Friday, November 27, 2009

WINSLOW: Area cabinet makers carve out niche business

WINSLOW: Area cabinet makers carve out niche business

Monday, October 26, 2009

Made in Maine and More?

The store used to be called Made in Maine. Now they added More. I like visiting their store in Augusta, Maine, primarily to go T-shirt hunting in the bins of test shirts Liberty Graphics sells at lower than usual prices. (They are great shirts!) I went in last week to do just that when I noticed an entire line of Mission style furniture in the middle of the store, which, from a traditional furniture maker's point of view, looked pretty cheap. It looked rickety ... like you would have to screw it together yourself ... and it is made in Pennsylvania. That was when I looked around the store and noticed the More.
The decision to add out of state furniture makers, and More, to Made in Maine, I am sure had nothing to do with a shortage of furniture makers here in Maine. I can only guess what reasons were used at that boardroom meeting, so I will.

"We can't find anyone in Maine who can produce furniture cheap enough for us to make a profit"

"Look at IKEA and their price points and their annual sales"

"We want to remain US made, so let's find someone who can meet our requirements"

So instead of going through the process of looking at and scrolling down through the 140 Hand Crafted Furniture Makers to see who they could promote, they chose the road to Pennsylvania.

My company is listed there. Cork Cove Furniture. I had cost, wholesale and retail prices for my hand made furniture. I was begging for sales ... any sales ... in 2008. I was cutting deals with customers just to keep the bills paid, and I couldn't even manage that.

Could it be that there just isn't a place where everyone knows they can go for anything Maine Furniture related? Did those board members try to find us local cabinetmakers, and could not?

Did they feel they had to make this decision because they needed to compete with the companies dominating the search results?

This is why was created. We will brand Maine Furniture worldwide as has been done with Maine Lobster and Maine Blueberries.

When Maine DECD Commissioner Richardson announced that he will work with our organization and pursue a Maine SEO Council to help market Maine's Woodworking Industry, he placed in our hands the sword to slay the dragon. SEE VIDEO HERE

The multi-national, multi-million dollar companies at the top of internet search results will have to give way to Maine, our woodworking friends and family members, and our drive to support our communities.

Maine Furniture Makers produce world class products, and it is my personal goal to make sure everyone knows.

It is my goal to convince Made in Maine to take down that More.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Woodworking in Maine and SEO

Internet search engines are the new Yellow Pages, and now woodworkers here in Maine have a leg up on the move up in search result pages. I started the non-profit,, because woodworkers in Maine have not received equal treatment in the way the state government promotes all its other industries. is a place where Maine woodworkers will be promoted for FREE. I have the contacts, the tools, and the know-how to get the word out that Maine woodworkers produce some of the best products in the world.

Using the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) from, in six weeks, on October 24, reached number FIVE for the search term "Maine Furniture". There are 33,000 searches each month for this term on Google.

What really helped, in addition to having the properly programmed website and SEO plan, was the link we received from the Maine DECD. Government links carry weight with search engines so it is only natural that the government help it’s local businesses with a targeted Search Engine Optimization program.

In an exclusive interview with the Commissioner of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, John Richardson announced to me, and the world, that he will provide state government links to woodworkers here in Maine to help them promote themselves online. He is most likely the first government official in the United States to make such an announcement. will be working closely with the Maine DECD to help woodworkers across this state get the attention they deserve. Richardson announced he will add a "Furniture" category on their sites and begin branding Maine Furniture as has been done with Maine Lobster and Maine Blueberries.

I have worked really hard at trying to get the State of Maine to recognize the importance of helping its small business owners, in particular, its woodworkers, in achieving a presence in search results. Having the State of Maine step in and provide links, and educate small woodworking business owners about the value of SEO is crucial to our economy. A State of Maine linking campaign, hands down, is the biggest bang for a very small taxpayer buck. Local Maine furniture makers will now be able to compete with huge corporations which spend millions and make billions via dominating search results. "Maine Furniture", with, can now stand branded next to the "Maine Lobster" and "Maine Blueberry".

I cannot thank Commissioner John Richardson enough for his forward thinking and his personal drive to promote Maine's woodworking industry which is so vital to our economy.

