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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A Beacon of Hope in My Home Town



A lot of junk flows into my email inbox on a daily basis and most of it gets discarded. But when I received an email about The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. with the picture above, I was intrigued. Who are these people? Where are they from? And why are they holding entrenching tools? I figured I needed to find out answers to these questions. This is what I discovered.

The people pictured above all work at the Lighthouse’s manufacturing facility in the Rainier Valley. This facility is one of many locations the Lighthouse operates on the West Coast. The Lighthouse is one of the largest employers in our country of Americans who are blind and the number one employer of Americans who are Deaf-Blind. The employment opportunities that the Lighthouse provides for people who are blind are critical. Seven out of every ten working-age Americans who are blind are unemployed. Of adult Americans who are Deaf-Blind, eight out of ten are unemployed. And nine out of every ten American adults are unemployed who are blind with an additional disability. Not surprisingly, given these grim statistics, one-third of adults in this country who are blind live in poverty. The Lighthouse tirelessly works to provide Americans who are blind and Deaf-Blind with employment, including in my hometown of Seattle.

I called the Lighthouse and asked if I could tour their manufacturing facility. They said that would be fine, and on the appointed day I arrived bright and early to start my tour. As I exited my car a fellow with his trusty service labrador, who looked quite a bit like my labrador Bo Bo, walked past and entered the Lighthouse building. Andrea Travis, Events and Annual Fund Coordinator, greeted me at the front door and started me on the tour of the facility.

My first stop was at an absolutely amazing Okuma machine operated by Dan Porter, who has worked at the Lighthouse for about eight years now.



The Okuma machine is a computer numerically controlled milling machine that produces metal parts that are used by The Boeing Company and other aerospace manufacturers. Boeing is a long-time customer of The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. In 2013, Boeing was responsible for 18% of the Lighthouse’s revenue. Dan explained to me that the equipment he was operating had been fitted with screen-reading software known as JAWS that spoke all of the information that was displayed on the screen and required to run the machine.

The Lighthouse facility looked like a lot of other manufacturing facilities I have visited, but there were some important differences as well. On the floor of the facility, textured and raised walkways helped employees who are blind navigate their way around the facility. Lots of the machines for drilling, cutting and other operations are retro-fitted with systems that voice text or increase font size and screen contrast to provide information that the operators need to carry out their tasks. And there are a lot of tasks to be carried out! The Lighthouse facility is a very busy place.

After Andrea showed me around to a lot of the manufacturing centers, we finished up my tour by chatting with Andrew Stauffer who showed me the many systems he has on hand to handle the requests for orders he gets each day. Andrew had an amazing zest for what he was doing, as did everyone I met the day of my visit to the Lighthouse. For many people who are blind and Deaf-Blind, employment has been difficult for them to access for most of their lives. Now that they have been given the opportunity to work, they have seized the opportunity with gusto.

The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc.’s main goal is to create jobs for Americans who are blind and Deaf-Blind. Last year they created 15 jobs in the Seattle area. They broke ground on a nearly 50,000 square foot expansion of their manufacturing facility at Inland Northwest Lighthouse in Spokane, WA. The Lighthouse needs more workers because they produce an amazing number of products, many of which are used by men and women in our military: canteens, hydration units, stuff sacks, utensils, canteen cups, and the entrenching tool being held by a Lighthouse worker in the first picture in this post.

The workers at Lighthouse for the Blind don’t want your sympathy, they want your business and support. For those who work in government, there are a host of SKILCRAFT office supplies also made by the Lighthouse. Workers at the Lighthouse make wallboards, easels, paper cutters, hanging file folders, spring back binders, In-Out boards and more. As I left their manufacturing facility in Seattle, I was humbled by the commitment of members of my extended American family who work at the Lighthouse to show up each day and put in an honest day’s work despite circumstances that I am not sure I would have the courage to deal with. I encourage you to buy SKILCRAFT products and find out more about the amazing Americans working at The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. by taking a tour for yourself. If you are interested in a visit, please visit  Or give Andrea Travis a call at (206) 436-2253.

Go Lighthouse!



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American made suits for you and me!


