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Archive for the ‘Apparel & Textiles’ Category

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

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In an effort to find a Pennsylvania manufacturer that makes everything in the average home – I was very happy to stumble across Bloomsburg Carpet.  You guessed it – they’re base in Bloomsburg, Pa.  Bloomsburg Carpet has been weaving high quality carpet for the past 30 years.  bloomsburgcarpet

Bloomsburg Carpet and its subsidiaries weave a wide assortment of carpets – but Bloomsburg itself specializes in quality, wool carpets.  The carpets are ECO friendly, they don’t release nasty toxins into your home, and they are build by Pennsylvanians.  They’re certainly worth a look.

They currently employee roughly 200+ Pennsylvanians and have a great assortment of carpet that you can browse (partially) online.  There’s also listings for where you can purchase the carpet in your corner of the state or country.

Company Website

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While many companies are finding it necessary to cut headcount and floor space – Conshohocken, Pa based Artex Knitting Mills is bucking the downward trend.  In fact, they’ve been doing so since 1926, when they fought through the Great Depression.  Their experience it seems has been valuable.  The expanded their facility by 30,000 sq. ft. in 2005 – that’s a 40% increase to their 80,000 sq. artex2ft. facility that they moved into in 1992.

Artex has evolved their product line over the years – they did well off of selling those horrendous knit ties that used to be incredibly popular.  After the tie business fell off, Artex focused on manufacturing furniture trim, which lost popularity in the 1980’s.  Changing with the times – Artex discovered a niche in manufacturing beanies and hats, which they still focus on today.

The advantage of hats is that they are relatively low-labor items, they rise and fall in demand with cold spells and Pennsylvania hunters, skiers and hikers are as notorious as the next guy for leaving them in lost and found bins all over the state.  Artex also takes small, custom orders and ships quickly.  This is an incredible, logistical advantage if you can compete on cost.

Artex manufactures hats for a lot of well known retailers, including JC Penny.  They  employee 80-100 hardworking Pennsylvanians  and are said to be profitable on the $8-10M they earn in revenue.

Company Website

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With over 83,000 miles of streams & rivers, a 232 mile section of the Appalachian Trail, at least 6 other trails exceed 100 miles and a $3 billion hunting and fishing industry – Pennsylvania is a ripe ecosystem for outdoor gear & equipment companies.  This is why the equinoxreknown Cabelas opened one of its few East Coast stores in Hamburg, Pa.  

It is also why Williamsport based EQUINOX has grown substantially since opening production in 1986.  Equinox is one of the very few companies manufacturing outdoor equipment in Pennsylvania – despite the healthy outdoor culture that sends millions of hikers, hunters, fishermen (and women) and other recreationists into the nether corners of our great state.

The company has ~30 employees who take care of everything from product design to sewing and marketing.  If you’ve shopped for a lightweight backpack, climbing gear, or even a dufflebag – you’re familiar with Equinox and perhaps, you’ve noticed the “Made in the U.S.A.” proudly stamped on most of its products.  The company sells backpacks, bags, gaiters, outdoor apparel, blankets, pillows, sleeping bags and many other items to suit your outdoor needs.  You can browse their selection at Campmor or check out their recently redesigned, superb website for more information on the great little Pennsylvania company. Company Website.

Please consider them the next time your filling slots under the Christmas tree or out searching for a new edition to your collection.  They would certainly appreciate your business and their items are all fairly priced.

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One of the neatest thing about Pennsylvania is that you’ll find small companies that you could easily miss driving 65 mph in and out of town.  Places that were started on the back of a good idea, small bank account, and a heckuva lot of elbow grease.  One of those companies is Ener-Gel Insoles – manufactured by the Paragon Development Corp in Penn Run, Pa.   They make insoles for hard-working energel3Pennsylvanians – and the “Made in the USA” sticker is still stamped on the packaged product that you’ll find in Walmarts nation wide.  The company was founded in 1992 and employs 10 people – perhaps, the entire population of Penn Run, which sits about a dozen or so miles away from Indiana, Pa and about the same distance north of Johnstown.

Despite their small stature by some company standards, they’re quite large on the Pennsylvania Proud scale.  They outfit the Penn State Football & Basketball teams (amongst others) as well as serve the feet of many Pennsylvania factory workers.  During the aftermath of September 11th – they shipped 1000’s of pairs of insoles to New York to do their part for the volunteers flocking to New York.  They also do the same for military men and women in Iraq – understanding the dedication that our soldiers have for our country.

