Ben Bear, founder of Meadowbrooke Gourds, launched the Pennsylvania-based business “with a happy accident” in 1995 with 20 designs. Now, Meadowbrooke Gourds offers over 250 creations crafted from the harvested hard-shelled gourds that Bear grows. Initially, he created beautiful fall decorations, but now his designs are so much more.
“Ben had experience in woodworking and realized that he could craft gourds much like he could with wood.” Dori Heller, retail store manager and owner explained. “In 1994 we sent along three jack-o-lantern baskets to a wholesale show and people loved them. It took off from there.”
Meadowbrooke Gourds employs 20 full-time team members, many of whom are family or long-time employees that started when the business launched. Its goal is simply to craft smiles with whimsical and cheerful designs.
“We take great pride in our small team,” Heller shared. “Our crafters train for around five years to become a master crafter, so it’s important that we make an effort to enjoy what we do and be kind to one another.”
Read on to learn more about Meadowbrooke Gourds from both Dori Heller (DH) and Ashley Bear (AB), designer and owner.
Where do you find inspiration for your design concepts?
AB: Any team member at Meadowbrooke can design for the catalog, but a lot of the designs come from our Ben Bear and myself. We try to design while we are in the current season. A lot of our inspiration comes from trying to improve existing designs, but we also will take suggestions from our customers.
Tell us what inspires your design concepts and overall product offerings.
AB: We believe that our designs should be timeless. We have many customers who still proudly display pieces from 15 years ago. We are inspired by what we would like to decorate with in our own homes, so we have a farm animal collection that works well in farmhouse design and we have a brand-new coastal line that is inspired by crisp, bright coastal décor.
What colors and/or themes are trending this year with your designs?
AB: We are finding that our customers are really enjoying our buffalo checked ribbons and rustic wood bases that we add to some of our designs.
Did any new products surprise you because they were more successful, or less successful than you thought?
DH: We can never guess what design is going to do well, so we just design with the goal to make people smile and see what sticks. I was really surprised that our Skully Skeleton Collection was so well received by our customers.
How long does it take from concept to design completion?
AB: It can take years for some concepts to come to fruition, but sometimes I get a spark of inspiration and can make a design in a day.
What are your best-sellers?
AB: I always tell our wholesale customers that you can never go wrong with our jack-o-lanterns for fall and our Santas or angels for winter. Our Traditional Jacks have been in the catalog from the start, and they are always great sellers. We have created new jack-o-lanterns to complement the Traditional Jacks, like the Fredrick line that is now really popular.
What are your future aspirations for the business?
DH: Our motto is “Good, better, best, never let it rest until your good is better and your better is best.” Our goal is to continue to improve upon our existing products and continue to design new gourds to make people smile.
Tell us the best way for retailers to connect with you to learn more or order products?
DH: We are currently accepting customers for our 2021 fall and winter waitlist, and are accepting preorders for 2022. You can visit our website at https://wholesale.mbgourds.com to register as a wholesaler, or contact Wholesale Sales Manager, Emily Bear, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-776-3470.
Please share a few tips to help retailers with ordering and displaying merchandise.
DH: We have found that the best way to sell our designs is to help share the story of Meadowbrooke. We provide rack cards and other media upon request. We also highly recommend ordering as early in the year as you possibly can. Ship dates can be selected later in the year to accommodate when you need them for the different seasons.