Looking for local and sustainably made toys for the kids on your holiday shopping list? We invite you to check out our Co-op Connection Business of the Month – Maple Landmark! They’ve been making eco-friendly educational wooden toys, games, and gifts since 1979. Have you visited their factory store on Middlebury’s Exchange Street? Show your Co-op card and receive 10% off your purchases! Read on to learn more about this fantastic local business and learn why president and owner of Maple Landmark, Mike Rainville, was named the 2017 Vermont Small Business Person of the Year!
Maple Landmark is a company of 40+ people dedicated to making great products right here in Middlebury, Vermont. Their business began in 1979 in President & Owner Mike Rainville’s parents’ basement and today they occupy a 28,000-square-foot facility where they make the vast majority of the products they sell. Primarily, they sell to thousands of toy stores, gift shops and catalogs nationwide, but they also have a sweet little factory store that shouldn’t be missed by those of us lucky enough to live nearby. They take pride in being a local company that supports other local companies who operate in a responsible and sustainable manner.
A Family Business
The business was started by Michael Rainville. Since then, three more generations have joined the rank and file at Maple Landmark. The youngest are Michael’s sons, Adam and Andrew. One generation up from there is Michael, wife, Jill, and sister, Barbara. Up from there is Michael’s mother Pat and occasionally father, Claude. On the very top is “Grandma” as she’s known around the shop. This is none other than Michael’s 98-year-old (as of 2017) grandmother, Harriett Brown. While she doesn’t come to work regularly anymore, she did well into 2016 and still makes appearances every now and then.
Michael serves as president and CEO, running day-to-day operations. Jill is Office Manager, overseeing the paperwork. Barbara is the Marketing Manager, attending trade shows, working on public relations and helping in the finish room. Adam is a Project Manager, developing new products and improving old processes. Andrew heads up Communications, working on advertising, social media, and email blasts and attending trade shows. Pat is the Supervisor of our finish room and is responsible for the application of all paints and finishes in addition to hand-painted items. Claude helps in his free time, shredding paper for packing and mowing the lawn.
The wood Maple Landmark uses is from native species. They use rock maple primarily, as well as some pine and cherry. These are some of the best materials for wooden toys and gifts and we are fortunate to have them locally available.
There are virtually no old growth forests left in Vermont, the region was heavily logged in the 1800’s. Damaging floods in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s not only knocked out the water-powered mills that processed the timber but they also taught a lesson in not laying entire mountainsides bare to runoff and erosion. Vermonters have a reputation for being stubborn but we also use our experiences to learn better ways.
In the early 1900’s, Vermont was 20% forested, now it is 80% forested. The forests are growing back, even more rapidly than the rate of harvest. As dairy farms consolidate and abandon marginal hillside property, the wilderness once again begins to take over.
The majority of wood that grows tends to be lower grade material. Since Maple Landmark makes small items, they are able to use downgraded lumber by simply cutting around the defects. This strategy saves on the demand for the rarer, more premium grades. They also make use of small dimension material that is cast off from other plants.
Just as they are careful to fully utilize the wood they buy, their suppliers are careful about how it is harvested. For the entire history of their company, they have purchased the majority of their lumber from one local source, Lathrop’s Maple Supply of Bristol, Vermont. Tom Lathrop is located just nine miles up the road and supplies not just maple, but pine, cherry, and other species as well.
Click here to learn more about the use of lumber for Maple Landmark products.
The sawdust generated at Maple Landmark goes to a couple of local farmers for use as cattle bedding. Their wood scraps are put out for locals to use for kindling. They use very minimal packaging for their products and ship their products in reused upcycled packing materials. Click here to read more about their recycling and conservation practices.
Small Business Person of the Year
Michael Rainville is being recognized by the US Small Business Administration as Vermont’s Small Business Person of the Year for 2017! This honor has been granted in recognition of Maple Landmark’s employment growth, financial success, expansion and community involvement.
“It’s a privilege to have Maple Landmark recognized for its efforts,” said Rainville. “Throughout the years we have been recognized for our toys, but this is the first time Maple Landmark has been recognized for its overall business operations.”
“We are extremely proud to be a Vermont manufacturer. There were times when it was tempting to think about going overseas, but we know what we are. We are an American company that likes to make stuff,” said Rainville.
How It’s Made