Posts Tagged ‘Made in the U.S.A.’

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.


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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.


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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

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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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If you ever travel to Pottsville – a town tucked in the mountains within the coal region of Pennsylvania, you will become an advocate for Yuengling – America’s most potable Lager (in my opinion).  It’s great that it’s the country’s oldest brewery and that they use high quality water perculating through the mountains, but much more importantly….you will realize that it’s a large region that collectively would really appreciate your business.  You also see that Yuengling is an underdog, they aren’t sleek, hip, or flashy and they’re not endowed with a marketing budget of envy.  Basically, they’re a family-owned business that wouldn’t exist today if it weren’t for the seriously blue-collar customers (and employees) who spent days and nights in coal mines and steel mills.  While this sounds like stuff of lore, it isn’t.  Beer making may be a hip pursuit in parts of the country that have fine tasting microbrews – but, it wasn’t and isn’t in Pottsville , not in the slightest.

Yuengling is still considered very small when you compare to industry bohemoths like Anheuser-Busch Inbev, SABMiller, and Molson Coors – who, colleectively, make-up 80% of the market in the U.S.  Yuengling, on the other hand, produces 1-2 million barrells of beer a year to earn a 0.6% market share in the U.S….tiny compared to the several billion produced by Anheuser-Bush (50% market share, 30,000 employees, $16B in revenue).   The interesting sidebar here is that Anhueser-Bush, Miller and Coors were all acquired by foreign conglomerates over the last few years.  What this means is that the real money earned by these companies is going abroad, rather than to St. Louis, Milwaukee and Golden, Co.  This leaves Pabst, Sam Adams and Yuenling vying for the #1 American beer company.  Pabst and Sam Adams were both ahead of Yuenling last year.  Pabst is in fact contract brewed by SABMiller – meaning, it’s more of a label than a beer company.  Sam Adams is nationally and internationally distributed and had a small lead on Yuengling, who will likely pass Sam Adams this year or next in volume.

Yuengling will soon by America’s #1 brewer and it’s a Pennsylvania company.  Although, this may feel insignificant – those guys who work in the coal mines and steel mills might feel a bit differently.

Next time your in the Pennsylvania area – go into your local bar and order a “lager” – you shouldn’t be overly surprised that with no questions ask, you get served a cool pint of Yuengling lager.



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emotion kayakThere aren’t may outdoor companies in Pennsylvania that make their own products – but, Wyomissing (Reading area) based Emotion Kayaks (EK) has had great success doing just that.

Entrepreneurs Tom and Diane Strauss launched Emotion Kayaks in 2002 after 20 years as the owner of several ski shops. I don’t know if they were disenchanted with the retail industry or if they just wanted to move up the value chain, but their 20 years of experience has served them well. Several years ago, Canoe & Kayak magazine identified Emotion Kayaks the fastest growing kayak company in the U.S. After selling 1,200 kayaks in the first year, EK now sells over 30,000 kayaks.  They are distributed through several hundred dealers in North America…Not bad for a company that’s less than 10 years old!

Tom, the president of EK, credits at least some of their success to the fact that the Strauss family loves kayaking and might be considered experts in the craft by some. They spend family vacations paddling up and down the east coast and in canoe and kayak Mecca’s like Minnesota, Michigan and Florida.

Designer, Jim Snyder, is also an important ingredient to the success of EK. Snyder has been dubbed one of the 5 “most inspirational” paddlers alive. That’s a pretty sizable accolade considering there are 20+ million paddlers in the United States alone.  His technical prowess has allowed EK to develop some of the most reputable recreational and fishing kayaks in the industry. EK has won “Recreational Kayak of the year” in Outside, Paddler and Canoe & Kayak magazine in 2007, 2008, and 2009. If you do the quick math – you realize that it took EK only 5 years to rocket to the top echelon in the kayak industry.  Such success can only be attribute to a special combination of a dedication to quality, absolute determination and a lot of passion.

Emotion Kayak is based 100% out of Pennsylvania – but it outsources its manufacturing to rotomolding and blowmolding companies around the United States. That’s right – EK products are Made in the USA, but more importantly – the company is helping to build a dynamic economy in Pennsylvania.

The EK website lists 25 retail outlets for their kayaks in Pennsylvania – offering easy access to anyone across the state interested in a kayak.

Kayaking is attracts a lot of recreationalists who are interested in having the flexibility of being able to navigate oceans, rivers, streams and lakes and would like the option of “going it alone” or with a partner. Kayaking is also popular with fisherman, offering unparalleled ability for sportsman to access unbelievable fishing, while preserving the serenity that draws people to the sport.

