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Cumberland Crate Company: One Island Entrepreneur’s Quest for the Quintessential Canadian Dream

From packaging to philanthropy? Might not be the pipe dream it sounds like.

Rena Siddall / 22 March 2019

Cumberland Crate Co. street gang - Photo Cred. Karen McKinnon

The owner of Cumberland Crate Company has big dreams.

Big ol’ Canadian-sounding dreams. Complete with donuts and fresh pow. (The cold, snowy kind- completely unrelated to donuts). When we asked the owner, Archie Pateman, if the Cumberland Crate Company were to live out its dream, what it might look like, he answered, “there would be a Cumberland Crate Co. retail store in major cities across North America, with 2 or three manufacturing facilities (in Canada), filled with happy, well-paid employees cranking out sweet designs and coming up with new ideas. As for me…I’d be cruising by each store and facility, dropping off donuts, giving out high fives and heading to the nearest mountain to think of ways to help the world while slaying bike trails or skiing powder. I dream of being successful enough to be philanthropic.”

Me too, Archie, me too. While it might seem farfetched for a small-town crate company to one day support a life of knee-deep powder and philanthropy, it might just one day be the life Pateman is living.

A straight-up Canadian recipe for success.

Cumberland Crate Company opened back in 2013 when the, then co-owners, saw a gap in the packaging industry, “we saw a hole in the market where handmade quality wooden crates should be. We started with crates and have expanded to include an array of custom wooden products as well as design services.”

Essentially Pateman and his then co-founder put into play Millennial Entrepreneurship 101.

  1. Fill a niche.
  2. Build demand.
  3. Market it to millennials. 
  4. Innovate.
  5. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Their wooden crates and custom designs are all made using B.C., locally-milled timber, and business is doing so well that it generally comes to them. They’ve grown from your basic 4-sided crate shop to a business based in design. Pateman says a big part of their trade is now “helping retail stores, product manufacturers and restaurants outfit their establishments and display their goods.” While Pateman has now taken over sole-ownership and they’ve shut their doors in Cumberland (the store was only open for a year), business is not slowing down.

They’ve gone back to their roots and build to order. They get custom orders daily. You want custom? Consider it done. “Give us your vague idea, some dimensions and stylistic input, and we provide you with digital renderings, estimated cost and fast timelines.” Two of their biggest clients are the multi-national Lush Cosmetics and Marriott Hotels. But they also supply smaller chains and stores like Cascadia Liquor Stores, Fairway Markets, bike shops, real estate agents and smaller one-off shops like Red Cat Records in Vancouver or Rusty Rooster in Cumberland to name a few. 

Archie Pateman of Cumberland Crate Co. - Photo Cred. Karen McKinnon

It may seem similar to any other packaging business; but whether intentionally or not, they’ve taken the evolved millennial yearning to support local, ethical and sustainable products and parlayed that to selling their crates in every fashion imaginable. Pateman is committed to durable and sustainable alternatives to the cheaper, but notoriously eco-evil, plastic options.

“We're bridging the gap between over-priced antique crates, and short lived plastic ones.”

Archie Pateman

Cumberland Crate Co. truly covers all the bases: wine crates, lost & found bins, display shelving, bike crates, plain ol’ regular crates. They’re not stopping there either, Pateman explains, “the world of product display and retrofitting retail and eating spaces is calling us. Everything from produce bins in grocery stores to trestle style farmhouse tables in restaurants. We can easily accommodate custom needs, and our design team is becoming famously fun and easy to work with!” Not to mention they’re not afraid to poke a little fun at themselves.

“Tired of chaining your baby down (with rusty, heavy chains) to one of those jagged, sharp, UGLY plastic baby change stations? Fear not you great parent, you! Our baby change stations are carefully hand-made with love using real wood, no toxins and an organic baby change pad. Poop is bad enough... why add danger and disgrace?”

They even offer baby changing stations.

I’m not going to lie- it’s hard to disagree with Pateman. It sounds like a pretty easy-to-work with model. Plus, as a parent, you sold me at not chaining your baby down. The Cumberland Crate Co. is everything I’d want my own consumer product store to be. Friendly, fun, successful enough to consider expanding but still approachable enough to cater to custom designs while filling locally-owned stores with a locally-made and manufactured product.

With or without the expansion across Canada, the freedom to rip up the mountains or ability to pay-it-all-forward, I’d say Pateman is pretty near living the dream.

Rena Siddall / ohsnapcreative@gmail.com

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