We wouldn’t want it any other way...
"The beginning was two friends and our spirit to create. Now we are so much more, a team."
At age 25, Yuji discovered that the animated series Adventure Time contains the truth about all things in life. Each morning, he wakes up and shouts into the void, “What’s going on? Have we seen into the future?” He’s a self-taught web programming wizard who makes Grovemade.com come to life. His hard work behind-the-scenes makes countless internet purchases possible everyday.
Victor, aka Victor Sweet, aka Victor Strong is not only our awesome Production Manager but he’s also one of our most powerful Grovemaders. Victor’s secret for superhuman strength? A steady diet of hip-hop, rap, R&B and heaping scoops of white hot magma. When through with his morning routine of deadlifting small cars and tiny houses, you’ll find him fishing the banks of the Columbia River, where he reels in trolley-sized carps with his steely bare hands and a visage of extreme aplomb. When not performing unmatchable feats of strength, you’ll find this dynamo enjoying the many tasty tidbits found far and wide in our fair city.
Ken started the company with Joe in 2009 under the impression that eventually there’d be free pizza. Ken is a design nerd and furniture designer with a passion for photography and collecting weird things, like fruit stickers. He’s an active field trip enabler and enjoys bribing the team with Trailblazers tickets and empty promises that someday we’ll all get to see his expertly curated apartment. Check out some of his furniture designs here.
Sean is a man-bear hybrid who rules the woodshop with the ultimate weapon: love. His heart is so big he doesn’t have room for any other organs, and he’s got a PhD in Silliness. Alright, he does have a brain, but, it’s part of his heart -- it’s like a heart-brain. His heart-brain is SMART. This guy is a space camp graduate and a product design genius! He’s also got an amazing collection of embarrassing stories to make you cringe with joy.
Nozomi Nakayama Ratchford
Nozomi is a world-traveling musician and number wizard extraordinaire. She makes sure all of our business details have nice snug little homes where they don’t get lost or swept under the rug. In a past life, she was a scientist, and we all feel much smarter when she’s around. Her ideal Sunday includes Dim Sum - but she wouldn’t tell us about the rest of the day, because she says she really likes to be mysterious, so there you go.
Cara cruised to Grovemade with the help of her 1984 Vanagon, journeying across the country from Nebraska to Austin to Portland. Because a van isn’t just a van, it’s a way of life. She builds and crafts, inside and outside our shop: woodworking, ceramics, pottery. She is the yin and the yang of our team. And while we’re throwing around words that start in ‘y’, she’s a certified yoga teacher. Yin, yang, yoga, you bet!
John is the master process-optimizer and efficiency aficionado in our shop, where he gets his hands dirty each day building beautiful products. He is a Portland native, and, so, naturally, he’s also an accomplished rock drummer. He has a rad collection of bikes, which he uses exclusively for cruisin’. He likes the Flaming Lips, and suggests that if you see them live, you should pay attention to the drummer.
Christian is a jack of all trades, but don’t call him “Jack”. Event planning? Check. Building everything? Check. Resident wakeboarder? Check. Producing a vodka brand? Check. He came to us from Lake Tahoe and the University of Oregon Product Design program, where he says he built a particle accelerator that fits in your pocket, but we think he was exaggerating. In his spare time he advises on ideal burger toppings and talks about his Subaru.
Clark is our favorite Portland-native, ex-archeologist on-call mercenary craftsman! You can find him listening to Cypress Hill, old-school funk, or the Grateful Dead, but if you call him Jerry, it’s gonna cost you 50¢. Clark is a fan of many adventures: adventures in cubes with bouncy balls (racquetball), adventures in lines (gardening) and adventures in sawdust (woodworking). Clark has so much character and pizzazz that sometimes he has to take a break and just go on an adventure with his wife.
Nick is an accomplished toothbrusher. He used to do 20 pushups every night before bed, but he stopped a while ago and hasn’t looked back. Some of his favorite things are coffee, cooking while wearing aprons, throwing anything round, and music. Nick is our resident word-smith and idea generator and customer question answerer. He loves email subject lines and looking at numbers for a long time and then drawing graphs.
