“I think I can, I think I can!” Little Midhurst woodworking shop, sure could!

Grant Lloyd is a cabinet maker. In 1994 he set up a little woodworking shop in his garage. His band saw, jig saw, router, and hand tools turned out pine shadow boxes, bookshelves, little benches. He nailed by hand, and counter-sunk nails and screws to a professional finish. Grant’s work was labour intensive, his products were lovely.

Grant and his wife Tricia and their three teenagers were as busy on the weekends selling these items as Grant was building them during the week. Their Gill St home and garage in Midhurst was slowly turning into a business.

Fast forward to 2000, if you will, when I literally chanced on to this incredibly busy, incredibly full woodworking shop when out with my client, Tim Cruise. Tim calls on Tricia and Grant with his automatic stapling and nailing equipment and I happened to be along for the ride. It was lunch time. The company’s 12 employees were sitting at a picnic table under the trees of the nearby Midhurst Forest, chatting amiably. All was quiet in the 6,000 square foot facility. But the quiet did nothing to dispel the activity that occurs here. The mezzanine floor of the shop was jammed with desks, hutches, coffee tables, side tables, corner cupboards, clocks, canoe shelves, jam cupboards, benches and hall seats… all pine, all stained and then painted, and then sanded and then stained again. Hundreds and hundreds of items–large and small–are produced by willing craftsmen using more automation than Grant originally employed in his little garage.

As Springwater Woodcraft started to grow back in the mid-90’s, the Lloyds realized they needed to move. They located in Minesing, the kids switched schools, and they rented a little shop space in a partially empty farm equipment business. Each year they took over more space until in 1997 they bought their lot and built the facility that meets their needs today. Their Snow Valley Rd location today offers a showroom in front, business offices on the side, and very noisy (when lunch hour is over) production space in back.

Tricia tells me their biggest pieces are still constructed in Minesing, shipped to Snow Valley Rd for finishing and final shipping. And today the company that began with modest hopes is not only supporting the livelihood of a dozen direct employees, it’s also supporting sub contractors, and delivery people. Springwater Woodcraft ships to every Crafters Marketplace and General Store across Canada, as well as into the U.S.

The firm doesn’t do just one of anything. They price their pieces as time plus materials and they offer economy in numbers.

Tricia calls their products “lodge look” furniture and decor pieces. They sell locally to a few retail stores and wholesale to locations within driving distance in Muskoka, Central Ontario, Elmvale etc. They produce 60-70 different items and automation like the kind Tim Cruise offers allows them to cut production time with more sophisticated stapling and air nailers, vat dipped painting and machine finishing.

The Lloyds’ three kids, Simon, Andrew and Ashley are now 22, 20, and 18. They’ve grown up in the family business and are all enjoying summer jobs there as we speak. They know the impact of their parents’ devotion to the business and to their family life.

Tricia comments that self employment has been wonderful in that it gives them some control over the time they’ve had to spend with their children. “It’s unbelievable, the hours. We thought the bigger we got, the more time we’d have, but it’s the opposite.” She says that working for themselves has forced them to learn, to develop, to enhance what they do. “I used to do a manual set of accounting books, for instance,” she says. “Now I’ve learned how to do it all on computer.”

For Grant the big challenge is protecting his personal time in the shop so that managing their business doesn’t take over the enthusiasm that drove him into self employment in the first place. He has to have some creative development shop time to keep him happy.

It’s amazing, isn’t it, what’s tucked away in corners of our community that we never know about?

Thanks, Tricia. Thanks, Grant.