Please follow the link here to the video of Commissioner Richardson's exclusive interview with me, on behalf of

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Maine Furniture Makers Web Development

Maine's woodworking community is a part of our everyday lives, whether we are in the trade, or not. We all know someone who is a woodworker, or know someone who is close to one. Local carpenters, furniture makers, cabinetmakers, restorers, and contractors, all keep our lumber stores, gas stations, grocery stores, coffee shops, and restaurants busy every day.

Google's ranking system gives huge credibility in its results to COMMUNITY driven content. The companies at the top are the ones with the cash, but we, as a collective of smaller communities, can beat them, and Nathan McKelvey, my brother, and founder of, has not only figured out how, but has proven it can be done. is so much more than just another website trying to promote an industry or trade. We are far from just another attempt at a local directory. is the registered name of our non profit company. Our goal is to provide a place where any woodworker can get a VERY affordable website, and develop and maintain a presence in online search results. and Hidden Equity will work with woodworkers featured on our site to make sure they have a website, and at the very least, they will still be able to have videos of themselves talking about their woodworking history, and of them working in their shop, as well as a bio with photos. This is at NO COST whatsoever. Please just talk to us.

My brother, Nate, has spent his career developing the software which drives Hidden Equity. Before the fire at my shop which claimed everything, I was doing the best work of my life. A songwriter's style evolves with time. As we age, we see things more clearly, and we weed out what isn't important, and focus on what is important. I know Nate's history and where he has always come from, and that it is just from a place of simplicity. Why can't we all just get along? Why can't some people, no matter how hard they try, or how good they are, make ends meet? Why do we struggle with status quo? It would be so much easier if ....

... say, perhaps, that there was a way for small business owners to show up in Google search results. Why should the huge corporate conglomerates be the only ones to be on Page One of Google? They spend MILLIONS of dollars every year to make sure they are there. What about us?

Where is the woodworkers commission, like the Maine Lobster Council? Or the same for our blueberry producers, or lodging industry, or potato farmers? Who is out there determining quality and setting standards, and educating the consumers on behalf of the woodworkers? Who cares? We are all just out there trying to make ends meet, occasionally complaining about big box store products with which we can't compete. and Hidden Equity, however, have proven that a couple guys, operating on day to day personal financial budgets, can indeed compete online with multi-million dollar companies.

I just ran through a reputable online site evaluator, and it received a grade of 87%. My site, designed by Nate, has been active for seven weeks. The key words we wanted to target were "Maine Furniture", for which there are 33,000 searches per month. Last night I showed up at number six on Google. Amazing. And the there are still details that the evaluation didn't pick up because we had just made some adjustments that take a little time.

One Maine woodworker I read about recently pretty much laid it all out when he said he has put as much time into his online marketing as he has spent actually working on jobs, if not more., and Hidden Equity have done the research and nailed down the formula so you can focus the majority of your energy on your craft. We will give you the tools and show you how to promote yourself, as we promote you and your peers simultaneously. It works. is here to promote the exceptional quality wood products made here in Maine, research and record Maine's woodworking history, and reinvest into our communities. There are proven models of wood shops in high schools that make money, and have job placements after graduation. We will set up scholarships for our students to further their woodworking education at the internationally-known schools this state has to offer. We will host events where local artisans can showcase their works. We have a studio where you can consign your works for far less than the going rates, where ALL proceeds are used to promote Maine woodworkers.

We are not just another online directory, and I want you to know this.

Thank you!


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Un-Mixing Maine's Woodworking Messages

While the economy has undeniably hurt many small woodworking shops here in Maine, and the overall Maine woodworking industry as whole, there are still many who are just as busy as they have ever been. The Maine Wood Products Association's "Splinters" article posted in February, 2009, titled "Mixed Messages", addresses this. "During the recent MWPA Annual Meeting in Farmington, the new “roll call” session brought out a lot of good information about the condition of our industry. Unfortunately, the news was “all over the map”, from dire to encouraging to downright busy."

