It all comes back to the ocean.
From the beginning, the North Country Wind Bells® has been dedicated to evoking the sounds of the ocean with chimes and bells inspired by the rugged coast of Maine, says owner Connie Davidson, whose father Jim worked as a lobster fisherman in the Northeastern state before starting the business in 1975.
Davidson says the buoy bells floating on the sea were the original source of inspiration for her parents to start creating wind bells.
“[The buoy bells] are actually a mariner's navigation markers that are used in rough weather or if there's a current,” Davidson says. “You can hear the bell and if it’s really rough weather, you're going to hear it more, or it can be completely calm and it won't play. In any case, they do mark various harbors and [Jim] loved that sound, as do many that sail. He wanted to try to bring that sound to people so they could enjoy it in their own backyards.”
The next step was to take the sound of the ocean and give it a physical form. Metal-working tools on the family farm provided the opportunity to experiment with early wind bell designs.
“We had a small farm as well and [Jim] always did a lot of welding and repairs on equipment and in doing that, he wanted to play with steel and see what he could do. That was the original concept and beginning [of North Country Wind Bells®].”
The first North Country Wind Bells® products were hand-made projects primarily made by shearing metal into buoy bell shapes. Once the first products were created, Davidson’s parents started their business the old-fashioned way: going door to door.
“They went on the road in their little diesel Volkswagen Rabbit and went to various stores and cold-called on them and many of them were very receptive. They found that they were selling more and more of them and they also did a lot of retail shows all over New England. When they grew far enough in volume, they hired more people on and they went into wholesale.”
Today, North Country Wind Bells® products are sold at the national level in garden centers and retail nurseries, as well as in gift shops, museums, state parks, tourist stores, galleries and marinas – often marketed as “proudly American made.” Providing American-made products is central to the company’s identity, Davidson says.
"People are really seeking [American-made products] out and when we do wholesale trade shows, we try to exhibit in those venues,” she says. “We also have a great branding [partnership] with the state of Maine's department of economic development. They created a Maine-made 'America's Best' tag that's hung on every one of our bells and products that we make.”
North Country Wind Bells® continues to expand its offerings with new bell designs, while staying true to the natural beauty at the core of the company.
"Living in the beauty that we do. In the rugged coast of Maine, there are a lot of lakes and of course the ocean, but there's a lot of wilderness. We love the outdoors and we just get inspired by nature itself,” Davidson says.
“Dad did the black buoy bells, which we continue to do, but we also do the wilderness bells in the shape of a tree, we have lighthouses around, and of course we want to try to sell nationally - we want to appeal to as much of the whole country as we can.”