Three-year-old York River Traders in Holbrook is a small company making and selling unique nautical and outdoor accessories, including rope belts made of colorful sailing rigging and cufflinks showcasing tiny nautical charts, fly-fishing lures, and shotgun shells, sold online and in retail outlets nationwide. It is the brainchild of brother-and-sister team Ted and Madeleine Mariner. We spoke to Ted Mariner, 35, for this story.
Q. How did the company come to be?
A. My sister has a design background, I graduated from Northeastern University's business school, and our family spent summers on York River in Maine sailing, fishing, and shooting. We wanted to come up with different products people might enjoy and we might like to wear, products we thought had good form and function.
Q. How would you describe your product line?
A. It's about 80 percent nautical, and 20 percent fishing and shooting sports, and all a reflection of what we like to do. It's regionally sourced and made all over New England, except the cufflinks, which I make myself here in Holbrook.
Q. What are the biggest sellers?
A. The rope belts, made from rigging I buy in New Bedford; I've not seen anything like them out there. We try to style them well with solid-brass compass-design buckles, one of those touches that give form to function. The nautical chart cufflinks are our number-two bestseller.
Q. Cufflinks sell well?
A. It depends where you are. In places like Murray's Toggery on Nantucket, they sell well. A lot of people there work in New York or Boston in finance and law where they wear French cuff shirts. Most of our customers buy them as presents; I had one woman send me geographic coordinates for nautical cufflinks, and I didn't know where it was so I looked it up. It was her house in Bermuda, and she was buying them for her husband. They made her husband very happy, she said.
Q. What's the biggest challenge of running a small business?
A. You'd think it would be selling, but it's getting things made, finding good manufacturing partners able to make products correctly and on time. People might think they have a good idea and it will sell, but a lot needs to happen between the idea and a final product that sells at a margin to make it viable and sustains the entire business.