The "dire", I believe, is just the tip of that iceberg. It has been seven months since that article was posted. The economy has been in a steady drop, and prices for everything from groceries to insurance have kept rising. Adjustable Rate Mortgage percentages have risen, and the the banks have tightened restrictions for new loans. There has been migration out of the state for for higher wages. President Obama in his address to Congress stated that insurance premiums have risen 3X faster than wages. At least 30% of a small woodshop owner's budget goes to insurance costs. Then they are hit with the IRS' self-employment tax each year too. Maine is one of the highest taxed states in the country. School enrollments have been falling in this state for years resulting in cuts in industrial arts classes. With the job market so tight, wages are down. I can't imagine being in a paid apprenticeship position for $8.00/hr. I would be willing to bet the number of apprentice woodworkers has decreased substantially over the last fifteen years.

I learned woodworking in my high school. After college I went to work for a house builder and worked in the wood shop building windows, doors, and stair parts, and I made $8.00/hr. I was single, and my rent was cheap with roomates. I apprenticed for a furniture maker for several years after at $10 - 20.00/hr. He had learned his skills from his father. This was my experience, and I haven't been aware of any similar experiences in recent years. That's not to say they are not out there, but I really believe the times are different now. The house builder I worked for employed fifty carpenters, and supplied them all with health insurance, including dental. How many furniture/woodworking/homebuilding companies are out there today that employ those numbers? Moosehead Furniture has about 20 employees (from my understanding), and they are all in danger of losing their jobs. I have heard of other companies in the Millinocket area that are close to closing too. I received a phone call from an insurance agent who told me he knows his friend, a cabinetmaker in the Portland area, who currently has no liability insurance.

I think most everyone here in Maine knows someone who knows a woodworker. I think 100 years ago most people just knew a woodworker. I think today we are heading towards a 3rd degree of separation. Try asking around.

I think we, as a community, need to support those who are doing well in these troubled times, as well as those who are not doing well. I think we will all benefit by getting the word out nationally, that the quality of maine craftsmanship is world-class. The bottom line is money. We need to prove to consumers that the furniture made here in Maine is an investment, and is generational. We need to educate consumers about what constitutes good vs. bad furniture. We need to let people know that buying local is in itself "green". I think we should see more free venues for promotion for local woodworkers, such as town-sponsored events where other artisans can take place too. I think it is important to document as much of this state's woodworking history as possible, because I just don't see it out there. There are so many talented people in this industry who go unnoticed. They have to pay to be documented in ads in magazines, or pay to get listed on directories. They have to hope someone other than their clients (the media) will notice their talents and do a story on them. Has FOX news ever done a story on a local woodworker? Our media covers the tragedies in our lives way more than it ever champions the average person, skilled in their trade, and active in their community.

Mixed Messages is right. With all the social media available today, I believe it IS possible to un-mix the messages. By spending our money wisely and locally, and using our FaceBook, Twitter, and MySpace avenues, we can extend the "word-of-mouth" far beyond what it has traditionally been capable of. Free promotion, with very little effort.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Support Maine's Woodworking Community; It Only Takes 10 Minutes

I think it is so unfortunate that the media wasn't alerted to the fact that there was a small, one-man shop operating out of the Gardiner Mill. I would like to thank the Kennebec Journal, and the Hallowell Record for printing the story of my loss. To me, and all the other small shops dotting the Maine map, it's another example of our industry gone unnoticed. This economy is crushing small cabinet shops all over the state. I have received calls and emails from cabinetmakers, and people who know cabinetmakers, all saying the same thing: It is extremely hard to make ends meet these days, and it's not getting any better.

People are looking to save money by purchasing "big box" kitchen cabinets and furniture. What is happening is that the local woodworkers cannot compete with the huge companies using sub-par materials, and out-sourcing their production to other countries. When one cabinet shop closes, it absolutely has a ripple effect in the community. Hardware and lumber stores lose the business. The coffee shops, the grocery stores, the gas stations, the paint stores. All at the "expense" of cheap furniture that starts deteriorating at the first hint of moisture, and more often than not, contains harmful gasses that release when wet.

