Wild Apple Graphics in Woodstock has a new owner. The business was purchased by local Vermonter Shawn Harned from company founders John and Laurie Chester. Harned has been an employee at the company since 2018, initially as director of sales and then as chief operating officer.
“This is the ideal situation,” said John Chester. “Shawn is committed to Vermont and our local economy, he knows the business, he has a passion for the company and a vision for growth, and very importantly he has fully bought into the supportive, human culture of Wild Apple.”
With the help of Burlington-based mergers and acquisitions firm Venture 7 Advisors, the Chesters considered multiple offers from outside private equity investors before deciding that selling to a trusted member of senior management will be in the best interests of the company, the employees, and the community.
Harned’s professional background in sales and management is exactly what the company needs for continued success. An experienced leader and strategist, his focus on customer growth, new markets, deeper relationships, and empowering the Wild Apple team, will continue to drive Wild Apple to further success.
“I love this business,” said Harned. “I am excited to build on the amazing foundation that John and Laurie created. Although this seems like a big change, continuity is driving us forward. What won’t change is our core focus on supporting our artists, staff and suppliers, finding and developing the right art for the right customer and our never-ending quest for continuous improvement. And eating chocolate of course.”
In a separate real estate transaction earlier in 2022, the building where Wild Apple operated since 1995 was sold to a Farmhouse Pottery affiliate. Wild Apple’s decades-long evolution from selling posters out of inventory to an almost entirely digital licensing model eliminated the need for warehouse space, and Covid proved that the company is ideally suited to remote work with minimal need for office space. The timing was right as Farmhouse Pottery’s rapid growth and inventory space needs were outgrowing its Route 4 headquarters less than a mile down the road.
Wild Apple was started in 1990 by the Chesters from a spare bedroom when they moved to Woodstock with their 10-month-old. They chose where to live first, then started Laurie’s idea for a company in an industry that they knew nothing about, and in which they had no experience. Somehow it all worked out. In the early years, they rented warehouse space in what is now Farmhouse Pottery’s flagship store, before building their own warehouse. Wild Apple has been included in Best Places to Work in Vermont for 12 consecutive years and received the 2001 Deane C. Davis Outstanding Vermont Business Award.