Paul and Barbara Gardiner with their Springer, Snickers. This picture was taken for an article about the Gardiners in the Sun Journal in March 2022. Paula Kane/Franklin Journal

AVON — Nestled alongside Route 4, the town of Avon serves as the backdrop for Paul Gardiner’s woodworking haven.

Originally from Portland, Paul has been in the Phillips area for most of his life. It was in Avon that he first crossed paths with his wife, Barbara, in 1982, at The Country Pantry, where Barbara was employed. Their meeting laid the foundation for a marriage on Christmas Eve in 1988.

This is a glimpse on May 6 of some of the items handmade by Paul Gardiner in Avon. Rebecca Richard/Franklin Journal

Paul fondly recalled his childhood spent watching old carpenters at work on his walk home from school, igniting his passion for woodworking. “When I was growing up in school I used to watch the old local carpenters when I walked home from school, they would be putting a garage up or something and I would go by and watch what they were doing,” Paul said. Then I got the passion for doing toys. I build a lot of toys,” he reflected, describing his transition to crafting toys, a skill that has become his livelihood.

“Everyone around knows we sell the toys,” he added proudly, emphasizing his reliance on word-of-mouth promotion over modern technology. He said he recently sold five picnic tables to a campground, priced at $200 for an eight–footer. “I usually sell a dozen or so every year,” he noted.

Attending shows is part of his marketing strategy, although he admits the size of the big toys like sleds are difficult to transport. “When you have wagons and sleds like mine, it is hard to go to a show,” Paul said.

From intricate wooden toys to Adirondack chairs and picnic tables, Paul’s creations are all handcrafted from scratch using pine.


Beyond his woodworking and family life, Paul has been deeply ingrained in his community, serving as the sexton for five towns, meticulously tending to cemeteries for 15 years, and previously assuming roles as the town’s fire chief and police officer.

His commitment to service extends to his military tenure as a Vietnam veteran, an experience that will soon be commemorated through an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., accompanied by his daughter, a nurse.

When asked about the recent flooding, Paul said they weren’t impacted. “It wasn’t so beautiful that stormy night of the flood,” Paul recalled. “It came within 2 feet of the back of our cellar foundation, we didn’t get a drop of water in the cellar. We lucked out.”

Two wagons seen on May 6 hand made by Paul Gardiner of Avon. These are not for sale, the blue one is for Paul and the red one is for his wife Barbara. Rebecca Richard/Franklin Journal

Describing their experience with the recent storm, Barbara elaborated, “The Sandy River is right near our property. When the flood came, I had just finished our pet cemetery. There are painted rocks up there. And each dog had a different colored rock, so everybody that has come and gone in our lives with four feet is up there.”

“I had some rocks left over. So, I marked how high the water came up on the roadway, Rangeley Rd. in Avon,” Barbara said. “It did not come up to the concrete basement, no water in the basement. But my husband was out there outside with a flashlight on Dec. 18 flood.”

Barbara affectionately reminisced about her pets, specifically the one on her lap. “This girl is Snickers, our ninth Springer Spaniel,” Barbara said. We lost our previous dog M&M. They are all chocolate names.” She mentioned naming their home Springer Farm and their desire to adopt/rescue a Springer. Despite initial challenges with a breeder’s illness, they found Snickers and fell in love with her.

Reflecting on their enduring relationship, Paul said they will have been married 36 years on Christmas Eve this year. Barbara shared, “We can talk things over; we don’t always agree, we try to never go to bed mad. We are very much alike in many ways. We are ordinary people.” Their family, comprising four children, nine grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter has flourished, Barbara said.

The upcoming Honor Flight holds special significance for Paul, his family and his daughter. “We will do a tour of all the memorials,” Paul said. “I am a veteran of Vietnam. I got blown up in an explosion in Vietnam. And I have a purple heart, and a Maine silver star medal.” Paul explained, “You can’t bring wives on the honor flight; it has to be an adult child.”

Anyone considering a purchase of one of these unique creations may call Paul at 207-684-3394 for more information and/or to make an appointment to view the products.

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