The Story is about a suffering, if not dying, industry here in Maine. Woodworkers are an overlooked asset to our economy and community. The fire at my shop and the media's omission of Cork Cove Furniture's presence there is a small example of the fact that so many shops are just one disaster away from closing. That disaster could be a lost bid, or a bid too low taken, a finger cut off, a day or week down-time during a critical phase of a project, or even a customer refusing or unable to pay a bill. It's that close for us. Buy locally. Save and spend wisely on things that last. It matters, believe me.

Here are some links to the editors of the papers who ran the story. Please contact them and let them know about a woodworker you know who may be in danger of losing their livelihood. President Obama referred to higher health care costs for the self-employed, but insurance costs across the board for a self-employed cabinetmaker account for 30% (minimum) of their operating costs. I will address this in my next posting. I welcome any and all comments! Thank you.

Kennebec Journal:

Bangor Daily News;

WLBZ2 Bangor:


WCSH Channel 6 Portland:

Please take 10 minutes to follow these links to add a comment about a woodworker you know who is hurting in these difficult times. Maine's woodworking community has been such an understated valuable resource to our way of life, and it is deteriorating before our eyes. By supporting your local cabinet shops, you are supporting "green" practices, as well as your local community.

Thank you!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The only asset the fire left me was my domain I had years of work invested in Cork Cove Furniture, and as the economy went from bad to worse, so went the custom woodworking industry here in Maine.

Maintaining a steady work flow became increasingly more difficult and time-consuming. Bidding became so competitive people were dropping their prices as much as 30 -40 % just to make sure they got the work. I was the number two bid, out of three, on a job where the client took the lowest bid, far below mine. I recall wondering how the winning bidder could possibly make more than three dollars an hour on that job. Something had to give. Quality? Operating costs? Safety? This situation hurts everybody.

Maine's woodworking image on the national scale is top-notch. Heavy influence from the Shaker work ethic, and joinery techniques is apparent in Maine craftsmanship.

The woodworking industry here in Maine is so ingrained in all of our lives, that it's easy to overlook the real difficult problems it is facing. It goes unnoticed to the point that no one knew, or even bothered to look, that there was a business in the mill fire that lost everything.

Three days after the fire, after reading every news report about it, every single article referred to the mill as abandoned. I Googled the address, 483 Water St., Gardiner, ME, and Cork Cove Cabinetmakers appeared three times on the first page. Not one reporter, from the ten or so articles I read, had any idea who occupied the building.

I feel terrible enough, and embarrassed that I did not have insurance, but I hope that by bringing attention to the fact that there was in fact a business, mine, that operated out of that "abandoned" mill. Perhaps that by calling attention to this, someone will see the value in coming forward with information about the person, or people, involved in setting the fires.

In the meantime, I will continue to be thankful that no one was hurt in the fire, and no one was hurt battling the fire. The fire took everything except my domain name, Now, I want to take this opportunity to explore and document Maine's rich woodworking history. I want Maine Furniture to be a place where people can learn about woodworking, and furniture, and history, and share their stories, and associations, and interact with others whose passions lay in this industry and state.

So many small shops go unnoticed. High schools have cut their woodworking classes. The economy has forced sacrifices in quality and safety. Cheaper, low quality furniture is too readily available, and does not last.

Instead of buying a cheap dining room table and chairs, have a local person make a table for you. Buy the chairs when you can afford them next. The money saved long-term is remarkable. Buy local, buy "green". By supporting your local cabinetmaker, you are dealing with someone who wants your business, and cares enough to stand by their work. You won't need your receipt, and you won't get put on hold. If somthing ever goes wrong with their work, they will be there to fix it because it is their name, and their reputation, locally, that matters to them. You matter to them, and what an incredible beginning to a business relationship that has so much potential for growth.

I believe in this premise, because I have experienced it. It is my goal to promote the independent woodworkers in Maine, as well as their personal woodworking histories.

Please follow me on Twitter, and please leave comments. I want to hear about pieces of furniture that are important to you. I want to record as many different methods of joinery as possible. I want people to know the differences in finishes used in furniture making throughout the ages. If it involves woodworking and/or woodworkers, on any and all levels, let's talk about it!

Thank you all who have been supporting me through this economy, and now the aftermath of the fire. I am truly thankful.

Mark McKelvey