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
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.
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
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
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
"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