Dixie’s an independent spirit chock full of the dignified class of the Midwest, though she’s laid claim to having been raised by a pack of gray wolves. A former theater geek who loved it too much to do it for real, you can find Dixie splitting her time between the customer experience side of things as well on the shores of production manufacturing. In all, Dixie’s a true DIY’er who loves to cook (gumbo is her go-to), sew, papier maché, and sing. She also hates to drive.
Rainey is our internal fraud-detecting, troll banishing, customer experience saving lead. (Internet trolls, not Trolls™… she likes those). She loves dogs, running, running with dogs, and making things out of wood. If she’s not leading the team for Cat-sual Friday, you can find her conquering the trails in Forest Park with her dog, Bertie. Sense the animal theme? Also, all you dessert enthusiasts will be pleased to know Rainey is a pie baker extraordinaire, with her specialty being Buttermilk Bourbon.
Ben is a fellow of numerous talents. Here at Grovemade, he's our manufacturing engineer, meaning he commands our machinery to do as he wills! He also fixes them when they break and puts them on timeout when they disobey the rules. A dedicated father of two radical daughters, Ben also loves taking them to the backcountry for adventurous excursions. When the perfect river or stream is found, they bring in the fish with Ben's handmade rods and flies. In his free time, Ben is also hard at work inventing a robot that will sing his favorite lullabies as he prepares to dive into his daily afternoon nap. And beware of disturbing Ben when he's at rest—his prototype Lullaby Robot X-25 is also outfitted with lasers.
We hustle to our desks and workbenches. We do design, manufacturing, customer service, finance, and marketing all under one roof—there are many different kinds of work to do and so little time to do it.
“We start the day together, as a team. I always finish the huddle feeling confident that it’ll all get done”
His area is flooded with inspiration boards, sketches, and cardboard models. Many of our visitors ask, “How do you come up with your ideas?” and of course, there is no simple answer. Creative inspiration is finicky, elusive to pin down. With Sean you get the feeling that his joyful spirit has something to do with the products we ultimately see.
A few feet away Dashia Fontleroy is operating one of our two industrial lasers. She left a good career in commercial construction to come work with us, and has never looked back. Dashia laser cuts leather parts for our many products, engraves our logo on the bottoms on products, and makes many other small parts. Today, she’s working on fixing a small quality issue she found in the leather on our laptop stands. Maybe no one would notice, but she sure does and she won’t be stopped.
"Do Better. That’s what I think."
Our products push the boundaries of manufacturing technology while also being grounded in hand crafted quality and uniqueness. They pass through many hands before they leave our workshop. The final step is perhaps the most analog where “the guy with the huge beard” Alex Boepple will meticulously hand wrap each product with great pride and send them on their way. If you catch him at the right time he might even show off and wrap one with his eyes closed. He always writes a little thank you note to make sure they know they are much appreciated and it has made him a (minor) Instagram celebrity of sorts.
Max Brown is making minute adjustments to the composition of his next shot, jumping back and forth from the camera to his computer. Among other things, he is our photographer now because one day we needed one and we handed him a camera and told him to learn it. He works closely with marketer Nick LaPlante who recently joined us straight from getting his masters degree in microbiology. Burned out on science, he originally applied for a woodworking position but we only had an opening in marketing. He adjusted his cover letter and we believed in his process over his experience. Lets just say that it has worked out well.
"I had never even picked up a camera before and now its like my main thing. It comes down to trusting people, you know?"
“Small business is a life adventure. When the people and the process come together, it all flows—aspiring to be great starts with doing something you believe in.”
We’ve thought about this for years and boiling it down to a simple statement has been elusive. Perhaps it’s too personal, different for each of our realities. Maybe showing up with a smile and a team-first attitude is the best way to describe it. But we learned this year that there was more to it than looking inward. We sought out our fans and customers, and were surprised at where that led us.