Made in the USA Suit Jacket - Club Monaco Suit Jackets - Club Monaco

In the past I have written about my two favorite firms making men’s suits in the U.S.: Hart Schaffner Marx and Joseph Abboud.  Well I recently found about another source of suits made by members of our extended American family.  Club Monaco is producing some very stylish suit jackets and pants.  I suggest you stop on by their website if you are in the need of some very snazzy threads.

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A tip of the cap to Ebbets Field Flannels!

San Francisco Seals 1940 Ballcap

I’ve written before about the amazing firm making vintage sports caps and apparel in Seattle, Ebbets Field Flannels.  Well, right now Jerry Cohen has a great deal going on his vintage baseball caps.  His “Ballcap Mystery Grab Bag” special gets you three vintage caps, albeit of Jerry’s choosing, for only $60!  Such a deal!

Ballcap Mystery Grab Bag

And while you are at it, now is a perfect time to stock up on Jerry’s Vintage Baseball Sweatshirts before Spring Training rolls around.  Normally $69, they are on sale for a measly $35 while they last.  How about a Seattle Indians sweatshirt?

Seattle Indians Red Ball Pennant Sweatshirt

Or maybe a New Orleans Pelicans Baseball Club sweatshirt?

New Orleans Pelicans Vintage Sweatshirt

It’s up to you which of the 17 Vintage Sweatshirts you want, but don’t wait too long to decide.

Now get shopping!

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And the winners are!

I recently learned about a great competition for outdoor products being made in America. The American Made Outdoor Gear Award is the brainchild of the paddling firm Kokatat, where 150 members of our extended American family have been making all things related to paddling and kayaking since 1971 under the leadership of Kokatat founder and president, Steve O’Meara.  I wrote about Kokatat in 2013.    Each year Kokatat awards the American Made Outdoor Gear Award to the company with the best “Made in America” story.  The American Made Outdoor Gear Award trophy is known as Sassy, which may stem from the fact that the trophy is a hand carved, 3-foot-tall redwood Sasquatch.

One of my favorite Washington manufacturing firms, Liberty Bottleworks, won the Sassy in 2013.

Kokatat organizes the Sassy competition in a logical manner.  There are four categories of companies:  companies with less than 11 employees, companies with 10-50 employees, companies with 50-100 employees and companies with 100+ employees.  As many as 300 American outdoor gear manufacturing companies seek to compete for the Sassy in each category!  Category winners each year get a smaller Sassy to show off in their office.  The companies in the running for awards this year were as follows.

1-10 employee category finalists

The American Mountain Company makes very cool coats, sweaters and gloves for those Americans that like to climb to the highest peaks.

Topo Designs makes all sorts of outdoor gear in Denver, CO.  I have my eye on their fleece jacket.  The jacket is sewn in Denver of Polartec fleece made in Lawrence, MA.

Fleece Jacket

Vedavoo makes packs and other gear in Lancaster, MA.  A lot of their products are designed for fishers, which I am not.  But their Tightlines Sling Pack looks like it would be great for carrying my iPad mini around town.

TIghtlines Sling Pack - Olive

Voormi makes wonderful Merlino wool garments in Pagosa Springs, CO.  By using their Wool.Unteathered process, Voormi’s wool garments are amazingly soft and machine washable!  I would love to get myself a Men’s Drift Jacket.

Members of our extended American family working at Zootility in Sommerville, MA make the amazing PocketMonkey tool that has ten different (screwdriver, phone stand, hex wrench…) features.  You need a Pocket Monkey and at ten bucks it’s a steal!

PocketMonkey Basic

10-50 employee category finalists

Hyperlite Mountain Gear employees produce great tents, packs, sacks and other gear in Biddeford, ME.  If my old Moss tent ever gives up the ghost, I might need to buy a Hyperlight Echo II Ultralight Shelter System.

Misty Mountain climbing gear is produced in a town in North Carolina with the lyrical name of Banner Elk.  I am a hiker, but if I ever do decide to get into climbing, the first thing I am buying is a Misty Mountain Cadillac climbing harness.

United by Blue makes all sorts of cool clothing and bags in Philly, but I was immediately drawn to their Gram Axe.  I could use it for cutting up fire wood harvested from the forests of the Pacific Northwest.

