Wednesday, February 20, 2019

small business saturday

small business saturday

How One Small Business Found Its Way Into Restaurants Across The US - Forbes

Posted: 20 Feb 2019 05:48 AM PST

New York small business CounterEv is making tables out of waste for popular burger joint, Shake Shack.CounterEv

If you're having a burger at Shake Shack or a salad at Sweetgreen, you may be seated at a table made of reclaimed wood from bowling lanes by a small company called CounterEv.

Jim Malone, the founder of CounterEv, started the business largely by accident: living in the small town of Catskill, New York, approximately 100 miles north of Manhattan, he started building a log home and discovered the world of woodworking. As a producer for Saturday morning cartoons, this was a very different world that Malone knew little about.

But he decided to experiment with reclaimed wood for his log home and what began as a little experiment turned into a Craigslist-based business: he posted his creations-- a bench, or a simple a table-- on the site to see if locals were interested in purchasing. The answer, he says was a resounding yes. The response was so strong that he decided to switch industries, going from the cartoon business to furniture and woodworking, an annual average career transition but one that's led him to think more deeply about sustainability, the future of business, and what it means to continue to manufacture in America.

With two shops now, one in Brooklyn and one in Catskill, Malone is expanding the business to interact directly with customers and reach more homes. In addition to their retail fronts, they've ramped up their website, building an e-commerce business to go with his B2B focus to date.

Counterev's new website offers smaller items for the home: chopping boards, accent pieces, bowls.CounterEv

But Malone says that he is driven by something more than just selling furniture. "I knew I wanted to do more than just exploit the novelty of using this beautiful old wood to make furniture. It had to be something more."

That's come in the form of sustainability and innovation with his materials. In 2004, it was a more or less a one-man show, run primarily by himself. Fifteen years later Malone has assembled a team of 15 craftspeople in their Kingston workshop who create a variety of products for businesses such as Shake Shack and Sweetgreen using recycled wood. This emphasis on using reclaimed materials has caught the attention of business owners.

When he started experimenting with woodworking in 2004, Malone stumbled across wood from bowling lanes. "I just fell in love with the vintage heart pine and spent a lot of time experimenting and trying to make something unique that fit my sense of design and of course was also functional. At the time, no one was using reclaimed bowling lanes for anything. They would wind up in a landfill when a bowling center was demolished," he explains.

That wood is now found in some of America's newest fast-food empires. Randy Garutti, the CEO of Shake Shack, discovered CounterEv's tables at Sweetgreen. By then, Malone says they had already done the DC-startup's first 8 locations. Garutti was not happy with their original table maker and liked CounterEv's aesthetic and story. He offered them an opportunity to design tables for their 3rd location. CounterEv's been with Shake Shack as they expand across the country. "Their growth was slow in the beginning so it allowed us to figure some things out and grow to meet their needs as they scaled," Malone says.

Using reclaimed materials though, he notes, is not easy. "It's labor-intensive to prep. It's unpredictable, and of course, there's the rarity factor. For the first several years of business people always asked me how long I thought I could keep using reclaimed bowling alleys."

He still doesn't know the exact answer to that question but says that he's managed to stockpile enough "for healthy growth looking forward several years."

To date, the company has repurposed over 100,000 square feet of reclaimed bowling alley lanes. CounterEv's desire to think about environmental issues, Malone argues, goes hand in hand with being a small, craft-driven business and one that's entirely self-funded.

"It's generally more expensive to use reclaimed materials, just like it is for a business to maintain high standards for environmental and social responsibility. But it's part of our DNA, as the saying goes, so it's not something we have to work at. It's just who we are," he says. "I think it's much harder to retrofit a large business with truly sustainable practices. That's why you get so much greenwashing from more established brands. They're desperately trying to respond to changing consumer priorities, not being innovative or setting a standard."

To put the concepts to paper, Malone is now looking at becoming a B Corp in 2019, a concept that resonates with his values, he says.

Though they've become known for recycling bowling lanes, they're also thinking about the other elements of woodworking that can be toxic to the environment. For instance, varnishes and finishes are often made with chemicals that release VOCs. "Our focus is really on sustainable manufacturing in all aspects of production," Malone iterates.

