By Katherine P. Cox
Eli Gould, a former Bensonwood associate, has become a local legend around Brattleboro.
Gould is a child of the 1970s-era back-to-the-land movement. He was raised on a Vermont commune and built his first dwelling, a timber-frame cabin, when he was 19. He won a full scholarship to Yale University and excelled in Yale’s first dual major in architecture and forestry.
“Both things I loved,” the entrepreneurial Gould says. “I grew up here, I knew all the trees, I love wood, and I love how in this area you get to see raw material turning into finished product. And I loved design.”
He opened his own company, Ironwood Brand, the day after he graduated in 1994. He went on to spend four years as custom home-builder Tedd Benson’s right-hand man. Then he left to go back to his business to build highly efficient, prefabricated, premium homes with sophisticated insulation and technologically and up-to-the-minute service systems. (You can turn on the heating system from your car).
“My clientele are the most discriminating, smart, savvy, committed people I’ve ever met,” Gould says. “I build really high-end homes, usually quiet, not overstated. What usually happens is the house becomes something more—it starts out as a second home and turns into their retirement home. Our homes are like the farm-to-table movement, but it’s a bigger decision than deciding what to eat.”
Gould has managed to create an award-winning company that’s on track to top $1 million in sales in 2017. And he says he wants to spur more economic development in the region he loves.
“Wouldn’t it be lovely if a large European manufacturer who makes a wood-based product that’s better than plywood opened a plant here?” he muses.