BUCKFIELD, Maine — At the end of a dirt road, in a nondescript cinder block mill, Wells Wood Turning & Finishing makes tool handles, drawer knobs, toy parts and dabbles in bunny business.
For six years, the company has quietly made the official collectible White House Easter eggs.
For 2012, employees made between 75,000 and 100,000 wooden eggs, turned down from Maine birch, painted in vibrant yellows, blues, purples and greens. Special this year was a red Easter egg collectible for Bo, the Obamas’ dog.
“He came up and signed it as well,” said Alan Chesney, co-owner with Tom Wallace. “The employees love it. It’s a nice, colorful project to be having in the mill. It’s a sign of spring for us.”
Wells Wood Turning & Finishing, a 27-year-old company, has a workforce of 25-30 people.
“Very little of the product goes out the door with our name on it, and we’re just fine with that,” Chesney said.
That includes the Easter eggs. They’re printed on by another Maine firm, then delivered to a company that packages them for the National Park Foundation to sell. This year, the bunny on the egg is hula-hooping, a nod to First Lady Michelle Obama’s fitness campaign for kids. Her signature and that of President Barack Obama are stamped on the back. Bo’s signature (a paw print) is stamped on his. The eggs retail for $7.50 each or $29.50 a set.
Eggs are spun on a lathe, then tumble sanded and tumble painted. The wood is certified as sustainably harvested and the paint and printing meet other quality standards, Chesney said.
“These eggs are inspected all the way along the process,” he said. “The Easter Bunny does visit for all the employees. I suspect there are a few eggs hidden around for their kids.”
Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud planned to tour the company Tuesday, part of an effort to visit manufacturers around Maine to hear their issues and highlight their work, according to a staffer. It was partly that visit that inspired the company to go public with the White House eggs.
“It’s a very competitive industry,” Chesney said. “We are one of the survivors and proud of that and continue to do well.”
He’s proud, too, to be a U.S. manufacturer and to be growing. It comes from focusing on the customer, short lead times and seizing any new opportunities, Chesney said.
“I can’t imagine the Easter eggs would be made in China,” he said.