DIGBY, N.S. – Once upon a time in a Canadian province far, far away, a man and his wife were dreaming of starting a business when, suddenly, they received a gift, a stonecast fairy door.
Now, this couple, Alan and Sarah Cornfield, also wanted a garden.
But there was none on the property they had bought in the subdivision of Sugar Bush in Oro-Medonte, Ontario. So, they placed that fairy door in a pile of dirt.
And the following spring, flowers appeared, creating a beautiful flower garden.
“There was a mound of dirt there and I stuck our first fairy door in it on an old, rotten stump,” said Alan Cornfield. “The following spring, there was a beautiful flower garden. That was our first experience with (fairy magic).”
The appearance of that flower garden – and solid market research by the budding entrepreneurs – convinced the Cornfields to launch Sugar Bush Fairies, a small company they moved into a Digby, Nova Scotia home last October. The company makes fantastical fairy doors, which are shipped throughout North America.
“Each door is a portal allowing the fairy folk to enter into our lives, bringing with them the special magic of their realm,” claims the Sugar Bush Fairies website.
Although fairies are usually considered to be the stuff of children’s stories in Canada, there are many people whose spiritual beliefs include the existence of these beings. Canadian documentary filmmaker John Walker’s The Fairy Faith, released in 2000, unpacks that tradition of fairy lore, revealing how these beings who are usually considered mythological, were blamed for the Irish Potato Famine of 1845 and physical deformities and how they have been revered by many throughout the ages.
Sanitized by Victorian society into the cute, winged creatures of today’s fairy tales, these creatures were originally considered to be mischievous and sometimes unpleasant.
But at Sugar Bush Fairies, the owners state on their website: "We have a passion for the whimsical. the magical, and all the intangible things that fills a life with joy." Hence their product.
At Sugar Bush Fairies, the Cornfields profess that they “absolutely” believe in the existence of fairies and their magic. On his Facebook page, Alan Cornfield demonstrates his interest in things magical by giving himself the nickname of Merlin, the wizard which legend holds advised King Arthur and fell in love with the Lady of the Lake.
The Cornfields’ mom-and-pop operation makes and sells fairy, elf, pixie, brownie, leprechaun, sprite, hobbit, and goblin doors, most no more than 15 cm in height, through roughly 60 stores in Canada and the United States.
While tales of these creatures hold that they come in a wide variety of heights, from only a few centimetres to as tall as a human being, Sugar Bush Fairies has limited and somewhat standardized the size of its doors for real-life business reasons.
“We cater to the very small door, in the pixie size of up to six inches … for the fairy lore and dollhouse scale which is a very big thing in the United States,” said Alan Cornfield. “We also need to keep it at a particular size so it fits into our boxes, so the retailer can display it and for shipping.”
Sugar Bush Fairies has an online store on Etsy, which can be found at the web address: www.etsy.com/ca/shop/SugarBushFairies/items, where it lists 103 items for sale. These range from its diminutive Pips ’N Squeaks door, which retails for $23.37, through to the $51.94 Harry Potter Great Hall Door for Home and Garden, complete with the crest from best-selling novelist J.K. Rowling’s fictional Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Bricks-and-mortar stores that order 10 doors or more get wholesale prices 50 per cent lower than those posted on the e-commerce website.
“We have a minimum wholesale order amount of $250,” said Alan Cornfield. “That gives people about 15 doors.”
A former design engineer in the furniture industry, he crafts each door in cedar. Sarah Cornfield, a former educational assistant with a passion for painting, then provides the final, artistic flair.
In February, the entrepreneurs took their fairy doors to the Craft East Buyers’ Expo 2018 in Halifax and landed deals to distribute their products in six more stores in Atlantic Canada, including four in Nova Scotia, one on Prince Edward Island and another in Newfoundland. The company’s fairy doors are already available for sale at: Newfoundland’s Iceberg Shop; Nova Scotia’s The GaelicCollege, The Teazer, and Odessa Gifts and Home Decor, as well as; Prince Edward Island’s Preserve Co.
Expansion, though, is going to require a new workshop for Sugar Bush Fairies.
Alan Cornfield is now handling the woodworking for the doors in the basement of the family’s home on Digby's Lighthouse Road. Sarah Cornfield has a painting studio in rooms upstairs in the same house.But, next summer, that setup is going to change.
The Cornfields are planning to attach another shed to the existing one in their backyard, creating one long workshop of close to 800 square feet. Once that’s fully insulated and wired for electricity and ready to go, the business’ revenues and its workforce are expected to grow, said Alan Cornfield.
It’s that desire to expand the business that attracted the Cornfields to Digby.
In Ontario, the Cornfields were already operating at full capacity, making as many fairy doors as they could. Sugar Bush Fairies had grown to the point where the entrepreneurs needed to expand outside of their own home and hire people to keep up with the demand.
But land and labour costs in Ontario made that prohibitively expensive, said Alan Cornfield.
The couple, who had honeymooned in Nova Scotia and come back several times on vacations with their children, had fallen in love with the province.
The more affordable property values seemed to make it the perfect place to resettle and expand Sugar Bush Fairies.
“Everybody in Nova Scotia lives the way everyone should live,” said Sarah Cornfield. “Everybody is so relaxed. There’s the ocean and the whales.
“It’s very beautiful,” she said. “There’s a rugged beauty here you can’t find anywhere else in Canada.”
And they lived happily ever after.
VISIT THE SUGAR BUSH FAIRIES WEBSITE: CLICK HERE.