Rocky Roads & the Subsequent Economics

Rocky Road is an underrated ice cream, but an overrated way to reinvent your business. After many tries, I have finally completed the High Boy design, and the prototype is currently with our sewing partner in Lewiston, Maine to be fit for the seat. We’re planning to use a mesh fabric with this model, which will keep the water from pooling up on the seat. I can’t wait to share the final design with you.

The design process is what I enjoy the most. Planning, designing, tweaking, testing over and over again is oddly satisfying to me. Particularly when it all comes together. I’ve done this many times over the course of running this venture, and have been lucky to have partners here in Maine who I sub-contract with to produce the wood parts and the fabric seats once I finalize the design. Without these partners it would not be possible to produce our chairs at their current quality. Leveraging Maine partners is a huge part of my personal mission with Maine Casual. From the beginning, it has been very important to me to do my part to keep the manufacturing economy in Maine going. Of course, I am not able to do this single handedly, but it is fulfilling to chip in. Since the days of wooden shipbuilding, craftspeople here in Maine do it only one way: the best way.

Once I completed the wood frame for the High Boy, it was time to contact my wood products manufacturer. I’ve been working with this firm since 2007, and they have been wonderful all along the way. I did not get a response to my first email in over a week. Without thinking too much about it, I touched base again and asked if I could come visit to review my product. The reply I got made my heart sink, and immediately made me question the future of Maine Casual. They were out of business. Another Maine manufacturer closes shop. I found myself back at square one. It was time to scramble, and I was kicking myself for not having redundant manufacturing in place.

I still believe in my chair, and am as excited as ever about launching new products. I’ve long known that I could take the manufacturing overseas and save a bunch of money, but I have never wanted to do that. If I couldn’t produce my product in Maine, I was committed to doing it in the US. I began leveraging my network, and was discouraged to find out that not only here in Maine, but all over the US, there aren’t many wood product manufacturers left who are willing to work with a company and products like mine. Finally, I found a couple of outfits, and likely the last company in Maine with the right capabilities to produce all of my parts.

That’s the good news, and it was quite a relief. The difficult part is the reality around the economics of producing a high quality product in the US. None of it is cheap. Not one part. The quotes I received were consistently well above what I had been paying in the past. Once again, I considered closing shop. Instead of doing that, I’ve reluctantly made the decision to raise prices. It is the only way to keep it going.

Not only have the manufacturing costs skyrocketed, but all of my associated costs have increased tremendously since launching this product over 10 years. Things like payment processing fees, shipping and boxes have all become more expensive, and have been chipping away at the bottom line. I’ve realized that my passion for building these products is not worth it if it is actually costing me money to produce them.

I hope that you understand why I have had to do this, and appreciate your continued support. As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out directly with any questions you may have.

Reinvention with Intention

Every project is an opportunity to learn, to figure out problems and challenges, to invent and reinvent.  -David Rockwell

Really Big News: Oh Yeah Comfy is now Maine Casual.  New products are in development!

Being from and made in Maine has always been a big part of the Oh Yeah Comfy brand.  I'm thrilled to announce that the new name is Maine Casual, and it will be the home of the Oh Yeah Comfy chair.

It's been (gasp) 17 years since I visualized the Oh Yeah Comfy design, gave it that name and began prototyping.  Still to this day, when people see the chair for the first time and sit in it, without knowing the name, they will usually say "Oh Yeah, Comfy!".  Each and every time that happens, I smile.  Likewise, each time I call a hardware or lumber provider, there is confusion as to where I am calling from.  I repeat myself on the phone every time: "Yes, um, its Oh Yeah Comfy.  We make beach chairs."  Then I'll receive product shipped to "Oh So Comfy".  

I love that the name Oh Yeah Comfy captures people's immediate physical and emotional response the chair.  I love the logo, too, which cost me a couple of bucks and one of the the first chairs I made.  I couldn't let go of the Oh Yeah Comfy name, and Maine Casual will be home of the Oh Yeah Comfy chair, and a vehicle for new products.

What I have never liked, however, is that the Oh Yeah Comfy name does not reflect where the chair comes from.  I did not grow up in Maine, but its been my home for nearly 20 years.  Something about Maine inspires me to create.  I'm confident that this chair wouldn't exist if I didn't live here.  Creativity abounds in Maine, and it's always been that way.  There is a rich and deep heritage of boatbuilding, fine craftsmanship and incredible art of all kinds everywhere you look.  There is a mantra with creators of everything from handcrafted items to food and beer, that if it is worth doing, it is worth doing well. I find it all incredibly inspirational, and it makes me very happy.  

This name change to Maine Casual is a reinvention.  It's got my creative juices flowing again.  I'm confident that the Oh Yeah Comfy chair has never met its full potential, and I'm excited to expand the product set.  This venture has primarily always been my hobby, and has taken 6th or 7th priority behind things like my "real" job, getting married, getting divorced, getting married again, kids, family health issues, etc.  The business hasn't received the attention or nurture that it requires or deserves.   

New Products! I am happy to announce that I am working on a taller version of the original Oh Yeah Comfy chair.  That is far and away the feedback I hear most often.  People love the Oh Yeah Comfy chair, but say that it is too low to the ground.  While I designed the chair as a beach chair, most people don't immediately think of using it on the beach and want it to be higher off the ground for use on the deck or patio.  I've tried doing the High Boy design in the past, and ended up pulling it because I was never happy with the way the seat looked and felt when sitting in it.  It wasn't Comfy.  I'm currently redesigning the High Boy with a new and improved seat design.  Prototyping and solving these problems is the most fun part of the entire process.

In addition to the High Boy, I plan to expand the product set to include casual furniture such as the Contour Hammock (pictured here). I just recently completed this hammock prototype. It weighs a ton being made from Jatoba (Brazilian Cherry) and while it looks awesome and feels great, is not practical to produce using this wood because it is just way too heavy (but this one is for sale, if you have the right spot for it!). The plan is to produce this hammock design using cedar, which is probably one tenth of the weight of Jatoba and weathers great outdoors.

I'd also love to add a patio/deck furniture set (sofa, loveseat & chair) made in native Maine white cedar as well as a modern take on the classic Adirondack chair. In addition, I'd eventually like to produce a raised garden/vegetable table as well as possibly a planters bench.  Casual products to enhance your outdoor living.  

The biggest obstacle to the product expansion will be shipping and production.  A day doesn't pass that I don't wish my products were small and easy to ship.  Shipping costs have always been a huge barrier to overcome.  Production logistics will be a challenge, but we have some good options to explore there.    

Please follow the journey on Instagram and Facebook.  I’ll post pics all along the way. Let me know what you think and what you’d like to see from us.

Best,

Brian Fish

 The Contour Hammock in Jatoba

The Contour Hammock in Jatoba