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Maximizing the use of local skills and talent is the essence of good business. We make all of our products right here in Bristol and Warren Rhode Island.
Both Bristol and Warren were part of the lands inhabited by the Pokanoket (aka Wampanoag) Natives and were claimed as part of the original Plymouth Colony. Warren started out as a trading post in 1621 with the Pokanokets. It was incorporated in 1668 under the name of Sowams, and in 1747 under its current name. Warren has been a manufacturing town almost since it began--textiles, luggage, machined products and ships. It still makes machined products and ships. Warren also produces consumer products and a wide range of crafts.
Incorporated in 1680 following King Phillip's War, Bristol has been a leader in making fast ships for more than 200 years. In the years following the Civil War most of the America's Cup winners were designed and built here. Bristol has been an early leader in the manufacture of rubber, aluminum, textiles, rugs, shoes, machine tools and machined products. It remains a leader in the manufacture of boats and carbon fiber products.
The workforces of Bristol and Warren have a history of making things and making them well.
July 5, 2021, Bristol, Rhode Island.
After the band comes the Bristol Town Council and Town Manager, then the Governor and Treasurer of Rhode Island, then one of the Congressional Representatives and the two US Senators.
The Sakonnet River Company was set up on a Dare.
"We were at a cocktail party trying to come up with a worldwide problem that was small enough for us to solve. We determined that the world's greatest minor problem was eating and drinking at cocktail parties."
So we dared each other to come up with the solution.
The challenge boiled down to two basic questions:
1. Can you design a tray that you can carry for more than 20 minutes?
2. Can you make a tray that you aren't embarrassed to be seen with?
It was in an effort to meet this challenge that The Sakonnet River Company was established in 2018. It was established as a Rhode Island corporation by Bob Barrow and Charles Tansey, who have been neighbors in Bristol RI off and on since the 1980s.
Charles: “I was in banking and then government. So I was deployed to many cocktail parties. Also gallery openings, theatre intermissions, and ball games. So you could say that I'm a professional party guest. There was an astonishing need for this kind of tray throughout my career. What put me over the top, though, was a meet-and-greet event on a schooner in Newport. You had to hold onto the plate and the glass at the same time, because if you put them down, they would slide and tip over. It was fine - as long as you didn't try to eat and drink, or shake hands - or hold onto the gunwales. Ouch. How many great hors d'oeuvres have I had to leave sitting out there on excquisitely appointed tables over the decades? I'm guessing several acres. ”
Bob: “When my wife and I were in Tuscany we had seen this sort of painter’s palette for holding drinks and hors d’ oeuvres. Seemed everybody was using them. All different shapes, weights and sizes. We wanted a tray like that - but we wanted one that was light - and would look good at a party.”
Charles: "Bob's painter's palette was the game-changer. Most cocktail trays can only be held for 15 or 20 minutes. That's because you hold them with your thumb. Plus, if they hold a glass, it's usually placed at the opposite end of the tray from your thumb - which makes it feel heavier. But an artist can hold a paint palette all day - and look good doing it. This solved both of the two big challenges -- the carrying time and the fashionable look."
Bob: "We spent a couple of years trying different materials and experimenting with the process. We settled on solid wood and carbon fiber."
Charles: "Bob had sold his company, which made Windsor chairs for universities, but he'd kept his workshop at the factory."
Bob: "We got the product and the production quality where it needed to be by 2020, but then COVID pretty much closed down the party space. We began selling in earnest in late 2021."
Charles: “We love the single-handed tray niche, and the challenge. How to create a personal cocktail tray that is light enough, and sufficiently elegant to fit in well at a wedding, a gallery opening, a gala, or a diplomatic affair. And then, also, how to make the same concept suitable for coffee, tea, papaya juice, caviar, sushi, hiking, biking, sailing, skiing, picnics, wine-tastings, special dates, and getaways."
Bob: "We launched the Gala Champagne trays in February 2022, and the Gala Wine trays in January 2023. We have the designs for a champagne and caviar tray, a sushi and sake tray, a tray for couples tray and a wine-tasting tray on the drawing board."
Charles: "There are lots of competitors in the wine and cocktail tray space. We welcome them -- it helps build awareness of the value of having trays at cocktail parties, and expands the interest in using them."
Bob: "We have developed a distinct niche in the design and in the crafting of the trays. The addition of laser engraving has added to this. We don't need patents."
Charles: "My wife and I take the trays to every party we attend. To help the hosts and hostesses make their parties better."
Bob: "Our business approach is simple: if the product helps people enjoy themselves more, it will sell itself.”