Bowled Over

Large, small, or in between, these wooden wonders from the Holland Bowl Mill will last several lifetimes
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wooden bowl
This large bowl, made from an American hardwood, showcases the wood’s beauty and comes in handy for large gatherings.
Photos courtesy of Holland Bowl Mill

Most people know the West Michigan harbor town of Holland for its Tulip Festival and Dutch ancestry, but for nearly a century, the Holland Bowl Mill has been a destination for people looking for wooden bowls of all shapes and sizes. Today the bowls are still turned by hand — nearly a lost art in our modern world — and they’re so sturdy, they come with a lifetime guarantee.

What started in 1926 as a wooden shoe factory run by Chester VanTongeren is now the largest solid wood bowl production facility in the world. The business is owned by VanTongeren’s grandson, Dave Gier, and great-grandson, Kory Gier. 

“I grew up around the company,” says Kory, who started working at Holland Bowl Mill in high school, continued working there during his college years, and then went full time in 2013. He watched the mill’s expansion in 2002, and over the past five years he’s witnessed the opening of a new retail showroom in Holland, as well as the introduction of “a ton of new products,” including serving trays, taco boards, French rolling pins, and air-plant holders. 

The products, which also include cutting and serving boards, chopping bowls with mezzaluna knives, plates, platters, kitchen and salad utensils, home décor, and Bee’s Oil wood preserver, are sold in Holland Bowl’s retail store, in the mill’s showroom, and in 350 kitchen/housewares shops across the U.S. and Canada.

Holland Bowl Mill
Holland Bowl Mill produces 800 to 1,000 bowls a week.

Gier says the mill produces 800 to 1,000 bowls a week, ranging in price from $15 to $550 and in diameter from 6 inches to 20 inches. No two bowls are alike. 

“Each bowl tells its own story,” says Gier, adding that in their production, “each bowl is touched hundreds of times — there’s a whole lot of love put into our products.” You can browse through a variety of styles, including fruit bowls with holes so they drain after rinsing; bowls that are live-edged, torched, or ebonized; and bowls with four corners.

The showroom’s best-sellers are in the “imperfect” section, where items with knots and other blemishes are discounted. For many wood aficionados, those are the most interesting qualities. 

“There are tons of displays in the showroom,” Gier says. “People tend to spend a lot of time here.”

taco stand
The company’s handy taco stand undoubtedly makes Taco Tuesdays extra fun!

He lauds Holland Bowl’s talented team of employees, who are given wide creative berth to try out their ideas and make prototypes for new products. If an item is out on the floor and is popular, it becomes part of the product line. Each piece is made from American hardwoods including cherry, walnut, beech, hard maple, and red oak — and none of the wood cutoffs are wasted.

“We’re a zero-waste company,” Gier says, explaining that Holland Bowl purchases logs from local tree companies, and the leftover shavings are donated to local horse stables. The rest is sold for firewood.

Want to see how these products are made? Take a free mill tour, where visitors get a sensory experience watching as the aromatic blocks of wood are turned into heirloom-quality items, most of which are displayed in the mill’s 1,500-square-foot showroom. Groups of under 10 can walk in without an appointment six days a week. Tours take place a couple of times a day. 

Another customer-friendly perk: If you’d like your bowl or other product engraved, it’s free for up to 55 characters and can be done while you wait. 

Cutting and serving boards, chopping bowls, plates, platters, kitchen and salad servers
Above and below: Cutting and serving boards, chopping bowls, plates, platters, kitchen and salad servers, and more make up the product offerings at Holland Bowl Mill.

MORE INFORMATION:  

Visit the Holland Bowl Mill at 120 James St., Holland. Closed Sunday.
hollandbowlmill.com

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