Stepping up to the table

I like to eat.  You name it, Italian, Chinese, Mexican, I love a good meal.  But I wanted to ensure that the forks and knives I use to eat my meals were made by Americans.  Imagine my shock when I discovered that only one company is still making flatware here at home. But what a company!  Sherrill Manufacturing located in Sherrill, NY makes some absolutely beautiful flatware patterns under the Liberty Tabletop brand.  My favorite Liberty Tabletop pattern is the Pinehurst.

35 members of our extended American family are working at Liberty Tabletop making great flatware.  The steel for Liberty’s flatware is made in this country as are most of the products Liberty uses to turn its raw American steel into the most beautiful forks, knives and spoons you can buy.  Alice and Matt Roberts were nice enough to send along a short piece on Liberty that recently appeared on TV in New York.  I urge you to watch it and learn about Liberty, their commitment to making their products in New York and the amazing products Liberty is making that you can buy from their website.  I am absolutely certain that once my Pinehurst order arrives, all the food I eat with it will taste better.  And given my cooking prowess, I need all the help I can get!

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I’ve got a few things on my plate

I am pretty swamped these days.  In addition to my real job, my Simply American job has been growing.  I am finally finishing my book, Simply American, Putting Our Extended American Family Back To Work.  I am putting the finishing touches on my new website, Homerica, designed to let people remodel, build and furnish their homes with American made products.  And I am starting to work on developing a service to allow American firms to tell their American stories.  Whew!  So sorry for the radio silence on the blog for the last three weeks.  But there are a number of Made in America issues in the news recently that I wanted to let you know about.

A reasonable question

I have written about the problems about our cheap apparel made abroad a few times over the last few years.  Well I am not alone in questioning this practice.  I read a great article in the Baltimore Sun last week written by Dan Rodricks.  The title of the piece was “For Under Armour, why not ‘UA Made in the USA’?”  I urge you to read it.

A must see John Oliver episode

On the same subject, this last Sunday, John Oliver delivered a great segment on the high cost to others of the low cost apparel sold in this country by H&M, the Gap, and the other wealthy rag merchants.  If you don’t feel shitty buying cheap apparel made in Bangladesh or somewhere similar after watching Oliver’s piece, you need to take your soul in for a checkup.

But its not all bad news!

On the plus side, there have been a lot of great stories in the news about new products being made by members of our extended family.  A great new firm for American made furniture, Greycork, was recently featured in Forbes.  Just yesterday I was contacted by a company, Red Chapter Clothing Conmpany, whose clothing is sewn by members of our extended American family, as opposed to 12 year old girls in Bangladesh.  An article in the Times Free Press heralded that retailer for home products are clamoring for U.S. products because their customers are demanding them.  The article features products by four companies that are featured on my soon to be live Homerica website:  Blendtec, 360 CookwareVitamix and Microplane.  Finally, if you want to sleep soundly knowing you are supporting American workers, buy a mattress equipped with Leggett & Platt innersprings.  The company’s mattresses innersprings are certified Made in the USA!

So if you are in the market for virtually any product you need, there are American options for you to consider.  I urge you do not only consider American products, but make them your default choice as I have for the last four years.  Now get shopping!

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Again with the Vikings!


If you haven’t watched the Vikings series, start immediatley.  It is great drama, lots of juicy battles and a very interesting lead character, Ragnar Lodbrok.

I used to play soccer in my 20s with a Ragnar, a holding midfielder who used to scream at everyone in his blunt Icelandic accent.  But I digress.

The Vikings were amazing voyagers.  Leif Erickson visited North America five centuries before Columbus.  He was not the last Viking to come ashore on our continent.  Viking raids were known for their brutality.  Few Viking sorties in the Middle Ages in Europe were greeted with welcoming garden parties.  From everything I have read and seen, the Vikings were thoroughly scary.  So I was a bit frightened to read that a new Viking invasion of America was about to begin. I ran out and stocked up on shields and pointed sticks, but I needn’t have bothered.  As it turns out, the Vikings that are arriving in America aren’t here to plunder, but rather to manufacture automobiles.

