The Rest of the Story…..
If you missed my last blog post “PVC: A Modern Material“, it explained the early history of my career in the PVC industry.
I had always had a desire to design products for the company, but not everything I created fit into our business model. Lawn and garden products were my specialty, but not everything could be sold through the complicated layers of distribution and be cost effective; so I focused my efforts on the bigger ticket items that the market desired.
Photo: The square top trellis was a popular product that became the base piece for a concept called “one to grow on” where a variety of other products could be added to the trellis to create different formations and products.
Photo: Three trellises together formed a nice screen on which to grow flowering vines.
Photo: An arch on the top changed the look completely.
Photo: Using the same concept, we designed a lamp post with decorative wings.
Photo: As well as a beautiful entrance to a garden, the two hoop arbor was a huge success.
PVC or Poly Vinyl Chloride was still a “new” product in most people’s minds back in the 80s and suggestion of maintenance-free was, and still is, the big selling point. It was a good time to design and develop new products.
In 1993, I opened a small hobby/craft business that focused primarily on wood products, which I sold at arts and craft shows. The business was named “Across the Miles” due to the old English influence in some of my creations.
Photo: The Tiverton, a combination bird house and bird feeder, was the first product that we went to market with as Across the Miles. It was very plain with an oiled roof and body. In later years we added the white gable with the Tudor design and a variety of painted roofs.
Eventually, the wood product sales were overtaken by the vinyl product sales, so I spent more time designing vinyl items that would fit into my garden accent model. These included bird feeders, bird houses and planters in all shapes and sizes. We had a pretty wide ranging portfolio of products.
Photo: Our first PVC design: Using the inside of the body as a container, we produced our first tray feeder, a simple design with a hook and chain for hanging and four open sides for filling with seed.
Photo: A little while later we came up with our first tube feeder. This features a 3″ heavy duty acrylic tube running through the center that contains the seed. Holes in the bottom of the tube allow for seed flow. We kept the same “gothic” cutout design as the feedback on it was positive.
You never know when an opportunity will arise, and you never know where it will take you; at least I didn’t.
Photo: The infamous Butterfly house features our signature roof design as well as a PVC ground stake that elevates the house to the level of the flower bed and prevents ground rot of the wood. One side panel lifts up for cleaning and viewing. The design is still alive and well and featured on our Etsy website.
My opportunity came from a local nursery when the owner asked me to make him a butterfly house. It would have been great if I’d known what a butterfly house was, but I didn’t, so I had to research it and come up with my own design, which of course included a vinyl ground stake. Luckily enough, he liked my version and bought more for his shop.
A friend saw the design and offered it to a mail order company who put it, as well as my nesting box in their catalog. I ended up on the front cover with both items and was overwhelmed with orders for the butterfly houses; producing them was all I had time to do.
I worked all day in my “real job” and at night, I would produce handcrafted butterfly houses by the score, my wife would wrap and pack them and it was all we could do to keep up with demand. The demands on my time were enormous and I was missing my children growing up.
At the time, I wanted to make vinyl products, but the butterfly houses were taking over. After I made over 2,000 of them, the mail order company went out of business which hit me pretty hard financially and emotionally. I was so into the mode of producing Butterfly houses I thought it would never end. After the mail order company closed down I couldn’t get my steam back up, so after some soul searching I ended up closing down Across the Miles.
I must have PVC in my blood, because I had a strong desire to keep designing and producing new items.
So, fast forward, I am now getting close to retirement and have another chance at my own business. So two years ago, I opened up the craft business again. This time, it is called Sadler Garden Collections. I wanted to start the business so that I have a project to retire to. It will take a few years to slowly establish a business plan, but more importantly it will give me something to look forward to in retirement.
Photo: This time I have a lot of support from the family, which is why the business is called Sadler Garden Collections. My son-in-law, Jorge Rodriguez, designed our new logo. The bird is sitting on the branch of an olive tree with a single olive hanging on the branch. This is for my love of olives. A future blog post will talk about my olive picking adventures.
I still have my line of wood products, like bird houses, bird feeders and, yes the butterfly house, but I now offer more variety than before and I primarily sell on line through my Etsy shop.
Photo: One of our many stenciled nesting boxes. We have 15 to 20 shown on our Etsy website at any one time. I build the boxes and my wife applies the stencils.
Photo: Our best selling nesting box last year was the white body, red roof, and black Tudor design
I also have my enhanced line of bird feeders, bird houses and planters made from vinyl or rigid PVC.
Photo: Our newest product line is a collection of bluebird houses, made to specification using all PVC. Our supplier has an amazing array of colors that we use for the body; the roof is PVC, but we paint it a variety of colors to complement the body. These new bird houses can be found on our website.
My products have been well received online as well as at the handful of craft shows where I have exhibited with the help of my son Colin Sadler. This website was designed by my daughter Stephanie Sadler.
I am looking forward to a bright future even in retirement. I still have a head full of ideas that I have yet to try to make, but one thing is for sure – there is no moss under my feet.
So, pour a coffee, put your feet up and check out or websites or read one of my other blog post to give you a better idea of who is designing and making the products and who you are purchasing them from.
In future blog posts, I will discuss the products in more detail. Thanks for taking the time to read this blog, and please feel free to leave a comment. You can also find me on Twitter and Facebook.