Where Intention Takes You
Steve Pogson ushers Maine Bunk Beds into a new era
If you find yourself in Post Office Park in Portland on a weekday, chances are you’ve walked past Steve Pogson. He’s the tall, caffeinated man walking at a clip, curly dark hair slipping across forehead, gesticulating while he talks on the phone, smiling crinkly- eyed when he spots someone he knows, which is often.
I know Pogson—I’ve worked with his wife, Rebecca Falzano, at MH+D for several years now—but I realized just how little I knew about him when I learned that he was the co-owner of a company called Maine Bunk Beds. Bunk beds in general have a magical quality to them, and MMB’s brightly painted, solid wood varieties are especially enchanting. But a bunk bed company? Steve?
You see, Pogson is a fairly talkative guy, but he rarely talks about himself; he would always rather hear what you’re up to. Finally, I turned the tables on him—or, more precisely, I “turned” a heavy farm table of reclaimed wood that runs the length of the dining room in the greater Portland home he shares with Falzano, as well as their three-year-old daughter and their dog, who looks part panda. It’s odd to see this downtown character in his rural house, preparing cups of pour-over coffee against the woodsy backdrop framed in the kitchen window.
Growing up, Pogson could never have imagined himself living in Maine. He was raised in a working-class Philadelphia neighborhood with little sense of the world at large and no thought of leaving his hometown. But soon after graduating from Philadelphia University, he started working at multinational consulting company Accenture, where he consulted for clients all over the country and in Europe. “I discovered that I love not knowing too much about a situation, being dropped into someone else’s environment, and helping to give perspective,” he says. In 2003 he moved to New York City, where he met his wife and worked for companies like Johnson and Johnson and Pfizer. But after a decade in the fast-paced corporate world, Pogson says, he started to crave more personal interactions and wanted to put his skills to use in a smaller setting where he might make a greater impact. On a road trip through California, Pogson and Falzano got out of the rat race long enough to feel that they were stuck in it. “We realized that, with intention, you can live anywhere,” says Pogson.
They fell in love with Portland on a weekend visit and moved there in December of 2008. In the years following, Pogson built up his digital marketing business, First Pier, gradually replacing New York City clients with local small-business owners. When you see him charging through Post Office Park at Manhattan speeds, he’s probably on his way to visit entrepreneurs he admires and cares about, to help them grow their businesses and attract customers online through strategic branding, web design, and e-commerce solutions. Either that, or he’s picking up another cup of coffee.
The other side of Pogson’s career began to emerge when his wife was pregnant and the parents-to-be were fitting out their nursery. Three years earlier, Falzano had been diagnosed with cancer. She is healthy now, but the experience crystallized Pogson’s priorities. He cares about quality time, quality relationships, and also quality things. He wanted to create a safe and healthy home for his child, and he and Falzano were making every effort to do so, filling the nursery with nontoxic toys and painting the walls with VOC-free paint. But when it came to furniture, their only options seemed to be the chintzy, overseas-made, Allen-wrench-assembled kind.
In 2013, when he and some business associates were presented with the opportunity to acquire a small business called Maine Bunk Beds, it felt right to the core. The company, now based in Buxton, was founded by a man with a story Pogson identified with. Unable to find a bed made with nontoxic finishes and materials for his chemical-sensitive son, Scott Taylor of Brunswick made the first Maine Bunk Bed. By the time Pogson and his partners got involved, Taylor was overseeing the production of over a hundred beds a year, but the business was not sustainable. “I had no doubt that I could help expand the business through my experience with digital marketing, but I was more excited about the fact that there was something authentic there,” says Pogson. “I was decorating this room for my baby, and I knew, from personal experience, that nontoxic furniture is something that people are thinking about now.” He was right. And after refining the designs, securing a talented group of local craftsman, and broadening its exposure, Maine Bunk Beds has met its market and begun to expand.
Solid wood and several hundred pounds each, the beds come in nine safe, functional, and versatile designs and are finished with products like milk and clay paint, which are eco-friendly, nontoxic, and available in bold, unexpected colors ranging from “Jersey Tomato Red” to “Fresh Lemon,” as well as neutrals. With their clean lines and varying configurations, the beds suit just about any style and situation. The triple-bunk “Katahdin” has been especially popular among those outfitting ski and vacation homes. The “Winslow” features stairs with drawers for added storage. Some customers have made special requests for queen-sized beds, and the company is expanding to create additional bedroom furniture with its signature look and quality.
Maine Bunks Beds is coming out ahead of the curve in the non- toxic furniture market, not just because the company anticipated a growing trend, but because to Taylor and Pogson this stuff really matters. And they know it matters to other people, too. That elusive thing so many Mainers refer to—quality of life—is realized through a collection of seemingly small decisions. If the boy from Philadelphia or the consultant from New York didn’t quite have a grasp on that, the father and husband in Portland definitely does.