It was reported last week that Volvo, the favorite auto brand of so many aging hippies and hip soccer moms, has decided to join BMW, Mercedes, VWHonda, Toyota, Subaru, Hundai, and Kia and produce cars in America.  No word yet on where Volvo plans to site the $500 million factory.  I am of course pulling for Washington State where I live.  In fact, I plan to let Volvo management know about the Seattle neighborhood of Ballard where Viking decendents are thick as theives.  Volvos produced in Ballard.  I love the idea.

Volvo is hoping that it can transplant its Viking spirit from Sweden to the U.S. and become very successful.  Volvo should hire a spokesman for their American cars who has already achieved what Volvo aspires to do.  I nominate Mads Mikkelsen.

While Volvo is from Sweden and Mikkelsen is from Denmark, I say close enough.  And you got to admit the guy is photogenic.  Volvo could really emphasis it’s Viking roots with images of Mikkelsen in its ad campaign.

But it needs to make sure it uses the right images.

Hey, nobody’s perfect.

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Nice work Dwell!


<br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
  Our July/August issue is on newsstands now!<br /><br /><br /><br /><br />

I have written about Dwell Magazine before.  Michela O’Connor Abrams, the President of Dwell Media, produces what I think is the best magazine focused on homes in their many shapes and forms.  I urge you to get a subscription to Dwell pronto.  As an added benefit, your Dwell subscription will allow you to peruse lots of great American made products for your domicile.  Just yesterday, I got an email from Dwell announcing the newest arrivals to the Dwell estore and most of the amazing wares on offer were constructed by members of our extended American family.  To wit.

Delinea Glass Pendant Light

This beautiful collection of hanging lights is hand crafted by Niche Modern in the Big Apple.  Available in nine colors, the Delinea Glass Pendant Light is unique.

modbox Midcentury Modern Mailbox

Modbox designed the Midcentury Modern Mailbox to complement homes built in the postwar era in the U.S., but its amazing lines and bright colors makes the Midcentury Modern Mailbox a cool choice for any house.  I expect lots of great mailboxes to be produced by Modbox over the next few years.

Vermonter Bench

Furniture is still a bulwark of American consumer manufacturing, and Dwell has always supported American furniture manufacturers.  The Vermonter Bench is made of American black walnut wood by Modern Cre8ve of Cleveland, OH.  The bench can be used to seat three people or can be used to display other American made products.

I applaud Dwell for their steadfast commitment to supporting American firms whose members of our extended American family are producing beautiful, functional and well made products for our homes.  Below you will find a few other great American made products you can purchase on the Dwell website.

Fairmount Hand-Stitched Leather Mirror by Lostine

Stamen Glass Vase by Niche Modern

Astrid Maple Bed by Copeland

Tenon Dining Tables by Modernica

Way to go Michela and way to go Dwell for supporting so many great American manufacturers!

Now get shopping!

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Ponder the lowly pallet.  Assembled of pine, it performs its intended role in the shipping trade admirably.  But after a few trips across the country, it is often discarded and ends up being burned or chucked in a landfill.  But the people at Windfall Lumber have discovered a better end for old pallets.  They make the most of the pallet’s banal wood,  turning it into panels  which get installed as interior siding in lobbies, offices and coffee shops.  The pallet project is simply the most recent effort by members of our extended American family working at Windfall to redeem what some would see as “trash” into useful products for the building industry.


Windfall Lumber is located in Tumwater, just south of the Capitol of Washington State. Founded in 1997 to salvage timber downed in an epic December 1996 ice storm, Windfall Lumber has expanded its “raw materials” to include the aforementioned pallets, power poles prepped but not up to spec, salvaged wood from deconstructed buildings and my favorite, old gym floors. Most of Windfall’s materials are sourced from the Puget Sound region and milled, dried, and finished at Windfall’s Tumwater manufacturing facility.

