On a summer’s day in the mid-1970s, where the Green Mountains of Vermont slope down to Lake Champlain, Pat Rainville gave her teenage son, Mike, a coping saw and a sand block. He had completed his work for the day and these tools were the ticket to keeping his mind occupied. Woodworking was not a foreign concept to Mike – his grandparents were carpenters, and he had a mind for creation. He set about crafting various pieces of scrap wood that lay around the basement of his childhood home, letting spontaneous inspiration lead the way.
As clouds covered the sky on May 11, 2020, Mike stood at the employee entrance to Maple Landmark’s Middlebury factory-store, the culmination of 41 years of dedication. One by one, he greeted the employees – for the first time in nearly two months, the company returned to a full staff after being shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the significant challenge that the pandemic presented, it was simply another challenge in a long history of resiliency.
In 1987 and again in 2001, Maple Landmark acquired other Vermont woodworking businesses, expanding on their increasingly robust product line. In 2007, the recalls of Chinese imports led to an initial drop in sales but subsequent boom by the holidays before facing the realities of the Great Recession. Hidden in the background of the timeline, the business moved three times before constructing two additions to the current facility. Along the way, the values of the company never wavered. In short, Maple Landmark is a family business that makes quality wooden products in the United States using sustainable and green practices.
When searching for employees, few business owners would consider hiring their immediate family members, especially their own mother, but Pat was one of Mike’s earliest employees. The Rainville family makes up 16% of today’s Maple Landmark staff. In addition to Mike and Pat, Jill (Mike’s wife), Adam & Andrew (his sons), and Barbara (his sister) all occupy roles within the company. Though not officially part of the Rainville family, some other employees working on the production floor have been with the company for decades and could be considered honorary members. Maintenance Lead Regan Wedge, in his 26th year of service to the company, shared, “Everyone’s your friend. Everyone grew up together here and Mike & the family make you feel like you’re part of the family.” Around the shop, woodworkers of varying terms tend to the saws, sanders, and hammers with one uniting value – making quality wooden products in Vermont.
Though many other manufacturers succumbed to the allure of cheap overseas alternatives, container ships were never an option for the small New England business. “We are simply people who like to make stuff,” explained Rainville, “we would not be true to ourselves if we sold out. We have immense pride in what we make and the knowledge that our hands quite literally made a difference to someone’s life.”
By keeping production close, giving back to the local community comes naturally. “Our neighbors have given so much support to us, it’s only right that we return the favor,” explains Andrew Rainville, “From offering our scrap wood as free kindling, to providing sawdust to a farmer for cattle bedding, to participating in school work experience programs, we do everything that we can to ensure a vibrant community around us.”
If you peel back the many layers of Maple Landmark, everything ties back to one simple core – honest and sincere Vermonters sharing their skills with the world, an amplified echo of the adolescent Mike Rainville in his parent’s basement.
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