That includes continuing to manufacturing in New York and keep the whole business close to home, despite the ups and downs of the economy.  "Being close to production has been essential in developing the kinds of products that fit the brand we've been building," he says. "That said, competition is what the free market is built on, and competing with overseas manufacturers is challenging. Fortunately, consumers are becoming more enlightened, and when they're able, they're choosing to buy from brands that have authentic commitments to social and environmental concerns."

As CounterEv expands, they're relying on those more savvy consumers to buy from their new B2C website and are in the process of launching a new upholstery line this year that Malone says is "super sustainable." 

"We're always experimenting with new materials," he says. "We're not just here to make a buck by mass producing classic designs from the last century. For us, it's about making high-quality, unique furniture that's good for the environment—both outside and inside your home."

Walking Tour, Bicycle Racks High On Agenda For Downtown Ste. Genevieve - Ste. Genevieve Herald

Posted: 19 Feb 2019 09:29 PM PST

Downtown Ste. Genevieve president Jenn Merrell believes the organization is just coming into its own as it marks its 10th anniversary.

"I think that there's an opportunity for us to expand our reach in the community," she said.

"We have a great following for our events," board member Nichole French, owner of Sweet Things Sweet Shop, added.

The organization was founded in 2009 as the Ste. Genevieve Downtown Renewal Project. The name officially changed to Downtown Ste. Genevieve in 2018. Its original mission was "to bring about a more vibrant historic, business, civic, and tourist culture within the community."

The group continues to sponsor various downtown activities, although it is cutting its ties to one of them.

The organization has agreed to turn over the Fourth Friday Art Walk to the new Gallery Association of Ste. Genevieve.

"The gallery association reached out to us and said they had an interest in picking up that event because it is an event that focuses on the gallery owners," Merrell said. ...

Merrell said the group is "still committed" to its other activities, including the Chocolate Walk [the first Saturday in February], the Cookie Crumb Trail [the second Saturday in November], Moonlight Madness [the second Wednesday in July] and Small Business Saturday [the Saturday following Thanksgiving].

New activities also are being planned.

"We are in works with a couple of other organizations to see what we can do to partner up," Merrell said.

That includes working with the Foundation For Restoration of Ste. Genevieve on a downtown walking tour following the annual Garden Walk, the Saturday following Mother's Day.

"Because of our Main Street affiliation, we will be promoting that event across the state of Missouri in one of their tri-fold pamphlets during [national historic] preservation month," Merrell said.

Merrell said Downtown Ste. Genevieve also will approach the city of Ste. Genevieve's Board of Aldermen for permission to place several bicycle racks downtown "to make the downtown a little bit more accessible for families that want to cycle in and spend some time walking around town."

Funding has been obtained for nine bike racks, which will hold 18 bikes total.

Lawrence Myers, owner of European Entitlements, the organization's design chair, designed the racks.

See complete story in the February 20 edition of the Herald.

Chamber celebrates 65 years - Lincoln Sentinel

Posted: 20 Feb 2019 02:00 AM PST

The Lincoln Area Chamber of Commerce gathered at Fly boy Brewery & Eats in Sylvan Grove last Sunday for the annual banquet and to celebrate a milestone of 65 years.

The evening included special presentations from long-time Lincoln promoter and Village Lines owner Marilyn Helmer and Economic Development Director Kelly Larson, and the recognition of the Chamber Member of the Year as well. This year, the Chamber kept the event fresh with a less formal affair, and the atmosphere at Fly boy's allowed for event attendees to mingle, network and enjoy refreshments during the social hour prior to the main portion of the meeting. Following the meal, specially prepared by Clay and Linda Haring and the staff at Fly boy's, Chamber President Colleen Biggs recapped Chamber activities throughout the year, including the spring and fall garage sales, the co-ed softball tournament, the Post Rock Festival dime toss, the Halloween Business Boo, Small Business Saturday and the Post Rock Country Christmas events, ribbon cuttings, What's Up Luncheons and the new What's Up After Hours events.

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