The Rise of Rustic Marlin

Q+A with owners Melanie and Brian O’Neil

By Maria Allen

Product styling and photography by Ladybug Photography

Portraits by Jack foley

Specializing in hand-painted signs, decorative wood blocks and personalized home accessories, Rustic Marlin is mecca to seasonal decor lovers. The Hanover-based company is an inspiring made-in-America success story. We sat down with owners Melanie and Brian O’Neil to learn more about the rapid expansion of the business and the couple’s recent move to Scituate. We’ve also included a few tips for decorating your home—Rustic Marlin-style

Rustic Marlin was listed on The Boston Business Journal’s list of the fastest-growing private companies in Massachusetts. Can you give me a sense for how much the company has grown? 

We founded Rustic Marlin in 2012, when we were getting ready to tie the knot. After searching tirelessly for the perfect gifts, we decided to craft our own rustic signs using scrap wood from a recent home project. The signs were a hit and fulfilling personalized sign requests soon became more than just a weekend project. In 2015 we sold over
$1 million worth of products out of our home. In 2016 we moved into a large manufacturing space in Hanover. In 2019 we expanded our product assortment to include textiles such as pillows, tea towels and totes. Our team has grown from just the two of us into a talented team of over 40 craftsmen, designers and artists.

What do you think has been the driver of this rapid growth?

When we made our first signs, we had no idea that so many people were searching for unique products designed just for them. Our American-made decor captures the essence of life’s milestone moments. Consumers want high-quality decor that is personalized and meaningful.  Retailers seek premium products designed specifically for their consumers. We put a little charm and personal touch into each and every piece.

How did moving to the Hanover headquarters influence your business?

We moved in August of 2016 but it was another year before we had desks and any resemblance of a corporate headquarters. We had been living in Millis, Massachusetts. We originally moved out that way before Rustic Marlin was even an ideas. As the business grew, we had to search for commercial space to fit our needs. We looked in the MetroWest area as well as throughout the South Shore before deciding to move into the old Building 19 location. Brian grew up in Scituate and we have family in the area so this also had some influence over the business move.

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When did you acquire Marshes, Fields & Hills (MFH) and how have you integrated their product line?  

We acquired MFH on January 1, 2019. We are thrilled that MFH is now a part of the Rustic Marlin family  After years of sharing best practices and design ideas we are excited to combine our talented teams and expand our product assortment.

You now have several major retail accounts as well as local retailers. Approximately how many products do you currently manufacture?

We produce about 40 different core products however the graphics on these pieces make for endless possibilities. We manufacture about 20,000 pieces a month and a piece can be anything from a small rustic block to a pillow or even a table.

You made your very first sign for your wedding. What has it been like to launch a business and work so closely together?  

It has been a wild ride. Owning a business requires 120 percent of your energy. We both have extreme passion for the brand and all of our employees. We have very different but complementary skill sets. Brian focuses on the strategic vision and where we may be in a year, or five years from today. My strength is to focus on the details and what the team or customers need today. We spend our car rides taking about many “big picture” items and also catching up on the details of our days.

You recently purchased a house in Scituate. Are you excited to be living on the South Shore again? Will you be decorating in Rustic Marlin style?

Yes, Scituate is where we have always wanted to live. Brian grew up here and many of our nieces and nephews also live in Scituate so we love to be close by. We are excited to have finally found our own place that we can fix up and it will definitely be Rustic Marlin style. We love living by the ocean and try to spend any free moment outdoors.

What’s on the horizon for 2020? What will you be focusing on?

We are hoping to launch a furniture line that complements our current home accent items. We are also excited to expand our partnerships with LL Bean, Life is Good and The Black Dog as well as to find new iconic brands to partner with in 2020.

What has been the most gratifying aspect of your journey?

Scaling a business from the two of us to over 40 team members. We have built such a wonderful community among employees who have worked at Rustic Marlin. We love hearing stories about their passion for Rustic Marlin and are thankful for their efforts in helping us to grow.

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Decor by
Rustic Marlin
RusticMarlin.com

Product styling and photography by
Ladybug Photography
ladybugfoto.com

Florals by
Flair Floral & Event Design
flairfloral.com

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