Manufacturing an invention in the United States is similar to finding a needle in a haystack: it's very rare and rarely doable. Before I found Eco Supply Center in Richmond, Virginia, I had spent four months cold-calling cabinet makers and woodworkers all over the country. Despite a handful of manufacturers who were excited by the Grotto, I couldn't find anyone who would take the time to include a specially designed cheese humidor into their workflow.
Often, I would receive the response, "We only make a certain kind of cabinet," or, "We don't have enough manpower to take on the project." It's apparent why businesses are easily convinced to move overseas for manufacturing: the infrastructure just does not exist here.
Eco Supply Center labored with me for months, refining the design of the Grotto, and making space in their work flow. After a successful first holiday season and launch in November 2016, I took a trip to visit their warehouse in Richmond, Virginia this January. It was time to plan for the year ahead.
There is something very satisfying about producing my invention in the states. The Grotto is an American-born idea, fueled by a passion and obsession for specialty cheese and everything it represents: local and regional agricultural economies, sustainable farming practices, high quality milk, humane treatment of dairy animals, and the pure joy and wonder of the subtle variety between each batch of cheese.
In some way, I felt obligated to produce the Grotto on similar terms. If the Grotto stores regional, specialty cheeses, shouldn't it also reflect the same values as the dairy it houses? Some would say this was overtly romantic, or unrealistic, but there are real business benefits from manufacturing in the states: management of quality level, small batch production, and control of intellectual property. And there are the personal relationships, finding people to work with that you can trust, and who value a sustainable future of manufacturing.
I am grateful to grow with Eco Supply, and hopefully together we can keep the Grottoes regionally and American made.
Stephan, a skilled carpenter and woodworker, was brought onto the Eco Supply team to assemble and finish each Grotto before it is picked up by the fulfillment center. His attention to detail is essential to quality control.
The CNC, a computer programmed cutting machine, prepares the individual panels of the Grotto.