For the first ten years of its existence, Windfall sold most of its reclaimed products for use in homes around the region.  But with the housing crash in 2008, Windfall Lumber’s president, Scott Royer, and his team recognized the need to expand the market for their products into commercial and institutional projects.  They succeeded and as a result Windfall’s reclaimed wood products can be seen at Clover Park Technical College, South Sound Bank, Vic’s Pizzeria in West Olympia and the Lucky Lunchbox in downtown Olympia.  The Lucky Lunchbox sports a Windfall countertop and wall cladding that was a local school’s gym floor before Windfall’s workers got ahold of it.

South_Sound_Bank_Engineered Panel in White 

South Sound Bank, Engineered Panel in white.

Douglas fir Stairs_CPTC project_3


Clover Park Technical College, Library stairs made from beams from previously deconstructed campus building.

Resurfaced Textile Mill Flooring_Olympia Coffee

Resurfaced Textile Mill flooring as cladding in Olympia Coffee, Wildwood Center.

With the return to health of the building industry over the last four years, Windfall has been expanding its production to supply products for colleges, apartment houses and businesses.  This has required Windfall to do quite a bit of hiring to keep up with demand for its products. Windfall’s tagline is “Every piece of wood has a story”.  The same can be said for many of its new hires.  Windfall has partnered with Labor Ready to provide people to help Windfall hit its production targets.  Many of these workers have flourished at Windfall, and have beseeched Royer to come on board full-time.

One such worker is Bam Mitchell.  Bam (short for Bambino as his father calls him) joined Windfall as an employee in early February after a short stint working through Labor Ready. He moved to the Olympia area from Brownsville, TN, a town of about 10,000 people. He tells of his bad choices at home and a need to make a clean break by moving to the Pacific Northwest to live with a cousin. Though Bam intended to start on a new path after his move, he found it “hard to do good and easier to do bad for a while.” Now 26, he has discovered the importance of surrounding yourself with people who expect good from themselves and him every day. Bam started at Windfall Lumber in the denailing department. His great work ethic, communications skills and interest in learning were quickly apparent. Now he is working in the finishing area and it is a great fit all around.  “It is great to look forward to coming to work every day and being with people who want you to do good. Every day is different; there is something to learn and room to get better. I am being given responsibility and am comfortable with it.”

Antavius Mitchell

Antavius (Bam) Mitchell

Work is redemptive.  It can provide us with the foundation for a new start in life.  Windfall Lumber’s newest employees have experienced a new start through their work of providing a new life for wood products such as abandoned pallets and power poles.  What could be better?


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Right on Target

I was greatly heartened by the news that Target will be featuring a curated line of American made products in the upcoming months.  Target’s “Collective” features products from six brands; all the products in the Collective will be produced by members of our American family.  What are the brands you ask?  Well I will tell you.

Billy Kirk

Tan Leather Handmade Satchel - Front

Started in 1999 by the Brothers Bray on the West Coast, since 2005 Billy Kirk’s leather and canvas products have been produced on the East Coast.   Most Billy Kirk goods are crafted in-house or by a group of Amish leather crafters in Pennsylvania.  The hand-stitched shoulder satchel seen above was modeled after a WWII Belgium Map Case the Brays found at a second-hand store.  Chris and Kirk Bray’s products are hand-made.  Check out the video they shot last year.  Here is one of their bags that is being featured on Target’s Collective line.

Owen & Fred

Hey Handsome Shaving Kit Bag - Navy

Owen and Fred make a bunch products on our shores, from the shaving kit bag pictured above to Lego cuff links,

Lego Cufflinks - Lime Green

wallets made with Horween leather,

The Franklin Black Wallet

and totes to haul your groceries.

