Two entrepreneurs turn discarded skis into outdoor furniture
Call it a case of the New Yankee Workshop meets Bode Miller.
(Page 2 of 2)
One call changed his life. He asked skimaker Rossignol if the firm could spare any closeouts or unsellable skis that they'd rather not pay to discard. He offered to cover the cost of the shipping. A few days later, a tractor trailer pulled up at his suburban house with 25,000 skis.Skip to next paragraph
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"I knew there were skis available, but I had no idea there were that many skis," says Bellino. "Then the light went on – how many other companies can I get free skis from?"
Now Bellino gets most of his skis and boards from about a dozen manufacturers. But some of his most zealous suppliers are those who pick up the shipping tab themselves. They're skiers such as Geoff Hadley, who runs a Lion's Club ski swap in Acton, Mass.
He'd always return from the annual weekend event with some 400 unwanted skis. They'd fill his tool shed and spill into the cellar, much to his wife's chagrin. But he held out hope that someone, somewhere, might find a use for them.
"For years, we'd fill up these pickup trucks and cart all these skis off to the dump," says Mr. Hadley. "I hated to see that happen. It's not a good feeling to take this equipment that's usable in some capacity and throw it." Now the pickups head to Bellino's workshop.
Smells of sawdust fill the air in the small workshop, where Moreau gets down to business in his usual uniform: a Red Sox hat, yellow golf shirt, and jeans. Mismatched shards of drab carpeting cover the floor. Using a mounted saw, Moreau cuts skis to size before drilling holes that make for easy mounting.
He uses every part of the ski: tips for the back of the chair, middle sections for the seat, and tails for the ottoman. The rest of the piece is a typical Adirondack cedar frame. Wielding a power drill, he pivots like a sculptor as his creation takes shape on a workbench.
His one-man effort goes quickly, thanks to precut wood from another nearby microbusiness. The skis help move the operation along, too: They don't require any finishing and are a good material for outdoor furniture, impervious to the elements. Moreau turns out a typical chair in one hour.
As he works, Moreau doesn't say much. But Bellino makes up for his partner's reticence. Short with a chin-only beard, Bellino flashes a cracker-barrel sense of humor, which he uses at his own expense. His cellphone rings often, but sometimes he ignores it. "It's just my mother," he says at one point. "She can wait."
Bellino's resourcefulness in the workshop could have come from a how-to guide for ecofriendly manufacturing. He ships unassembled products in recycled boxes that Moreau gets from his other job at a bike shop. All benches have recycled plastic legs. Even the clock on the workshop wall is refashioned from an old circular saw blade.
Bellino is not shy about touting his enterprise's green virtues. He proclaims "RE-CYCLED" materials on his website. That's his way, he says, of making clear to the world that "I'm a good guy!"
But he's an unlikely darling of the eco movement. He drives a Ford Expedition and supports opening new oil fields for drilling because "I don't want to pay $4 a gallon" for gas. "I know some environmentalists," Bellino says. "I find them annoying because they take it to extremes."
Profit is now Bellino's main motivation as he works to support his wife and baby boy. He sees potential in a line of chairs made from other sporting goods, such as baseball bats and hockey sticks. But because he has to pay for them, he still harbors a soft spot for skis and snowboards.
Bellino's quest for coolness and cash doesn't seem to be costing him much goodwill among activists concerned with waste issues. They're just glad somebody's found a way to extend the fun to be had on skis. "From society's point of view," says Ed Hopkins, director of the Sierra Club's environmental quality program, "it's probably better to have these things reused than to take up scarce landfill space."