For many of us, 2020 has been the most challenging year we've ever experienced. It has been a year of much uncertainty and even fear. However difficult it is to look beyond that, if we are able to, we can see that those dark moments also highlight those things we should be extra grateful for our families, colleagues, friends, and our earth.
2020 was filled with hope and new excitement for many of us - the start of a new decade, new and bright horizons staring back at us from advancements in technology, and the ever-shrinking feeling of the world drawing every person and culture closer together. CorkHouse was no exception. The last ten years have been a constant time of growth, company development, and ever-present change.
In 2010, CorkHouse had only one North American location and was a far cry from the Savannah boutique you can visit today. Our flagship location was a personal project of Henry Jelinek IV, who wanted to make a house of cork. The focus of the early CorkHouse was on flooring, wall tiles, home improvement, and fabric.
In 2017 the Savannah branch of Jelinek Cork had the exciting opportunity to move to a new location in downtown Savannah, on the main drag - Bay Street. Our new home base was originally a cotton warehouse and has just as much history and personality as our company.
It was just what Sonny Jelinek had been looking for, a place steeped in history where CorkHouse could expand and bring the wonders of cork to a new market.
When we first moved in, a lot of work was needed to make the space the wonderful blend of new and old you see today. An emphasis was placed on using local woods and sustainable products throughout the renovations. The early days were full of ups and downs and plenty of funny moments (Including one exceptionally memorable day using a plug-in radio to mark which outlets were on which breaker.), but slowly CorkHouse began to take shape.
At the start of this year, we were staring down the last phase of renovations, but everything changed in early March.
- March 20th: CorkHouse closed physical store locations
- June 1st: CorkHouse Savannah Reopened on a limited bases
It became apparent quickly that adaptability would be the key to surviving and thriving in 2020. CorkHouse began to focus on offering online customers as similar to an in-store experience as possible. We know that nothing can replace the adventure of experiencing cork firsthand in our store, but through trial and error, we think our website has been getting closer.
We also rediscovered the importance of family and a sense of community. Many struggled with isolation, while others had more personal struggles with family members' health or even their own health. One of our key pillars is to build a community. Like most people, we had to redefine community, but also rely on ours more than ever. The health of a community is the responsibility of every community member; we have been able to get through this thanks to our community's conscientious efforts to protect one another - efforts like wearing masks, limiting travel, and maintaining social distance.
"You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream." - C.S. Lewis
Finally, we were reminded of some of the benefits of a simpler life, one where a work-life balance was not a constant struggle. These times reminded us of our products' origin story, which is our company's origin story in many ways. The cork harvest has long been a family tradition and the lifeblood of an entire region's economy. Families in Portugal, Italy, Spain, and other Mediterranean countries carefully and artfully remove the cork tree's bark allowing for new bark to regrow. This year has been particularly hard for these countries and families. They were the first hit by COVID-19 and experienced the unimaginable pain of an over-run healthcare system. Luckily though, the cork industry was able to help support the region while continuing to foster economic growth.
As we saw smog disappear from cities that hadn't seen the sky in decades, we were also reminded of the importance of our goal to reduce carbon emissions in our atmosphere. Cork has a vital role to play in this process, but so do you! When you purchase cork products, you are supporting the cork forest habitat and the corresponding workforce, from the forest level all the way to the sales floor. You are helping clean the air, create jobs, and sustain one of the most diverse ecosystems of plant and animal life found anywhere in the world. You are helping make the world a little better.
As we look into 2021 and the real new decade according to the farmer's almanac, we are excited to continue implementing this challenging year's lessons. We hope we will be able to welcome you safely to all of our locations in the near future as we re-enter the new world with open eyes and hearts full of the desire for change.
So, here's to 2021 and the REAL start of a new Decade!
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your support this year. We want you to know that your support has and will continue to make a difference - both to the planet and in the lives of real people.
It may be cliché to say this, but it is worth repeating: we are all in this together. All of us at CorkHouse and Jelinek Cork Group are beyond grateful for our customers and friends and wish you and your families a happy and healthy New Year!
As has been the case since 1855, Jelinek Cork and CorkHouse remain true to our mission of supporting our natural environment through a dedication to the renewable cork forest habitat.