Adam Burton took the plunge and made the choice to work from home, full-time, just as the rest of Ontario was told to stay at home. Friday, March 26 was Adam’s last day at “work work”, as he calls it.
I met with Adam and his wife, Adele, a week later at their Stevensville home, where Burton had just spent his first week with their business, Stevensville Pallet Project.
SPP, is a husband and wife team, re-purposing pallets into beautiful pieces of furniture.
I asked Adam, now that it’s been almost a week since he left his employment, was he still excited? With a huge grin, “It’s everything I hoped it would be. Who gets to make their hobby a full-time job?”
When asked how it is a “husband and wife” business, Adele took this one. “I work full-time at Minor Bros in Stevensville. He’s the artist. I absolutely support him and help with his ideas. But, right now its really all about Adam.” Adele did share she does the bookwork.
Adam added, simply yet passionately, “If it wasn’t for Adele supporting this, it wouldn’t be happening. So its our business.”
The Birth of Stevensville Pallet Project
“We started SPP when Adele and I were driving home and we saw a pallet on the side of the road. At that time, I was working in Niagara Falls, where I had to wear a suit and tie. We came home, I put on my grubbies, grabbed Adele, jumped in the vehicle, and drove to get the pallet. I had no tools. Before we lived here, I had nothing. I maybe had a hammer and a screwdriver. That was it.”
There was a quick pause of laughter as Adele reminded her husband, they were her hammer and screwdriver.
Adam continued, “We took apart the pallet. A friend suggested we make a wine rack because that was all the rage at the time. So, we made a wine rack and we sold it. I used that money to buy a case of beer and a tool.” And their story went from there.
“It took us five years to get everything we have now.” He pointed around his garage and out, into the driveway. Then, he turned to the huge machine humming away in front of him. He lifted the large, glass lid. “And of course, this is Big Bertha. We bought this laser from China. It took a long time to get here. It fuels the passion.”
Adam’s been working with lasers for four years. “I didn’t know they existed. When I worked at T.S.M. Custom Millwork Ltd. in Fenwick, they had one. I would get one of the guys who worked there to make me stencils and I would paint all of our clocks. Then I realized one day, it would engrave and that fueled the hobby.
“But of course, T.S.M.’s work came first. So, if I had anything going on the laser there, it was taken off.” He needed his own laser. “We scrimped and saved, had some investors, and we bought our own.”
With another big, proud smile, Adam continued, “As soon as we got it here and set up, during the very next snow storm we had in late January, I was tucked in here, with the heater going and the laser going. I couldn’t get out the back door because there was so much snow but I had the best 14 hours in this little shop. I said to my wife, this has gotta happen.”
Adele added, “He was turning down so much work when he was working at his regular job. He had enough orders to do it all the time.” She looked down at the machine, “His laser is going 24/7.”
Their Inspiration: The Dogs
Adam introduced me to the rest of the team, their dogs. “We used the proceeds from the Stevensville Pallet Project to rescue Blue,” referring to their four-year-old Border Collie / Shepherd, or Shollie, “from an adopt-a-thon, combining Niagara area Humane Societies. He came of a reservation up north. That got us into the idea of using our proceeds to help other dogs in need. That’s where we got the line, Re-purposed wood helping re-purposed dogs.”
Burton shared his story of how they raised money to provide beds for rescue dogs at the Welland Humane Society so that, when adopted, the dogs would have something like a security blanket, something that is their own, to take with them.
“We eventually raised enough money to rescue Tig, our five-year-old tripawd (having three legs) mut from Iran. Even though we were looking for a female, when we saw a picture of him on a site we follow, we instantly fell in love with him and brought him home.”
Adam explained they constantly are raising money for Niagara Dog Rescue. “Whenever we do a dog related item, we always donate proceeds to help the dogs.”
Blue and Tig are like the welcome wagon at SPP and love when customers show up, especially when they bring their own furry friends to play.
Adam, from Toronto, had met Adele, born and raised in Welland, while she was living in Vancouver. After spending eight years together, living in downtown Niagara Falls as they both worked there, they now call those first years a transition step. When asked what brought them to Stevensville, they answered in unison. “The country.” The couple moved to their current home in Stevensville in 2015.
Adele shared, “We are very Stevensville based now. We love Stevensville.” All the wood they use comes of Stevensville.
Adam and Adele like to work in partnership with other local artists. They like to work with other artists in that, if he can’t fill an order, they will send the business on down the road.
Adam has recently been getting into clocks, “I have an obsession with clocks. I don’t know why I’m so drawn to them, but I do wonder if its because clocks stay in a family. They get handed down. And, they’re always there. They’re always in that one room everyone is in, whether it be the dining room, the living room. They’re gonna be in the family photos.”
Burton explained what else inspires him. “I watched a Jays game yesterday, the season opener, which led me to design a Jays clock. The Leafs play tonight, which led me to think, why don’t I do a Leafs clock.” Each clock will take nine hours.
Adele added, about her husband, “Adam likes creating items that are meaningful for people. So, for example, he likes making dog tributes.”
In winding down our conversation, Burton expressed, “I’m happy and grateful to have the support of the community, fellow artists and all our customers.” He is proud to share that he has some customers who have said their homes are starting to look like an SPP museum.
You can learn more about the Stevensville Pallet Project by searching for the Group on Facebook.
Photo of Big Bertha provided by Barb Schaeffer
All other photos provided by Stevensville Pallet Project