place in the areas of Communications, Home Entertainment, and Market Appeal. Learn more about the brilliant, hardworking students who made it happen.
The sustainable, energy-efficient home Middlebury students designed and built was filled with Vermont made furniture and accessories, including the Cherry Moon Dovetail Bed we donated. Great job guys!
I'm really not an early Christmas shopper. In fact I'm not a shopper at all. When the kids were little they used to like to holiday shop at the local craft fair… that was fun. But the boys are teenagers now and I can't imagine getting them to do that anymore. A couple times in recent years, I was able to convince Ken and the boys to make an overnight holiday shopping trip to Boston where we wandered around downtown and at the Wrentham Mall picking up a few gifts. I enjoyed that but the kids seem to have outgrown any kind of activity that involves parents.
Anyway… yesterday in the office, Dennis floated the idea of buying only American made things for Christmas presents. Pretty cool idea, don't you think?
But the thing is, this is shopping we can't leave till the last minute. It will take a bit of research and planning. Isn't it ironic that many American made gifts would have to be purchased online and shipped here from across the country, whereas imports are available anytime, in every store in town, at a moment's notice?
So at Vermont Woods Studios we'll plan to start our shopping now and share our research with you as we go. Saturday I tagged along with Annette at the Brattleboro Farmer's Market. That's probably a reasonable place to start… maple syrup, handmade pottery, wooden bowls.
Why not join us in our "Buy American Made" Holiday Gifts Challenge? If you have gift suggestions, pass them along in the comment section below or send photos and links and we'll post here or on our Facebook page.
They say that if each of us in the USA spent just $3.33 on American made goods, that would generate 10,000 jobs… a pretty decent Christmas present in itself, I say.
Have you seen any of the ABC News Made in America specials on World News with Diane Sawyer? This week they're talking about the impact college students could have on our economy if they purchased USA made dorm room accessories and linens from American companies.
It's tough to do since universities are unwittingly pushing imported goods through their campus stores, but it is possible, as demonstrated on the show. And in fact this room was $92 cheaper to furnish with American made items than similar imported ones.
Sawyer notes that the average college student shopper spent $800 this season or a total of $46 BILLION. If that money had been spent purchasing American goods, it could have provided almost half a million American jobs!
So it turns out it can be cheaper to furnish a college dorm with American made items than imported ones? Maybe some smart college presidents will commission their business school faculty and students to get on this and transform their campuses into American Made spaces.
Oh and if they're looking to add American made furniture to the dorms, Vermont's own New England Woodcraft has been building solid wood furniture for college dorms right here in the USA for over 50 years.
It looks like this Vermont-made furniture is pretty well equipped to handle college students, wouldn't you think?
And while we're on the subject of USA made furniture, I can say that 100% of our furniture at Vermont Woods Studios is 100% made in America… in Vermont to be precise.
Your purchases here employ our 5 staff members who operate the website and take care of sales and customer service, plus about 15-20 furniture makers and many additional support people including shippers. You are making a difference when you Buy American and we are grateful for your support.
All of our Vermont made Dining Room Furniture is on sale starting today and going through next Tuesday, June 21.
Just in time for summer! Take a few minutes out of your busy BBQ, pool-side and tanning schedule to check the sale out.
Now is the perfect time to order handmade, heirloom quality dining room furniture as it takes about 6-10 weeks to build. While you're outside enjoying the sun, we'll be crafting your furniture and then delivering it just about when you're moving dinner from the picnic table to the dining room.
Manjula finished posting our new American Made Bedroom Furniture Sale this morning.
This week's sale offers up to 20% off, depending on how many pieces of furniture you buy (minimum is 3 for the 20% discount).
If you've been thinking about indulging in a new bedroom set that will look gorgeous and last forever, check out the sale!
Isn't this a beautiful home office?
It sort of makes me think I would get a much higher level of work done in it… what do you think?
Everything is handmade in Vermont by Vermont craftspeople, using natural solid wood and clear non-toxic finishes. We've had great feedback from customers who recently received some of our first orders from this collection. You can check out customer comments at the independent third party website, GreenPeople.org or on our Facebook page.
I’ve been trying to draw attention to the link between tiger conservation and furniture buying for years. But somehow it seems such a stretch to explain the connection that it gets lost in the ether. No one has noticed my efforts.
It’s hard to believe but there are only about 3200 tigers left in the wild. This tiger subspecies, the Siberian Tiger– the world’s largest cat is literally on the brink of extinction with only about 400 individuals remaining in their natural habitat. If you can’t stand the idea of letting these magnificient creatures disappear forever on our watch, help us spread the word. Follow us on twitter, fan us on facebook. There IS something you can do about keeping tigers on this planet for your children and grandchildren to marvel at.