Navy and Army Blue Everyday Tote

Owen and Fred, like so many other new American manufacturing firms, is located in NYC.  They will be offering their “LOOKIN’ GOOD” Shaving Kit Bag in Camo in the Target Collective

Locally Grown

Locally Grown produces their hats and t-shirts in the heartland, Iowa to be specific.  Their logo is a rooster which I imagine are fairly ubiquitous in Iowa.  Locally Grown does an amazing series of state t-shirts.

My home state is represented,

Washington Local

as is the state of my birth.

California Solid State

Six Locally Grown t-shirts and two ball caps are included in the Target Collective, including this styling Rooster t-shirt.

Locally Grown Men's Rooster T-shirt

Terrapin Stationers 

Yet another NYC firm, Terrapin Stationers have been making great paper products in the Big Apple since 1913.  I plan on ordering about a hundred of their hilarious products now that I know they exist.  My current favorites are their unique notepad,


several of their cards including ants



and my favorite.

Terrapin Stationers are going to be featuring six cards and one pad in the Target Collective.  I urge you to check out this engaging video about Terrapin.

Taylor Stitch

Light Indigo Star Jack: Featured Product Image

Taylor Stitch clothes are produced in California and look very hip.  They seem to be designed for slim fellas.  Taylor Stitch also crowd funds a lot of their products.  They will be featuring sweatshirts, button down shirts, Chino pants, tee shirts and jeans on the Target Collective.

Taylor Stitch Men's Washed Indigo 3 Button Hooded Sweatshirt

Duluth Pack

I wrote about Duluth Pack a while back when I learned that the company was a finalist for the Outdoor Gear award.  Duluth Pack makes an enormous number of products here in the U.S.  Members of our extended American family working for Duluth Pack make a wide range of products including packs



and camera cases.

Seven Duluth Pack products are featured in the Target Collective, including the Duluth Pack Scout Bag.

Duluth Pack Scout Bag

So a tip of the cap to you Target for coming up with the Target Collective!  It will provide the opportunity for lots of Americans to get to know six great American firms and allow them to experience first hand the amazing quality and style the members of our extended American family create day in, day out.

Now get shopping at the Target Collective!




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Shout, shout and shout some more!

Sorry about the long delay in writing a post, I have been very busy getting my exciting new “Made in America” website ready to go live.  That event should occur within the next month.  But while I wait to shout about that event, I thought I would shout about some great news on the Made in America front I have discovered of late.

Way to go Mercedes!

I was glad to hear that Mercedes Benz has recently made a huge commitment to manufacture its very cool Sprinter Vans in North Charleston, South Carolina; a tricked out Sprinter turned into the ultimate urban transport vehicle is pictured above.  1300 members of our extended American family in South Carolina will soon be picking up a paycheck as a result of Mercedes commitment.  As they say in German, that is “ausgezeichnet.”  Or as Mr. Burns would say, “Excellent!”

Shinola continues to grow

I wrote about Shinola a while back.  Well, they have been selling a lot more watches as the word about the firm has grown.  The Chicago Tribune recently wrote a great piece on Shinola that explored a lot of interesting issues the firm’s success poses:  What does it mean to be “made in America?”, the role of storytelling in Shinola’s success, and just how far Americans are willing to go to support products made by members of our extended American family.

Required Reading

While I have not yet read Dan DiMicco’s bookAmerican Made, I plan to soon.  You just gotta love the subtitle, Why Making Things Will Return Us To Greatness.  From 2000 to 2013, Mr. DiMicco was the CEO of Nucor, an amazing steel company that in its 42 years in the steel business has always paid a dividend and has never laid off an employee.  Since 1975, the Nucor annual report has listed the names of every Nucor employee.  Lots of company perks such as Nucor’s Profit Sharing program and the Nucor employee stock purchase plan are not available to Nucor’s officers but only to lower-level employees. There is a Nucor plant in my hometown of Seattle.

If more “American companies” that manufacture all their products abroad and then import them into America for sale started acting like Nucor, we could put legions of Americans back to work.  And that my friends, would be a very pleasant state of affairs.


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