Make & Stow is an Oregon-based company that handcrafts a variety of wooden pieces—cutting boards, coasters, photo boxes, and keepsakes. We caught up with owner, Amy McVey, to talk about the inspiration behind and creation of this unique company.
What motivated you to begin this company?
Erich is a wedding photographer, and years ago he decided he wanted to create wood presentation boxes to deliver prints to his clients. Luckily, his parents, David and Pamela, own fine art and commercial framing stores, and have a ton of experience with wood and the kind of craftsmanship that something like this would require. Erich was able to work with his dad to design and build wood boxes for all of his clients.
Over the years, Erich continually received questions from clients and fellow photographers alike, asking where they could purchase wood boxes like the ones he used. After some thought, we (Erich, David, Pamela, and I) decided to go into a business together to create Make & Stow, so that we could offer these beautiful handmade wood boxes for photos and other keepsakes to everyone!
The boards quickly followed as an additional item for Make & Stow, and actually came about quite organically. Charcuterie makes a frequent appearance at our family gatherings each week and with all of the beautiful solid wood now at our fingertips for the boxes, we almost instantly began creating serving boards for our own use. Adding them to the official Make & Stow collection seemed like a natural next step.
I love the idea of wooden boxes for keepsakes and photos. Was that the original idea?
The original idea was for the boxes to hold photos (for Erich’s clients). The keepsake idea came about when I began using one of the larger boxes to hold all of mine and Erich’s memories: letters, ticket stubs, polaroids, wedding vows, etc. I had kept everything in an ugly cardboard box for years, and when I moved all those keepsakes over to a beautiful, handmade wood box, those mementos were no longer shoved in the back of a closet out of site in the eyesore cardboard box.
Instead, they were on a shelf in our living room, in a beautiful wood box that allowed us to look at the memories often, to enjoy the keepsakes, and to add to the collection more frequently and easily. I loved having our memories so accessible and more visibly celebrated and treasured. We figured others would like to have that same ability too, so keepsake boxes were born!
What inspires you as you continue to expand and create a variety of products?
I think there are a few different things at play in regards to our drive to continue to grow, improve, and move forward. First and foremost, we absolutely love and believe in our products. We use our boxes and boards on a daily basis in our own homes, and feel so strongly in their usefulness, their beauty, and their ability to elevate and celebrate not only the most epic of days (weddings) but also the more average yet equally important moments in life (family dinners with charcuterie on a serving board).
Erich and I are also very driven when it comes to work, as are David and Pamela. They have run and grown an extremely successful framing business over the past 30 years, and they are incredible mentors and business partners who push, encourage, and guide us through this journey as business owners. It is so much fun to brainstorm ideas, think of what we can do next to most benefit our customers, and grow Make & Stow in new ways. This is our family business, our livelihood, and our passion. It makes it easy to stay inspired when you love what you do (and who you get to do it with) so much!
How does the landscape and scenery of Oregon influence or spark your creativity?
Where we live—we are surrounded by forests, greenery, and the rugged wilderness of Oregon. The beauty of the natural, solid wood we use for all Make & Stow products is certainly a reflection of our environment, and a way for us to bring part of the great outdoors in to our homes.
What’s your favorite piece in the collection and how do you use it?
It’s so hard to choose just one favorite! Can I just say my favorite is all of our serving boards? We have about six in our kitchen and they are used every single day—from dinner prep tasks like chopping veggies, to hosting friends and serving elaborate charcuterie, to quiet nights alone with Erich when we feel lazy and just want some fruit, cheese and bread for dinner in front of the TV. Our boards are in constant use in our home. I love them!
What’s the most interesting or creative way you’ve seen your pieces in use?
Oh gosh we’ve seen just about everything! Our boxes have been used to deliver wedding invitations and to hold wedding photo albums. They are used as custom gift boxes (we also offer custom engraving services, so you can really personalize each piece), for anniversaries, birthdays, client welcome packages, and even a product presentation gift for a European press event for a high end shoe designer.
What has surprised you most about starting this particular company and brand?
I think the most surprising thing has been the incredible customer encouragement and support. Our customers are the best! Not only do they value and invest in our handmade products, but they frequently send us emails—even thank you notes in the mail! They let us know how much they like their box or board, or how much they appreciate our customer service. The personal connections and relationships we’ve been able to nurture with our customers is such an unexpected added bonus to running this business.
These pieces are handmade and designed in Oregon. How has that helped you better connect with your local community and environment?
Knowing where each piece of wood comes from and every set of hands that have played a part in the creation of each piece is so special. It keeps our emotional investment in each product so strong and personal. We also have a strong connection to our local community—everything is made by hand here in our hometown of Salem, Oregon by a small team of skilled craftsmen.
What do you think the aesthetic of Make & Stow products symbolize?
The overall aesthetic of our products is based on timeless authenticity. There are no bells and whistles with our products. They are created by hand, honoring the natural beauty of the wood they are made with, and made to elevate the environment they are placed in (i.e. adding character to a kitchen island without detracting from the overall design of the space).
Are you currently working on any new projects? What do you envision for the future of Make & Stow?
We have a few new projects in the works—our wheels are always turning! We are set to launch a new variation of our serving boards with more character (wood knots, interesting grain, live edges, etc.) These are personally my favorite kinds of boards. Boards with those “imperfections” have so much added beauty and depth! For the future of Make & Stow, we just hope to continue to grow, connect with our customers, and offer beautiful, timeless pieces that are cherished for years to come.