Sylvan Sport of Brevard, NC makes GO trailers to haul anything you want and when you get to where you are going, the trailer transforms into the coolest camper you could imagine.  Definitely check out the videos on Sylvan Sports website.


Dahlgren Footwear, produced in West Linn, OR makes super socks for hikers like me and you.  Did you know that your foot produces one pint of perspiration a day?  Dahlgren Footwear socks are great at wicking that perspiration away.  And they are pretty stylish as well!


50-100 employee category finalists

Duluth Pack, surprisingly located in Duluth, MN, makes all sorts of cool packs and bags in their factory that has been in operation for over 125 years.  I would say my favorite is the Scout Pack; very old school.

Polar Bottle has been making their insulated water bottles in Boulder, CO since 1994. They make models from 12 oz to 24 oz, a custom 24 oz bottle and an 22 oz Ergo bottle.  Pretty snazzy bottles huh?

Green and Yellow Halftone Ergo Insulated Water Bottle

Sterling Rope makes their outstanding climbing ropes in Biddeford, ME.  As I said before, I am not a climber, but if you are, you should check out Sterling Rope.  And don’t leave the summit without a Sterling Rope F4 Decent Device!

F4 Descent Device picture

I featured Stormy Kromer on a post on my blog two years ago, so I was glad to see them as a finalist for the Sassy.   Ya just gotta love their hats!

The Original Stormy Kromer Cap

Timbuk2 sources a lot of their bags from overseas, but if you order one of their custom bags, it will be built in San Fran.  You could go with a USA bag, or a German Bag.

Or any other bag you could possible think of.  It’s up to you.

100+ employees finalists

Cascade Designs is the umbrella firm for a bunch of outdoor brands whose products are manufactured in my hometown of Seattle.  Therm-a-Rest makes the world’s best sleeping pads for backpacking.  I have a NeoAir Trekker like the one pictured below.

Platypus makes great hydration products; my favorite Platypus product is their GravityWorks filtration system which lets gravity, as opposed to you, do the work of filtering your water.


Hummingbird brand bags are super durable.  If you need rugged bags that keep your stuff dry, look no further than the Hummingbird Carousel Zip.

SealLine is the firm to know if you are into kayaking or other water sports.  But even for Landlubbers like me, SealLine has lots of products I could use like their Seal Pak Waterproof hip pack.

Given the appalling state of my knees, hiking poles or a staff are required equipment for my hiking trips these days.  Tracks hiking staffs are very nice; I think a Sherlock staff is in my future.

Jackson Kayak, makes all sorts of kayaks in Sparta, TN: whitewater kayaks, fishing kayaks, kid’s kayaks, you name it.  I think the only Jackson Kayak model for a fella like me is the Kraken.

Do you agree?

The Lion’s share of L.L.Bean’s products are made overseas, but they still make a lot of boots in Maine, along with some bedding.  I would parade around in a pair of Bean Boots.  How about you?

Lifetime Products of Clearfield, UT are known for their awesome basketball hoops,


but they make so much other great stuff: tables, chairs, outdoor storage sheds, outdoor furniture, playground equipment and kayaks.  Some Lifetime Products tables would come in handy today for your Superbowl party.


You could load it up with all sorts of goodies.

We all want to be satiated when we see this again this evening.


For almost anything you need a light to do, Princeton Tec of Trenton, NJ has got you covered.  They make amazing lights for under the ocean,

for hiking or climbing,


for biking,


for working,


and even for fighting.

The winners of the four Sassy categories this year were:

1-10 employee category: Voormi

10-50 employee category: Dahlgren Footwear

50-100 employee category: Polar Bottle

100+ employee category: Hometown favorites Cascade Designs

And the Grand Prize winner is………..

Sterling Rope

Cheers to all those American firms making great outdoor products that entered the 2015 American Made Outdoor Gear Award competition, congratulations to the category finalists, the category champs and the overall champ Sterling Rope.

I will leave you with a quote from the President of Polar Bottle, Judy Amabile.  “For us, keeping our manufacturing in the United States has been a no-brainer. From a business standpoint, it reduces shipping costs, lets us manage our inventory and quickly adjust production to consumer demand, and helps us ensure the quality of our products. Most importantly, it has allowed us to create more jobs in the United States and ensure the people who produce our bottles have a safe working environment and are paid a living wage.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

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