Whether you’re a marthoner or prefer to be just a bit more comfortable around your home or office – a pair of insoles can make a world of difference.  You can buy a pair online at the Ener-Gel website (see link below) for $12.99 and receive the distinct pleasure of free shipping!

www.energelinsole.com

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You would think that with 12.5 million pairs of feet roaming our State that there would be several dozen shoe or boot manufacturers dotting the countryside.  We’ve grown to accept globalization and realize that some things will come from other places, but its nice to find a local doubleh2manufacturer still selling wares in Pennsylvania.  Womelsdorf (near Reading) based Double-H Boots is just that kind of company.  They make high-end leather, handcrafted…work, cycle, and western boots that you would be proud to own.  I was particularly impressed with their craftsmanship and the number of celebrities and musicians that own a pair.   Sheryl Crow owns a pair and you should too ;) Consider investing in a pair if you’re in the market for a locally made, leather boot.  Note: one of the readers pointed out that a few of their models are imported.  When you browse their website – you can see that a large number are “Made in the USA” and you shouldn’t have trouble picking out a pair that is made here. Company Website.

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Adamstown, Pa based Bollman Hat has been a Pennsylvanian company for 140 years and is the United States oldest hat company – selling high-end hats and doing its part to fight skin cancer. Whether its the sustained trend of fewer people wearing hats, the economy, or competition from the far east – Bollman has fallen on hard times. Recently, the company had to release 135 workers – most of them bollmanfrom their Adamstown headquarters. The company has a lean manufacturing strategy and has also purchased several international brands in an effort to expand into the niches in the hat industry that might make it immune to the trend cycles. The company purchased succesful Ignite brands in 2008 – a snowboard, surfing, and skating hat company known as a garage brand. In 2007, the company purchased Pantropic – a Panama Hat company. The company has a wide range of hat brands under its umbrella, including Bailey®, Betmar®, Country Gentleman®, Eddy Bros.®, Helen Kaminski®, Ignite®, KANGOL®, PANTROPIC® Plaza Suite®, and Timberland®.

UPDATE:  Link to Bollman Hat Company.  Check out their website.  These are some really great looking hats.

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Bills KhakisIt isn’t everyday that you see someone starting a Khaki company – but that exactly what Bill Thomas set out to do in 1990 after peddling 250 pairs from the “back of his car.”  The story goes that when Bill was in college in the 1980’s – he purchased a thick, well-built, deep pocketed pair of khakis from an army surplus store.  He loved them so much that he went back for a second pair, but they were out.  That is when and where Bill Thomas became passionate about this piece of Americana.  After working with large corporations for a few years, he believed he had a handle on how to build a world-class brand on his own.  Bill headed back home to Reading, Pa and borrowed $10,000 from his Mom, Marge (who he now employees to edit Bills Khakis Free Press newsletter) and started Bills Khakis.  Bills Khakis is now close to $10 million in revenue and still believes at its core that Bills Khakis – a small slice of American history – should be made in the U.S.A.  Bills Khakis is a testament to quality and what you can do if you put your mind to it.  Check out their website and consider adding a pair to your wardrobe. 

Note:  Bills Khakis was founded in Reading, Pa where it is headquartered and their products are American made, but I can’t guarantee that they have a large manufacturing base in Pennsylvania as the company does not reveal what State the clothes are made in.

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Orwigsburg, Pa based FesslerUSA is in a unique position – a lot of its competition was shipped offshore and the Pennsylvania clothing manufacturer sees that as an advantage.  Either the company is crazy or brilliant.  “No matter what you do in China, It takes 3 or 4 weeks to get it acrossed the ocean” said CEO Walter Meck in an article in the Reading Eagle newspaper.  He follows with explaining that speed can be a competitive advantage in the fashion industry.  I imagine that there are also more than a few companies who would like  to advertise “Made in the USA” on their label as FesslerUSA enables them to do with 100% of its fabric and knitting being done in the U.S.  Meck may be more brilliant than crazy after all- the company shows all the signs of having found a prosperous niche – Meck tripled the company’s Reading employment to close to 300, expanded the capacity from 34,000 sq. ft. to 150,000 according to the article, the company offers paid vacations and matching 401k contributions.  Not too bad.  Take a moment to browse the article on the company’s website.

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A little north of Pittsburgh just off of the Ohio River in Coraopolis, PA, you can find a small brick building where the make Aero Tech Designs Cyclewear. The company has been in business 25 years and manufacturers its products on premises. They even claim to get the majority of their material (spandex) from within the U.S. – highly unusual in this day and age. Considering that they outfitted Lance Armstrong when he rode for the University of Texas, I think their products are worthy to dress any Pennsylvania cyclists.

Link to Aero Tech Designs

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Not too far from Pine Creek off of 322- there’s a “Made in Pennsylvania” company that’s been in business 120 years.  The company doesn’t have a fancy facility, rather it  operates out of an old brick building that looks the part of an old manufacturing company left over from Pennsylvania’s industrial hay day.  Brookville Glove produces high-quality work gloves that as their website says…

has been providing generations of iron workers,mill workers, glass workers, truckers, loggers, miners, automakers, sportsmen and many others with tough, heavy duty gloves to provide superior hand protection both on and off the job.

The company’s minium order is 6 dozens – more gloves than I’ll ever need, but…do as I’m going to do and call and ask to get a single pair…maybe they’ll see that Pennsylvanians want to purchase stuff that’s made in our home state. 

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