Buckfield company scrambles to make White House Easter eggs

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BUCKFIELD — After a two-year absence, the specialized wooden Easter eggs manufactured in a small Maine town are headed back to the White House — and with a little “eggs-tra” controversy to boot.

On Monday, 40,000 multicolored eggs made by Wells Wood Turning and Finishing in Buckfield will be rolled on the South Lawn during the all-day White House Easter Egg Roll event. 

Winning the bid to make this year’s eggs was a big deal for the company of 30 employees, but the turnaround was dizzying, Vice President Simon Varney said.

With the new administration of President Donald Trump finding its footing, Varney said the company reached out via social media and other marketing channels, and managed to secure the order for the Easter eggs just in time to get to work. 

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Varney, along with company President Chris Chandler, acquired Wells Wood Turning in November from previous owners Tom Wallace and Alan Chesney, retaining all of the employees. Varney said the experienced staff was the main reason the order was completed in time for the holiday. 

“It was a wake-up call, manufacturing a large quantity in a limited period of time,” he said, adding that “the key to that was the crew here at the mill has been doing it for a very long time. (We’re) extremely proud of the team for coming through.” 

Wells Wood Turning has produced the eggs since 2007, providing them for the Easter Egg Roll in eight of the past 10 years. Varney said the company was not able to get the order the past two years, but he was not sure why. 

The design of the eggs changes year to year based on preferences coming from the White House. This year, under Trump, the colors include four basic Easter pastels — blue, green, yellow and pink — showing the White House and signatures of the president and first lady. 

The Trump administration also requested another design: a shining gold egg with a detailed presidential seal. 

Varney said being the makers of the wooden eggs has brought some “notoriety” this year, given Trump’s penchant for controversy. But, he said, the company remains apolitical. 

“It’s an honor to be able to provide the eggs for the White House,” he said. 

The yearly changes in the design of the product make the Easter eggs a sought-after collectible item, and this year, one lifelong fan of the White House event pursued her own design instead of collecting an egg commemorating the Trump administration’s egg hunt.  

Natalie Rebetsky, an English teacher in Maryland, made headlines recently for her political activism surrounding the collectible eggs.

While eager fans were waiting for the White House to announce this year’s event, she made her own order to Wells Wood Turning for 1,000 eggs with a special design, and has since sold them and donated the funds to PBS and the National Endowment for the Arts, two organizations the Trump administration has proposed cutting.

She said Trump’s policies have broken the trust of families and children. The eggs say “Protect Our Children’s Future 2017.” (See related story.) 

For Wells Wood Turning, however, the notoriety has also brought attention back to the business. Varney said they’ve already received more calls and orders since the White House event was secured.   

He said the business also provides custom eggs for museums, gift shops, hotels and charitable causes, a category that Rebetsky’s order falls under. 

“We’re eggnostic,” he said, referring to the company’s political views. 

Varney said the business plans to continue using the White House event to market the company and its other products. He said any extra attention paid to manufacturing jobs in Maine is a positive thing. 

“Chris and I bought the mill because we’re really enthusiastic about manufacturing in the state,” he said. “We’re doing anything we can do to keep manufacturing jobs right here.” 

Wells Wood Turning and Finishing opened in 1985, and while known for the colored Easter eggs, the company also makes rolling pins, tool handles, knobs, baseball bats and high-end furniture parts. 

Varney has an experienced background in marketing, while Chandler is a former attorney and business and financial adviser. 

Varney said he and Chandler did everything they could to bring the deal back to Wells this year.

On Feb. 20, the company tweeted the president and related Twitter accounts, saying, “FYI manufacturing deadlines for the Easter eggs are near. Please reach out!” The tweet prompted worry from fans that the event may not happen. 

As for the finished products, Varney said the gold egg especially “looks pretty darn sharp. It might be one of the best we’ve ever done.” 

Many at the mill, including Technical Manager Jason Todd, who has been with the company 22 years, have seen each Easter edition. 

According to the company, manufacturing the eggs is a detailed process that involves creating each piece from yellow birch on a high-capacity lathe, trimming each into an egg shape, sanding, painting and printing the images and signatures on each side of the eggs.

But, Varney said, “While the eggs are the high-profile item we make, the reality is that we make a lot of other stuff.” 

arice@sunjournal.com

Joyce Marshall of Sumner operates a machine at Wells Wood Turning in Buckfield that turned dowels of yellow birch into wooden Easter eggs for the White House. 

Gold, green, yellow, pink and blue wooden Easter eggs were made at Wells Wood Turning in Buckfield for Monday’s White House Easter Egg Roll. 

Wells Wood Turning in Buckfield has produced the White House Easter eggs since 2007, providing eggs for the Easter Egg Roll in eight of the past 10 years.

The gold White House Easter egg has the Seal of the President of the United States. The remaining colors have an image of the White House. 

Simon Varney, vice president and co-owner of Wells Wood Turning in Buckfield, said it is an honor to provide Easter eggs for the White House. 

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