By Dillon Tabish, 7-12-12
||Caption: Ian Crawford talks about the history of his Vinoture venture at the business’ new store in Whitefish. In its fifth year, Vinoture develops
furniture and home accessories primarily from reclaimed French oak wine barrels. Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon
WHITEFISH – Last week a new restaurant named jamison opened to much fanfare in the historic Pearl District of Portland, Ore. Before even sitting down, as some publications pointed out, patrons likely noticed the baroque decor spread throughout the sprawling space. Custom-made metal and wood stools filled the restaurant as well as a communal table made entirely of reclaimed wood.
Restaurateurs are beginning to recognize this artisan furniture throughout the Northwest, and more are about to.
Ian Crawford’s Vinoture, based in Whitefish, is in its fifth year of developing furniture and home accessories primarily from reclaimed French oak wine barrels. And what a year it has been. Since connecting with Ali Livolsi with Compass PR in Portland, Crawford is turning his upstart company into a rising source of American craftsmanship. Just this month three restaurants in Portland have begun furnishing their spaces with Vinoture furniture, including jamison. A “major” project in Seattle is currently in the preliminary stages.
“This is the most exciting point of Vinoture ever,” Crawford, 30, said recently inside his new gallery space in downtown Whitefish. “I’m excited. I’m hungry. I’m hungry to make this a major household name across America and I think we’re in a pivotal year of that happening.”
Vinoture’s rise is less surprising after seeing Crawford’s products. Everything from kitchen stools to tables to coat racks combine aesthetic ingenuity with locally sourced materials like wood and steel. It all began when Crawford, who grew up in Northwest Montana, came across discarded wine barrels while living in Walla Walla, Wash. Being a lifelong recycler he just couldn’t let them go to waste. Dennis Johnson encouraged Crawford to tap into his sustainable mindset; Make something with it. Without any formal training, he began working on one stool. Then another.
“I believe recycling timber products is one of the keys to the future of sustainable culture,” he said.
As an event and wedding planner for years in the Flathead Valley, Crawford had business experience. But right when Crawford started Vinoture the recession hit.
A Vinoture jamison edition bar stool is seen at Vinoture’s store in Whitefish. Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon
How did he sustain?
“I couldn’t have done it without the people around me,” he said. Even though Vinoture is Crawford’s brainchild, the business is really a team of artists with Crawford as its captain. He established connections with woodworkers and metal workers around the region who could help bring his dreams to life. He found a mentor in Jim Barton, a skilled wood craftsman in Aurora, Ore. Friends like Travis and Troy Denman helped Vinoture get on its feet. Crawford tapped Acutech in Columbia Falls to use the company’s skilled metal work.
“Really what Vinoture is is my ability to showcase really talented people,” he said. “I’m a dreamer. I dream up stuff. But I can’t necessarily do everything. Luckily the team has been patient and supportive of my crazy dreams.”
It’s these connections and others, like Crawford’s son, Nico, that inspire Vinoture and make it what it is today, he said. The business has sold roughly 2,000 coat racks and 2,500 barstools. Vinoture currently furnishes 28 commercial restaurants and bars. The goal is to continue growing and to one day establish a manufacturing plant locally that can rival nationwide distributors.
“My main goal is a factory here to do honor to the timber industry we used to have and to bring back a 500-person factory here producing stools and coat racks to sell all over the country,” he said. “The goal is to create quality stuff made in America and to bring back American craftsmanship. That’s where we’re going.”
For more information about Vinoture, visit www.vinoture.org
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