An organization called the Made in America Movement posted the image of an American flag puzzle on Instagram. One of the puzzle pieces, bearing white stars on blue, appeared to be falling off.
“United we can rebuild the American economy: Buy American Made!,” the copy read.
“We The People,” the post continued, “have the purchasing power to create change. Start voting with your wallet. Spend it where you earn it and buy American made!”
To which one conflicted person commented: “I’d love to. Did we all get 30 percent income raises I’m not aware of??”
I figuratively removed my U.S.-made Stay trucker cap ($25) and scratched my head in disbelief at the notion that to buy American one has to be well off. Whether it’s the result of ignorance or apathy, that commenter and other American consumers who think that buying U.S.-made is beyond their means are just wrong.
In fact, an array of affordable everyday Made in the USA options is out there if you’re only willing to look. And you don’t have to look that far.
Local makers markets, by definition, offer an abundance of U.S.-made products, from soaps and candles to leather crafts and jewelry to men’s ties and women’s dresses. In our area, consider shopping at Market on Chocolate in Hershey; Harrisburg Flea; York Flea; Creatively Lancaster; Pop Up Ave in State College.
Stay is proud to have been a part of each one. Our products range from a $5 keychain to a $15 insulated tumbler, from a $20 USA pennant to $25 T-shirts and $35 sweatshirts.
I concede that it sometimes takes a little extra work to find U.S.-made products. My local office products store carries only imported writing pads, so I searched online and found Tops-brand writing pads that are made in the USA. (With 100 sheets and a thicker chipboard backer, they are the best writing pad I’ve ever used.) Tops offers a wide range of U.S.-made office products.
My early-spring pilgrimage to Buffalo included a visit to the flagship Made in America store in Elma, N.Y. What began in 2010 in the vacant showroom of a closed auto dealership has grown to seven general merchandise stores in western New York, plus a web store.
Everything the Made in America store sells is “100 percent American made, down to its packaging,” according to the company.
As a general merchandiser, the Made in America store has to be price conscious, and the company offers weekly sales: https://madeinamericastore.com/weekly-ad/
On the luxury end of American specialty products, you’ll find Jacob Bromwell, which celebrates its 200th birthday this year. It is the oldest kitchenware and housewares manufacturer in North America. Sister company Made in America Co. has been at it only since 2013 but describes itself as the world's largest retailer of American-made products, comprising Jacob Bromwell items and those of many other U.S. manufacturers and offering a wide range of price points. What’s more, the Made in America Co. website includes The American List featuring 800-plus Made in the USA companies.
Just two weeks before I visited the Made in America store, I learned about AnytownUSA, which describes itself as “the online marketplace for all things American-made.”
I was picking up a couple of pennant pillows — featuring our original USA felt pennant — created for Stay by Darriel Davis, a talented artist and crafter in Lancaster. Darriel told me that her friend, Geralyn Breig, was the founder of AnytownUSA.
From Breig’s blog post in June 2018:
For many people in our country, the American dream is to make things they’re proud of and to sell them, so they can support themselves and their families. I started out wanting to help people achieve their American dream by buying more American-made goods. Soon I realized other folks feel the way I do. There are many reasons to buy close to home. Take your pick: It’s better for the environment … it helps our economy …it’s always good to know more about who makes the stuff we buy and how they make them. With my business and marketing experience, I got to thinking: There should be a place, a community, where the people who want to sell things they’ve made and the people who want to buy things made in America can meet and support each other.
Deborah Leydig worked in fashion design, created her own label of designer gift-wrapping paper, and became an actress. While researching a stage adaption of the book, “Nickled and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America,” she discovered how much U.S. manufacturing had moved outside of the country.
In 2007, she started Norton’s USA, described as a “uniquely American general store,” in Barrington, Ill. Her physical store operates from a quaint old livery barn and she sells online. How cool are these glass Christmas ornaments?
Embracing a buy-American philosophy was an evolutionary process for me. I’ve always looked at labels and tags, but years ago I may have only cringed when buying imports. Today, unless I find no other options or it’s an urgent matter, I just go without.
Besides, the old newspaper reporter in me likes the challenge of finding American options. What’s more, it has disciplined my shopping, which taps into the “buy less but better” concept. It also gives me the satisfaction of knowing that I’m helping to keep my fellow Americans employed.
To that commenter who facetiously referenced 30 percent raises: No, most of us haven’t gotten those kinds of pay hikes.
But what I do know is that the more we buy American, the better it is for American jobs and American wages. And that’s good for the United States of America.