Stark Mountain | New Haven, VT: Building a Healthy—and Homey—Workspace

Stark Mountain | New Haven, VT: Building a Healthy-and Homey-Workspace

Supporting a healthy lifestyle comes naturally to Skimmer Hellier, owner of Stark Mountain, a custom woodworking company in New Haven, Vermont. Thanks to the influence of his wife Jill, who runs an organic farm in the area, Hellier believes strongly that "what we eat and where our food comes from manifests in how we feel." And Hellier tries to extend this philosophy to his 12 employees by stocking the shop with local foods, such as apples from a nearby orchard and coffee from the Vermont Coffee Company.

About once a week, employees or their friends or family members use the kitchen to make a healthy lunch for the entire staff."

Be our "Guest" (Chef). When Hellier installed a kitchen in the woodworking shop two years ago, his intention wasn't just to use it to showcase the cabinetry that Stark Mountain's artisans finish to perfection. "I wanted a nice space where employees could enjoy their lunches," he says. When friends and family stopped by to see the new space, "they'd say how much they'd love to cook in such a beautiful kitchen," says Hellier. So now, about once a week, employees or their friends or family members use the kitchen to make a healthy lunch for the entire staff. (Hellier reimburses "chefs" for the ingredients.) Recent meals include Mediterranean orzo salad with feta vinaigrette and tomato and eggplant stew-with Blueberry & White Chocolate Chunk Ginger Cookies (an EatingWell recipe) for dessert.

(Gentle) Pedal Pusher? In January 2006, Hellier launched a reward program: employees who biked 650 miles to and from work by the year's end got a $1,000 bonus. (Those without a bike were given a $500 advance to buy one.) At the time Hellier announced the initiative, master woodworker Eric Albinson, 59, hadn't been on two wheels in 45 years. Still, he seized the opportunity and used the advance to buy a new bike (as did nine of his co-workers who also didn't have bikes-all employees participated). In the next 12 months, Albinson biked 700 miles to and from work and, in the process, saved $100 on gas and lost 50 pounds. Now, when weather permits, Albinson ventures off his "straight-shot" 3.5-mile (one-way) path to the shop and explores alternate-and often longer-routes. The extra mileage will help him to meet this year's 750-mile bike-to-work goal, upped to keep employees feeling challenged.

Hard-earned Rewards. "The fantasy of the Vermont woodworker whittling away in a post-and-beam shop isn't quite accurate," says Hellier. "Like most companies, we have demanding clients who expect us to meet our deadlines. By giving employees these programs, I'm able to show my appreciation for how hard they work every day." -L.H.