From the Nov. 15, 1963 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

The Vineyard now owns an establishment which has developed in two years’ time from a husband-and-wife combination of effort to an enterprise with twenty-six full and part-time employees in addition to the proprietors, Ralph and Millie Briggs, and their 11-year-old daughter Joey.

There establishment is Woodchips, to the name of which is now added the word Designers. The cottage and shop, office and plant, are on the Beach Road at Vineyard Haven. These have been enlarged considerably since the business started, though the additions cannot be readily seen from the road and do not clash with the low, traditional cottage which contains the original gift shop.

The enterprise is now contributing to the Island economy in a substantial manner through the employment of Vineyarders, many of them housewives who work at home. Eight or ten are fully employed in the shop, and as for what they make, well, the list is a lengthy one.

Woodchips manufactures about 250 different items and will design and manufacture just about anything a retailer may desire, if it is made of cloth. Cloth articles can be shipped by parcel post and there is no breaking. Therefore, Woodchips finds them admirably practical.

There are holders galore, all decorated with printed designs, wax-pads filled with bayberries, some period pieces tagged Gay Nineties, log-carriers, twine bags, coasters, aprons for every occasion with special pockets for special duties, and these too are decorated, jumpropes, crayon sets, soakers and bottle-covers, whimsies and notions. There are also kits for children to make up into dolls and doll clothing; a hopscotch kit, designed by Joey, incidentally; a sea-chest kit; assorted prints for any purpose, to be used as the purchaser may see fit.

Woodchips is represented in just about every state in the Union. It is supplying a dozen mail-order houses widely scattered. It is obtaining recognition in various magazines, such as House Beautiful, American Home, House and Garden, and even Rudder, for many of the motifs are distinctly nautical.

The marvel of it is not so much what the Briggs family has accomplished as the way in which they have accomplished it. Much can be done with machinery in the shop, and the machines have all been built by Ralph Briggs. His first was a machine to package glue in plastic bags for his first kits. This machine mixes the glue, pours the desired quantity into a plastic bag, and then seals the bag.

Everything turned out by Woodchips is decorated with prints: ships, old pot-bellied stoves, frying pans, roosters and so on, and the designs are made in the shop and printed there.

Thus, little by little, Woodchips has become about as self-sustaining as is possible for any shop to be. The shop employees assemble items after they are cut, and, incidentally, the cutting is done in quantity, dozens of patterns being turned out at a time by means of knives set on a band-saw frame. The shop force packs and ships and a bookkeeper keeps busy in the office. Naturally, the Briggs family all work, but the business has arrived at a point where it can almost run itself.

There is, however, one situation in which the guiding and talented hands are necessary. “Competition is keen,” they explain, “and ideas are pirated right and left. We have to keep one jump ahead of competitors, and we do. We can design a novelty one day, and fill orders for it on the next, so well have we perfected our shop system.

“And for another thing; everyone seems to be out for the quick dollar today. We play up the opposite side of the question. We are out in the country, probably regarded as hicks. We like the idea. Hicks and Yankee principles in business are as closely related as ham and eggs, and we live up to that tradition. Meantime, we know we are doing something that helps the Island economy.”

The roster of employees in the shop and, part time at home, is as follows, showing the extent to which the business draws on Island skill and workmanship: Peter Ortiz, commercial artist, sign painter, silk screen producer; Glenn Taylor, full time cutter; Thomas J. Reese, full time bookkeeper; John Elias Jr., part time hat steamer, thread winder, cutter, etc.; Marion Stone, full time order coordinator and packer; Eleanor Dunbar, full time shipper; Helen Awardt, full time packer; Sophia Churchill, sales representative and part time packer; Redi Gelinas, Eleanor Enos, Evelyn DeBettencourt, Beatrice Amaral, Delia Bryant, full time sewers at home; Irene Fisher, Mrs. Dorothy Barker, Mrs. Lula Ruger, Ardis Fitzpatrick, Mrs. George C. Richards, part time sewers at home; Helen Jackson, Fran Alwardt, Bea Bernard, Grace Crowell, part time gluers at home; Alfred Alley, Eugene MacCalmon, J. H. Miller, bayberry pickers; Joey Briggs, 11, helps design kits, her hopscotch kit selling well in an important catalog.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox