Three Trees Workshop

It takes a village

Cynthia EppComment

We’re a small business. We started really small. Our first workshop was a one-car garage, which held all of our equipment and lumber, leaving barely enough room for a person to turn around, let alone work. I’m still amazed at what Nathan was able to make in that tiny space.

Last summer, it became clear that we were outgrowing our space, as a family and as a business. We bought a home with room on the property to put up a building and secured a microloan from a local business development organization to help finance the new shop. With a few run of the mill delays, construction on the shell of the shop finally wrapped up in the fall as the busy holiday season loomed. It was a bit of a scramble to get it to a useable state in time to start filling Christmas orders.

Friends and family members pitched in to do the insulation and wiring, install the ceiling, lights, and heater, run a gas line, and move everything over from the old shop to the new one. They came back to blow in more insulation and put up some interior walls.


They didn’t stop there. They also helped with a lot of prep work for filling those holiday orders--sanding toys, counting marbles, sorting chess pieces, assembling boxes, tying on tags, even making post office runs to drop off packages--not to mention entertaining the little one while we worked to get orders out the door.

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As a family and a business, we value community and connectedness. We’ve experienced ups and downs in the life of our young business, but the support we received over the past few months is one of the high points. We’ve been touched and humbled by the generosity of people who care about us and believe in what we’re doing enough to spend time and energy to helping us through some pretty hectic times. We're so grateful for our community!

Our new place

Cynthia EppComment
site of our new workshop

This may just look like empty green space, but we think it's pretty lovely. It’s the future site of our new workshop! Three Trees has been steadily growing over the past year and a half and we've outgrown the little (tiny) shop space that we started in. It's definitely time to expand our operation. If you look closely, you can see some of the flags marking out the location of the new shop.

We're looking forward to what this next step means for our business. We’ll be able to keep up with demand and explore new product offerings. Building our own shop means that we can set it all up the way we want it, right from the beginning. And Nathan's looking forward to just having a little more space to work in!

We're also excited about what this means for us as a family. On the other side of that shady green lot is a house--our house. We are so thankful for the opportunity to buy a home and settle our little family in. And keeping the business close to home is really ideal for us. Nathan’s commute is just a few steps and the proximity makes it possible for me to be home with Abigail and still keep up with Three Trees stuff. Abigail gets to visit her daddy in the shop and the three of us are able to eat lunch together every day.

The next few months will be hectic and probably stressful at times, but we know the end result will be well worth the growing pains!

How do you decide what to make?

Cynthia EppComment

When we first talked about starting this business, we threw out tons of ideas of what we could make--things we’d made before, useful or fun things we wished we had, suggestions from other people. Pretty soon, we’d listed dozens of possibilities. We quickly realized we needed to whittle down that list.

At the same time, we were trying to figure out how to approach the business in general. It was pretty easy to nail down the basic values of our two-person business--integrity, sustainability, transparency. But what was our purpose? We talked about this a lot. We kept coming back to the idea of wanting to encourage people to truly engage with the world around them--with natural materials that come out of the earth, with the important people in their lives, and with daily activities of cooking, eating, and sharing space.

Somewhere along the line, the big-picture goal emerged. We want Three Trees to inspire creativity and connection in people’s lives.

Three generations gathered around our handmade Chinese checkers board.

We narrowed our original brainstormed list to just a handful of products that supported that goal. Then we asked a bunch of you to vote! Our first products came directly from the voting.

Over the past year and a half, we’ve continued to think up ideas and receive suggestions for potential products. We weigh each possibility by how well it supports our mission. We’ve ended up with wooden toys that encourage kids to use their imaginations as they play, handmade board games that facilitate face to face interactions, and kitchen and serving pieces that celebrate and enhance daily routines that are easily overlooked, but which enrich our lives when we slow down and pay attention.

Creating connections

Cynthia EppComment

Nathan and I spend a lot of time discussing what we want Three Trees to be about. One word that keeps coming up is connection. We want our work to help create connections--among families, between gift givers and recipients, between people and the things we make, and between you and us.

The between-you-and-us part is pretty easy when we’re set up at the farmers’ market or a festival. We can chat about which games you grew up playing and how old you were when you could finally beat your dad at checkers, when your first grandchild or niece or nephew is due to arrive, or how we keep the bark on the live edge lumber that we use for the new trays.

It’s a little trickier to create a connection with you when we’re interacting at a distance from behind our own screens--but it’s still important to us! So we thought we’d start a conversation here, in a blog, to tell you a little more about how and why we do what we do. We’ll answer some of the questions we're asked most often. And, because connection goes both ways, we'd really love to hear what you’d like us to write about! Please feel free to comment here or send us a note with your ideas.