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.