MiVT: Vermont Distinctive

Published: Mar. 28, 2022 at 1:13 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Retirement looks different for everyone. For New Haven’s Stephen Ayotte, it involves a lot of wood.

While he was always interested in woodworking as a child, it wasn’t something he dabbled in much, despite his dad’s knack for it.

“I never really spent the time with him to understand the skills that he had,” he explained. “You know, I was off doing my thing in life.”

After his father passed, he took his old table saw and started playing around.

“As the kids were growing up, if they needed things-- a toy chest, something like that-- I would dabble here and there. I would get some pine lumber, I would make the toy chest. We would use them, abuse them, whatever,” said Ayotte. “Throw them away.”

Eventually, requests from his kids grew more and more intricate.

“I kept watching videos, I kept reading books, I kept practicing,” he said.

He opened up an Etsy shop in 2017 called Vermont Distinctive. Now, his hobby gives him some retirement pocket change, but that’s all. Ayotte says he’s not doing it for profits.

“When what I’m making sells really well, I start raising the price. I don’t want it to be a job, I’m more of a one-off kind of guy. I’m not really interested in making 1,000 for $10,” he said.

He’d rather continue to make new and different things. Sometimes those are customer commissions, and sometimes they’re whatever he wants.

“You really need to strive for something that’s different, something that’s unique,” explained Ayotte.

Something distinctive, perhaps. Part of that distinctive nature comes from buying local lumber that’s not uniform in its shape or color.

“Many people call it flaws, but that’s just my point and I try to market to people who like the fact that what they have is going to be not only unique, but it’s also going to have a lot of character, like knots and grain and stuff like that,” Ayotte saud.

The character is visible in every product he makes, from the pieces in his own home to jewelry boxes, cutting boards, chess boards-- you name it.

It’s the unique nature of his work, the care taken with each piece and excellent customer service that makes this company distinctive.

“I have a saying. ‘I don’t make mistakes, I gain experience.’ But, I have gained a lot of experience,” he laughed.

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