How did you get started with Jamaica Cottage Shop?
This must be one of the most frequently asked questions I personally receive when folks meet me in person. The year was 1995, I was 26 years old. After living outdoors with my two dogs for the past summer behind Equinox Mountain in “Bear Town”, a long hollow deep into Sandgate Vermont, I was ready for a roof over my head.
I had just finished a four-year excursion across the United States where I was living out of my car with my two canine pals Sydney and Miller (Another story all together). I was quickly made aware of the challenges of renting in rural Vermont, with each attempt to locate a suitable shelter to call home. “Two dogs…” that is all I said, and I had two potential landlords immediately hang up on me. As the leaves fell and the temperatures continued to drop, the pressure was on. As the seasons change, housing becomes even more scarce as the winter months fill with skiers renting for the season.
I was fortunate enough to locate a farmhouse, over 150 years old, with three acres of land just a mile from the Stratton Mountain resort access road and on the Winhall River. The owner met with me and told me straight out “This is Vermont—you should have dogs”, without hesitation I said, “I’ll take it!”. It took every penny I had to come up with the first, last and security and left me with 30 days to do it again. In those early days heading into winter was a struggle, I remember day labor jobs, buying and selling Subaru parts, and eluding the locals as my junk car was rarely able to pass inspection.
Continuing with odd jobs and the help of endless roommates I made it through to spring where carpentry jobs were more abundant. I began scavenging building materials at job sites, collecting lumber in the attached barn of the rented farm house. Without a plan but with plenty of time I started to build. It ended up being a dog house. Then I built another one. They sold off the front lawn with the help of local classified ads. At that time, I was glued to my cordless land line and would answer day or night. At one point, there were dozens of dog houses on display offered in three sizes. I taught myself how to cut rafters and made patterns of the gambrel roof and had the whole process down to one hour start to finish.
The old tattered and drafty house sits literally located just 15 feet from busy route 100. Snow plows would splash the bedroom window and I could almost hear the plow driver laughing as if he knew that was my bedroom. The curious visitors began stopping and inquiring about storage sheds. I was working with a skill saw, free materials and a car that resembled Fred Flintstones’ floorless model. I knew I did not want to be a contractor so I decided to accept the challenge this new opportunity presented. I built a 6×8 shed roof and still remember how painfully careful I was making the material list of lumber to be purchased from the local sawmill. There was no question as I immediately decided I would build with rough sawn local lumber. Colemans’ farm a half mile from the house had a mill that cut to order. With the help of a truck, a trailer, a bob cat, and five guys the first delivery only a few miles away was made and it only took six hours later!
The innovation has continued through the years with hiring employees, out growing the old farm house moving two miles north and purchasing the old Smith’s Mill. The forty acre industrial sight with seven buildings and a 100sq ft. under roof allowed the business model to begin offering more designs in three different formats do-it-yourself plans, precut kits and fully assembled projects.
Along the journey, I have learned a lot and have continued to teach myself and others a formula for success. Some of the obstacles includes learning to use a computer, accepting cell phones, purchasing the latest technology in moving buildings hydraulically, building and replacing several websites and developing the PCK version of the designs. Developing the designs into kit form took ten years and is now the most popular form of purchasing the designs. The catalog continues to expand today go to the website or better yet come take a factory tour now and tell us what you would like to see next. The innovation evolves to meet your needs and requests.