About Byer of Maine
A Short History of the Company
From the desk of Gerry Couture, President
The Byer Manufacturing Company was founded in 1880 in Bangor, Maine by the Byer family as a maker of slippers and textile products. By 1925, the company relocated to a century old frame building in Orono, Maine.
After this move to Orono, the company continued stitching operations and expanded into metal stampings and the manufacture of wood frame folding cots. WWII and Korea found the company committed to expanded cot production as well as the stitching of a wide range of canvas products for the war efforts. In the 1950’s, the company returned to consumer products with the production of knapsacks and duffels while continuing to build cots for the military, emergency preparedness, disaster relief and civilian uses.
With the third generation of the Byer family nearing retirement age, company ownership passed to Jay Shields in 1985. New ownership brought new energy with the expansion of new cot models and an expanded folding wood furniture line.
In the late 1990’s the changing American marketplace made it increasingly difficult to sell products made in Maine at an attractive price and still pay a living wage. At that point in time, we were faced with a hard decision, let a century old American brand and the oldest maker of folding cots in the U.S., become history or source worldwide and apply our Maine grit, integrity and experience to continue the Byer of Maine brand into the next decades. We are here today because we chose the latter…
I worked alongside Jay for almost 30 years as we navigated the ever-changing marketplace. During that time, Byer transitioned from a wholesale manufacturer to bringing Byer of Maine products directly to consumers. We also added a wild bird line, which due to our utilitarian heritage led us to design a wild bird line that focused on function first, followed by a simple, clean design aesthetic.
Fast forward to 2022, Jay had amassed years of hard work and he reached an age where he was ready to retire and pass the baton. With my wife Terri, I bought the company and today it is still a family business with our two children Bethany and Travis and their spouses Alex and Holly.
The family business is a labor of love with many long nights and weekends by us all to bring it together and make it work. If you decide to purchase a product from us and have a question or problem…you can call us in Poland Spring, Maine at 207-866-2171 and more than likely you will be greeted with Terri answering the phone rather than voicemail. You may also hear an enthusiastic bark or howl from one of several family dogs in the background.
We often hear from customers that have a chair, stool or folding cot that they have had for many years, sometimes decades. Maybe they found an old Byer military cot in their dad’s or granddad’s attic and the frame is still working but it needs a new cover. Sometimes it’s a Lounger chair or folding stool that has traveled on many adventures with them or a table that has been at the lake house for decades. Quite often we can supply that missing part or replacement cover to ensure that product continues to be part of many more memories to come.
Today, we operate the company out of a traditional New England style barn, (yes, built by us, also nights and weekends!) We are working to expand our line of products with a focus on simplistic function, as we prepare yet the next generation to carry on the century old Byer of Maine brand.
We are only here because of our loyal customers. Should you purchase a product from us, you can rest assured that you are buying from a Maine family-owned company that places a great deal of value in our customers!