Several years ago, sisters Leah Bott and Brenda Swanson were camping at Cadotte Lake in northeastern St. Louis County and they saw some other campers using hammocks suspended between two trees and it gave them an idea.
"We were camping and we saw some people at the lake that had these hammocks," Swanson said. "We fell in love with them and realized that it might be something that we could make."
The sisters took their idea for a durable, heavy duty nylon or polyester hammock that could easily be suspended between trees to former Granite Gear owner Dan Cruikshank and used the outdoor gear company's industrial sewing equipment to make the first four hammocks for their new business, Tree to Tree Gear.
Afterward, Bott and Swanson purchased their own industrial sewing machine and Bott started sewing Tree to Tree hammocks in her garage and Swanson sews the pillows and makes the rope that suspends the hammocks. Swanson also makes the custom bags each hammock comes in so they can be easily stored. One of the unique things about the hammocks is, in addition to being extremely durable, they are all fleece lined which makes them extremely comfortably to sleep or lie in while relaxing at a campsite or in a backyard somewhere.
"We use really heavy duty ropes and straps, that means when you lay in it, you don't feel like you are going to fall out," Bott said. "Nothing is going to break easy, we've never had anybody in six years of doing it tell us that it broke. It's really durable and meant to last. Yes, it costs a little more, but it's a hammock that you are going to have for a very long time."
When they started their business, Bott had just moved to the area with her husband Tom Bott, and the sisters thought it could be something they could work together on after many years of living several hours apart. Shortly after starting to make the hammocks, Bott and Swanson opened a storefront for Tree to Tree in Two Harbors, but when Bott got a new job as a agriculture and natural resources teacher at William Kelley Schools in Silver Bay, they chose to start selling the hammocks online at www.treetotreegear.com and at Buddy's Mercantile in Two Harbors. When Cruikshank opened Spokengear last year, he also began stocking Tree to Tree hammocks in the bike and outdoor equipment shop on Lake County Highway 26 in Two Harbors.
Tree to Tree's website says the company is also "service-minded" and tries to contribute to community programs around Lake County. Swanson said they try to donate a hammock or two to the After Prom programs at local schools and to other nonprofit or community oriented organizations regularly.
"We want to make a profitable business but we also want to give back and teach our kids a good work ethic and what it takes to make a successful business," Swanson said.
Not only has Bott become adept at sewing hammocks, taking less than two hours to complete a process that once took several hours for each hammock, she's also enjoys taking time to unwind and relax in her creations.
"I take time myself to get out and enjoy the hammock, like anybody we need take time to relax and enjoy things more than I do," Bott said. "It's always nice to go out into the backyard, read and put my feet up."