Monday, April 5, 2010

USA made, and proud of it

Chances are, the last time you bought something that was “Made in the USA,” at least part of it wasn’t. In fact, up to 50 percent of an item can contain foreign-made materials and still bear a label saying it was made here.

But when Mark Andol says it, he means it. His Made in the USA store, opening next Saturday, will sell only goods that are 100 percent made in the United States — from the thread in the teddy bears to the shelves on which they sit. The business is located at 900 Maple Road in Elma.

From a business he started in his father’s garage in 1985, Andol built General Welding & Fabricating — a four-plant, 56-employee manufacturing company. But by last year, he had been forced to close two locations and lay off nearly half his work force. The last straw came when he lost the $2.5 million manufacturing contract he’d had with CertainTeed building products to China — taking away one-third of his company’s sales.

“I’m about livelihoods. I saw the blue-collar worker affected, and that’s what made me want to investigate how much is really made in this country,” said Andol.

It turns out, not too much. In fact, deciding to open a store with high-quality, 100 percent American-made goods was the easy part. Finding goods that met Andol’s standards — things made by Americans in American-owned factories in America — has been more of a challenge.

“I didn’t realize half of this until I really started digging into it, but there is a lot of false advertising out there. And salesmen don’t want to tell you about the [lower-margin] American stuff, they want to sell you the stuff they get made cheap in China,” said Andol. “But once we looked deeper, we found things. They’re out there, they’re just usually on the bottom shelf.”

So far he’s found plenty to fill the Elma store; toys, food, decorations, clothing, soap, shovels, garbage cans, furniture. There are Cheese Please dog treats made with Wisconsin cheese ($4.99), All American At Work Union Roast coffee ($12.99), and American Boy yo-yos ($9.99). He also sells decorative fire pit rings, funky fishbone chairs and waterjet-cut steel decorations made at his General Welding shop.....
More at Buffalo News


  1. I'm seriously thinking of starting a fabrication co-op in Portland. Anyone with relevant contacts, let me know.

  2. Elma!! Now you're talking, monkeyweather!!!

    Oh mean Elma, New York??


  3. On second thought, our Elma is too podunk to have a store like this.

    I'm all for it, I spend lots of time trying to find US made products (or, at least, not made in China).

    I bet they will be very successful.

  4. I've never heard of a fabrication co-op, lewy. are you talking about metal-working?

  5. Yeah, metal and wood, and plastic too... CNC routers (for wood and metal), new tech called "3D printers" which will directly fab plastic parts from CAD software... machines in the $1K to $50K range; generally too expensive for average folks but affordable in a co-op type environment...

    I'm thinking co-op because - and this is just an idea - it will be easier to judge the market for people willing to shell out X dollars upfront and Y a month for co-op membership than it would be to judge the market for any particular widget that you could make with the tools.

    There are a ton of folks involved in the do-it-yourself, "Maker" culture out there and the computer design aspect has never been more accessible. People wanting to make stuff for themselves, or in small batches for others.

  6. I'm sure you all have heard about the Chinese made dry-wall. When I heard that..."we can't even make ***ing drywall anymore!"

  7. RWC, the Chinese drywall definitely sounds defective.

    The house that my wife and I bought in 1998 had EIFS - synthetic stucco. A German product, IIRC. Great stuff - when used on a stone building, as they did in Europe.

    On a wood framed house, it lets in a bit of moisture, and then traps it - and then the whole frame rots. Awesome.

    Some houses in our neck of the woods had to be 'dozed.

    We were lucky; my wife was alert to the issue (I was clueless) and we caught it before the frame was damaged.

    So we _only_ took a six figure hit refinishing the exterior.

    And the builder had left the country, so we were SOL. These things happen.

    I'm wondering if the Chinese drywall had maybe been OK for a cold, dry climate instead of a hot, humid one like the southwest US.

  8. Er, southeast, not southwest.

  9. lewy14, geeze, that sucks concerning your stucco.

    What p'd me off though was "Chinese drywall" Huge unemployment in America, how about a freakin' factory that makes American drywall. Sorry, just in a rut with the way everything is going. If your job isn't being subsidized by the government now, it will be either subsidized soon or gone the way of the dodo.

    And I don't know what this means concerning the economy...rented a U-Haul truck today...usually a reservation would be needed. Not when you couldn't find a parking spot and had to park across the street 'cause there were no spaces. (even doubly fun the guy who checked the truck back in was drunk...yay America!)

  10. Good for him! I hope his business does really well.

  11. RWC, yeah, it sucked, but when we got to the bottom of it, there was really nobody to blame - it was just one of those things. (Kinda like the landslide in our backyard... both of them... oh well, we documented it all, so no need to worry about capital gains when we sell our house.) The new stucco looks awesome though.

    The Chinese have done us an incredible marketing favor with their product defects.

    Made in America: stuff that doesn't suck, at a sort-of OK price.

    Five years ago, this would not have been a winning slogan. Today it is. Yay China!

    Again, I'll put my own marker down: I would not want to see a full-on protectionist trade war with China. I don't think that would benefit us.*

    But if many types of Chinese products found themselves in trouble in the American marketplace due to the changing preferences of the American consumer - a little more quality, a little less price sensitivity, and some appropriate favoring of locally produced goods - that wouldn't bother me one bit.

    There's even a term for it - "structural impediments" to trade.

    This is what US imports into Japan faced in the 1980's. US companies just couldn't sell stuff in Japan - red tape, spurious regulations or just plain no buyers. We complained bitterly to the Japanese government, but the fact of the matter is that the Japanese government couldn't have helped us sell our stuff there if they'd wanted to - there was (and is) a deep seated cultural aversion to buying foreign. We'd do well to adopt a healthy dose of the same.

    I feel a bit bad for Toyota - I think they're getting a bit of a raw deal and I think Obama's admin is definitely acting to protect "their" car company (GM) - but it's not like Japan didn't pull the same crap over the years.


    *(Why? Obama is not above trade-war brinksmanship to appeal to populist sentiment. Rahm talked about never letting a crisis go to waste. I'm not eager to have another "crisis" right now and have the result be more subsidies, more bailouts, and more dependence on the Federal Government. I can't help but think that there will be domestic winners and losers in a full blown trade war, and that the losers will be selected politically.)

  12. a little more quality, a little less price sensitivity, and some appropriate favoring of locally produced goods - that wouldn't bother me one bit

    That's how I feel about it. I think we've lost something when everything we buy is from somewhere far away, when the price point is our only consideration. On a different note (but somewhat related) I've recently started to be more intentional about patronizing near-by businesses. I might be able to get some of the goods and services for less elsewhere, but I know the guy at the fruit stand is always ready to help with something at the girls' school, and the guy at the Italian restaurant is the parent of one of their classmates. They're neighbours. There's something about the interdependence of community that is lost when our only concern is the all-mighty dollar.