As you probably know, as a conscientious consumer, finding quality products made in the USA is challenging. I am the General Merchandise Category Manager for the Co-op. I am tasked with deciding our housewares and gifts product mix for all three of our locations. I am always looking for local and domestically made, quality products, at reasonable prices, and it is not as easy or straightforward as it sounds.
Take the garlic press, for example. A kitchen staple, yet finding one made in the U.S. has eluded me for the last 14 years. Oy! If anyone knows of one, please enlighten me!
Folks are interested in buying products that are made in the U.S.A. as a way to support U.S. labor and our economy—kind of a macro version of buying local. In a competitive international market, a lot of the U.S. products that I see available shine a light on our artisan products—producing beautiful products is a differentiator.
Imported products are an important part of our economy too, Economic studies have shown that imports are an important way to improve our standard of living, not to mention directly creating jobs and reducing costs for manufacturers and farmers. Almost all products that claim to be made in the USA are produced with at least some raw materials that have been imported, and visa versa.
That all said, one of the big questions I always have about imported products is the working conditions. I was raised an Army brat, and then when we settled back into civilian life in the U.S., my dad worked for General Motors. He was a Union man, and the American Made movement was in full swing. I learned about sweatshops during that time and did everything I could to avoid purchasing products made under such horrendous conditions. The vast majority of my purchases were made in resale shops.
I learned about the Fair Trade movement in college, and that has been a staple of co-ops for as long as it has been around. Almost all Fair Trade-certified products (with a few limited exceptions) are made outside of the U.S. While supporting Fair Trade is important, I know our customers also want to see U.S.-made products in our stores.
Which brings me back to where we started—my endless search for U.S.-made products. While some products have been nearly impossible to find, we do have some good options. Here is a sampling of some of the brands you will see in our stores.
Like it says in the name, they are based in Zanesville, Ohio and have been making crocks and other pottery since 2005. They started with only 10 items and now make over 200! Beautiful pieces.
Jewell Hollow Woodcraft
Wisconsin-based woodworker Mark Bassett creates gorgeous cutting boards layering wood from Wisconsin cherry, walnut, maple, hickory and ash. Every piece is unique and they makes an amazing gift!
Using kiln-dried hard maple, this Indiana-based company that began in 1991 makes handmade wooden spoons, ladles, dippers, bowls and many other types of woodenware used in kitchens. It’s beautiful and useful.
Baraka Neti Pot & Aroma Burners
Handcrafted high-fire ceramics made in California! Every piece is unique and beautifully colored. I’ve never put anything so lovely in my nose.
A reusable alternative to plastic wrap, this women-owned company is out of Bristol, Vermont. They coat organic fabric in a mix of beeswax, organic jojoba oil and tree resin.
Wooden pepper and salt mills, and wooden rolling pins handcrafted in Maine. Made with a wide variety of colors, these products are both functional and lovely. They also make silicone tools!
Like I said, I am always looking for new things. Some things coming down the domestic pipe: U.S.-made can opener; cookie cutters from Ann Clark; Dexter Russell—servers and oyster knifes.