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I highly recommend that you check-out Fifthroom.com if you’re interested in finding Pennsylvania made and U.S. made outdoor furniture, garden structures, indoor furniture and home storage products.  Many of the products are made by Pennsylvania artisans – almost all are wood.  What I like about the website is that it represents several websites/retailers coming together to offer a single integrated website to sell their wares.  You don’t see these types of endeavors enough and I think they are great way for smaller retailers to take on the big box retailers.  As a FYI, I don’t have a beef with large box retailers, but as a rule, they don’t do nearly as much for the regional economy.

Fifthroom was started by Tim McTighe who began as a small retailer called Cedar Stores in the Pittsburgh suburbs.

 

Stink Bug Traps

Here in the Northeast and in the southern states, stink bugs have taken up residence after being introduced from Asia in the 1990′s.  They can damage your crops, fruits and vegetables and are a real nuisance around the house.  You’ll find them in your food, they crawl up your walls and can be found in every nook and cranny in the house.  Not to mention they really do make your fingers stink when you pick them up.

What can be done about these nasty pests?

An enterprising Pennsylvanian decided that he had enough of these stink bugs so he devoted time and effort into developing a trap.  It is Strube’s Stink Bug Trap.  He designed several different models for different uses.  There is even a very large custom made sting bug trap for orchards.  Visit Strube’s website for more details.  You can purchase the traps on-line.  Strube’s Stink Bug Traps.

Strube bases his operation in Columbia, Pa, which sits on the Susquehanna, half way between York and Lancaster.

You could drive through the tiny town of Orwigsburg, Pennsylvania (pop. 3,000) as you wind through the mountains on your way to Pottsville from Reading and you would never that it used to a major hub for shoe manufacturing.  In the late 1800′s the steel, coal and manufacturing workers needed shoes and the town of Orwigsburg became the center for shoe manufacturing…perfectly centered between the coal region and the U.S. manufacturing epicenter in Allentown, Bethlehem and York.  At the peak, Orwigsburg was the home of 11 shoe companies thatmanufactured over 1.4 million shoes per year.

Flash forward 120 years and Kepner Scott Shoe Company is STILL based in Orwigsburg and is still manufacturing its goods in Pennsylvania.  Their focus has changed, they now specialize in high quality, leather shoes for children.  In the 1960′s, they saw a real market need for flexible children’s shoes.

Kepner Scott Shoe Company employees a few dozen Pennsylvanians and would really appreciate your business :).  If you visit their website, you’ll be able to browse the selection of shoes, but you’re better off searching for Amilio, Carpenter, Sandals by Carpenter and Self Starters branded shoes.

Website

Since 1966, Fleetwood Folding Trailers has been making Coleman brand campers for outdoorsman…little did you know that the company is based right here in Pennsylvania.  The company employees 300

Pennsylvanians in Somerset, PA…a town of 6,500 in the shadow of Pittsburgh. 

These campers are great if you like the comfort of a camper, but don’t wish to spend a small fortune or have the storage space for a full RV.  In a moments notice, you can have your gear stowed in the back of your car, your camper hitched to your car, and your map on your dashboard.  Great for the friday night excursions that we take far too few of each summer.

http://www.colemantrailers.com/

Pennsylvania Buy Fresh, Buy Local has an excellent website that allows you to tap into a wealth of local retailers, farmers markets and  restaurants that sell Pennsylvania grown products. 

They also feature a great blog that has everyday information on eating healthy, shopping smart and staying abreast of developments in Pennsylvania.

I’ve read a lot of blogs, websites, and magazines and this one deserves strong consideration for the top of the heap. 

It will take you all of 5 minutes to find a retailer within 10 miles selling locally grown food.

Website Link

 

The pretzel has popularized in Germany in the 12th century and made its way to America with emigration.  The German emigrants largely settled in Pennsylvania, giving birth to an industry that is still thriving today.  Americans consume $500M of pretzels each year, with Pennsylvania being the source of 80% of these goodies.  Pennsylvanians are also credited with consuming 12 times more pretzels than others in the U.S.  If I’m interpreting this right – we make and consume all of the pretzels in the U.S.

There are dozens on pretzel factories in southeastern Pennsylvania, including all of the brands we know and love.  However, the best tasting hard pretzel is the Unique Pretzel Split.  Unique Pretzels is based in Reading and the result of 16 generations of evolution - originating in the late 1800′s, later forming into the Unique Pretzel company in 1921, and finally being a product that can be found on the shelves of Pennsylvania retailers.

I’m going to say this again because it is unequivocally true – Unique Pretzels are the best hard pretzels in the country, which puts them high in the running for best worldwide.  You won’t truly understand that until you purchase a bag.  I highly recommend them and recently picked-up 10 cases at the Reading bakery where they are made of them because I couldn’t find them at my local grocer.

Fortunately, they do ship pretzels and they can be found on store shelves in southeastern PA – but, distribution is spotty across New Jersey, New York and the western part of the state.  However, you should call to inquire, because there are specialty stores around that do carry the Splits.  You’ll want to purchase the “dark splits” – they’re the ones that are simply amazing.

UPDATE:  For people that are sensitive to wheat, Unique Pretzels also makes pretzels made from sprouted wheat.  Once the wheat grain is sprouted, it becomes a vegetable and is easier to digest.

Company Website

In the spirit of covering alcohol – Pittsburgh’s Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka deserves attention.  Boyd & Blair, like Bluecoat Gin, is one of two craft distillery “start-ups” that have filled a long void  in Pennsylvania’s history.  It has been decades since alcohol has been distilled in Pennsylvania…its conservative roots are still felt throughout the state.   You may recall that the Quakers didn’t believe alcohol should be consumed and were heavy backers of the temperance movement.  Pennsylvania’s LCB hasn’t helped the process – but, times are changing and the state is even encouraging such ventures.

Boyd & Blair is a product of Pennsylvania Pure, a company formed in 2008 by Prentiss Orr and Barry Young.  Mr. Orr was a former VP at the Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce and Young a CEO at several companies.  They could have coasted until retirement, but they wanted to do something a little more hands-on…perhaps, even agrarian in a way.  One of the cornerstones of Boyd & Blair is that it’s made from locally grown potatoes (which seems logical given Pennsylvania’s agricultural prowess) and they can produce their vodka themselves (which, they do).  The fact that the make their vodka from potatoes doesn’t feel unusual, but apparently – there are only 3 potato-based vodka’s on shelves in Pennsylvania.  Boyd & Blair claims 1 of the 3 spots, the other two are distilled Poland.  I suppose it’s probably coincidence that Pittsburgh was largely built on the backs of immigrant Poles working in steel mills.

Boyd & Blair can be purchased at many locations throughout the state for under $30.  It is largely a Pennsylvania vodka, but you can find it in major cities such as New York, Chicago and others.  It makes an exceptional gift because of its uniqueness, price point – and alcohol is a perfect gift for colleagues, friends and fathers.

You can follow the day-to-day at Pennsylvania pure on Twitter as they distill Boyd & Blair…link

Also visit their website

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