A lot can come from a block of wood. Over the years, Michael Rainville of Maple Landmark Woodcraft in Middlebury has been pushing the grain.
What began as selling to tradeshows, like Addison County Fair & Field Days 37 years ago, has evolved into a 40-employee business that’s made waves in a nationwide market, and has earned Rainville the 2017 Vermont Small Business Person of the Year title from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
During a tour of the wood manufacturing facility this week, Rainsville talked about his first wholesale order of tic-tac-toe games to the now million-unit-a-year production that ranges from small cubes to rocking horses.
In the stain room, you’ll find Rainville’s sister, Barbara, and their 78-year-old mother Pat, hand-dipping parts of toy boxes into paint, or loading blocks into barrels loaded with bright red and purple. The mother-daughter pair have been with the business since its inception.
One of the first noticeable things about Maple Landmark’s operation is the number of human beings involved in the manufacturing process. “There are just some things you just can’t automate (from wood),” Rainville said.
Wood is organic and won’t behave as predictably in a robotic manufacturing process as a car door or ball bearing. Wood can split and splinter, it can warp and bow — and it takes a human being to see its changes through to the end of the process.