Winter Woods, established in 1976, is a gathering of fine forest naturals located in the northwoods of Wisconsin. The combination of warm summer and cold winters, reaching 30 below zero, create some of nature’s most beautiful and unique plant life It is this country of slow growing trees with close grained woods that gives us our name, Winter Woods. Our corporate headquarters is located in the heart of the Chequamegon National Forest in Glidden, Wisconsin. Winter Woods Inc. is a unique combination of Forest Natural Products and a truly dedicated staff, offering you the finest quality products and the best service and flexibility. From the first gathering to the final shipping, we work to balance the beauty of nature with the needs of our customers.
A company that started with one man in his cabin in 1976 has by 2001 grown into a multi-million dollar business. For that and other accomplishments, Winter Woods, Inc. will receive this year’s Business of the Year Award from the Ashland Area Development Corporation and Ashland Chamber of Commerce.
From that one-cabin operation, the company has grown to 35 full-time employees, 35 part-time employees plus 40 more more seasonal employees. The physical facilities have grown to include two production buildings, and five warehouses.
AADC and the chamber will honor Winter Woods today at the 38th Annual Field Day celebration.
The event will be at the Elks golf course in Ashland and will feature afternoon golfing and an evening award ceremony and banquet.
The chamber started the event as a way to highlight a business that’s made an extraordinary contribution to the community.
That’s one thing the Glidden-based company accomplished, said AADC director Frank Kempf.
The company is the largest employer in Glidden and “they’re a very important part of the community,” he said.
Winter Woods was created by Steve Lewis, a U.S. Forest Service worker and teacher in 1976. To supplement his income, he hired local workers to make Christmas wreaths, which he then sold to wholesalers in the Chicago area. He moved to southern Wisconsin in 1987.
Lewis brought current manager Ed Schmocker on board in 1989 to manage the company and try to grow it into a year-round business. Schmocker holds a B.A. in Business Administration from UW-LaCrosse and an M.B.A. from UW-Oshkosh.
The wreath-making business has been a seasonal cottage industry in the Wisconsin north woods for many years. But the 10-week season was too short for a company to provide full employment to a regular crew of workers.
Lewis and Schmocker turned that around.
While attending trade shows to sell wreaths to wholesale florists, Lewis realized there was an entire niche market in the floral and craft industries that needed supplies of natural materials. The “Forest Natural” division of Winter Woods grew from that idea. That division supplies craft stores and wholesale florists with items such as pine cones, twigs, mosses and other natural materials for use in crafting and floral design.
Local residents, collecting on private and public lands, provide the bulk of the raw material sold by Forest Naturals.
That provides another boost to the local economy, Kempf said. Besides the company’s full and part-time workers, it also sends money back into the local economy through paying its gatherers.
A third division of Winter Woods, “Northern Lights,” began as an outgrowth of the sale of pine cones. Schmocker said that many pine cones were being wasted because damage, color, or size made them unusable for wreaths or crafts.
To use what would otherwise have been “waste,” Winter Woods bought a company in Minnesota that was using a process to dip pine cones that would cause the cones to burn in different colors. The Northern Lights Division now supplies gift baskets of fire starters, color cones, or waxed cones products to retail outlets throughout the United States.
Schmocker said he was surprised and honored by the award especially because Winter Woods is a small company.
“The idea is we’re trying to be more than a seasonal wreath company and that allows us to employ people full time,” he said.
Although the company has grown significantly since its humble beginnings, Schmocker said they will probably be expanding again next year.
The company is supplying stores like Target and others with gift boxes and has been getting its name out to other companies. That’s helped them land bigger accounts, Schmocker said.
It’s more than just getting their name out, however.
“We give them the product they want and the service they need,” he said.
Madison – Gov. Scott McCallum announced today that Winter Woods has won the January Governor’s Workforce Innovation Award (WIN), which recognizes individuals and organizations that create innovative approaches and outside-of-the-box solutions to develop and sustain Wisconsin’s workforce.
Located in Glidden, which is in northern Wisconsin’s Ashland County, Winter Woods works closely with Division of Vocational Rehabilitation counselor Jerry Jorgenson to provide employment opportunities to people with disabilities. Vocational Rehabilitation is located within the Department of Workforce Development.
“Once again, a Wisconsin company is leading the way by employing people with disabilities and helping to fill a labor shortage by tapping into this vital resource,” Gov. McCallum said.
Many industries are still experiencing labor shortages despite the economic situation, and over the next several years the shortage is expected to grow significantly as baby boomers leave the work force and fewer young people are there to replace them.
Started in 1976 by Steve Lewis in his cabin, Winter Woods has grown into a multi-million dollar business. The company is the largest employer in Glidden with 35 full-time employees, 35 part-time employees, with an additional 40 seasonal employees.
In the past year, Winter Woods has earmarked positions for DVR consumers and provided employment opportunities at every level of the organization. They also make it a point to contact the division when positions become available with the company.
In addition to making and selling holiday wreaths, Winter Woods has expanded its business, making it a year-round operation. The “Forest Natural” division of the company sells natural materials, such as pine cones, twigs and mosses, to craft stores and wholesale florists for crafting and floral designs. “Northern Lights,” another division of Winter Woods, uses pine cones, dipped in material that cause them to burn in different colors. The pine cones are used in gift baskets of fire starters, color cones or waxed cones that are sold to retail outlets throughout the United States.