Check out EK’s website to learn more about kayaking and browse the company’s products…

Company Website

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kutzsodaIn the world of Coke and Pepsi – small, craft soda and drink manufacturers haven’t stood a chance and they went out of business in droves throughout the 1900’s.  That began to change when consumers started looking for healthier and better tasting options in the 1990’s.  Companies like Snapple (now owned by the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group), Izzy’s and Nantucket Nectar broke the Pepsi & Coke market and proved that there were consumers who preferred “alternative” options.  Shelf space for alternative brands is still at a premium and the road is as steep as ever for local drink manufacturers, but their is hope.

Kutztown Soda has witnessed this rise, fall and rise again of niche soda manufacturers.  They’ve been in business since 1851 and claim to be one of the Reading areas longest continually operating businesses.  Kutztown Soda offers a variety of traditional soda flavors, such as Birch Beer, Sarsaparilla, Ginger, and Root Beer….all made from pure cane sugar…apparently, a much healthier alternative to corn syrup (see labels of major soda brands).  You can purchase the soda online or find it at a local store via a link on their website.  Don’t go looking for them in your major grocery store chains – Coke and Pepsi still control the vast majority of that shelf-space.

Company Website

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I always appreciate the companies that went into business because “they new they could build a better mouse trap.”  Companies that were started at a kitchen table, in a garage, in a coffeeshop, or a bar.  Such tales are what I think represent the true American spirit of hard work and innovation with a heavy dose of self-confidence.  PDY Systems, the manufacturer of Lift-n-LOK is one of those companies.  The company is based out of Erie, Pa and they make a single product – the Lift-n-LOK tackle box – designed for just about anything that requires toting of small pieces and parts.   This could range from the fisherman, to the carpenter, to the home do-it-yourselfer who likes to keep his or her tools organized.liftnlok

The company was started by 3 partners who truly believed that they could build a better tackle box.  They sourced the manufacturing locally and soon, they brought a innovation tackle system to market.  The Lift-n-LOK is unique in that it automatically locks the drawers tightly together when you lift the tackle box.  The system is so good that nothing will intermix between compartments if you would happen to drop the box or it would be jostled in the back of your pick-up truck.  Imagine – no screws or nails jammed between drawers.  No lead fishing weights bopping around in the lure bin.

Lift-n-LOK can be purchased online for roughly $60. 

Company Website

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Scranton, Pa based Xootr has been designing and manufacturing really nice, foldable scooters (and bikes) since 1999.  The scooter is made out of machined parts – lending itself to a extremely sturdy design meant for adults and children alike.  The Xootr was designed for “urban transport”, which is why it weighs less than 10 lbs, can carry a grown man and can be folded and stored underneath a cubicle, under a coffee shop table or next to you in class.  What a great idea.xootr3

Xootr is a small company, but has received big attention.  Its scooter has been featured in Business Week, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Time Magazine, Fast Company, Wired and many more.  My favorite two quotes about the Xootr are from Time Magazine and Popular Science.  Time Magazine says that the “Xootr is the Rolls Royce of scooters.”  Popular Science says that the Xootr is “the world’s most advanced scooter.”  

Unfortunately, the price of a Xootr may be a touch pricey for some, but certainly not out of the realm of many people’s spending habits.  Most of the scooters cost just over $200 and the foldable bikes run $700.  However…if you have the need to zip around town or campus and you don’t want to pull out the car keys – nothing beats the Xootr.  No parking, no locking, no registering, no changing – none of the hassles normally associated with “urban transport”.

Company Website

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Channellock is the crown jewel of Meadville, Pa and has been so for over a century.  The company had it’s origins in 1886 when a enterprising blacksmith, George DeArment, would sell his hand forged tools off of the back of a horse drawn wagon.  His specialty was farrier tools (equine foot care)  and the company’s name was the Champion Bolt & Clipper Company. channellock

DeArment’s products became widely known for their quality – spawning orders from all over the country and the world.  In 1904, the company moved to Meadville and expanded it’s product line to include clippers, nippers and wrenches.  In 1914, the company added hammers.  Finally, in 1933 came the pinacle moment for the company – the introduced a multi-position, tongue and groove, slip-joint style of pliers dubbed Channellock, which would become the namesake of the company. 

Today Channellock earns over $33M in revenue and has the vast majority of its manufacturing base in Meadville (screwdrivers and nut drivers are made overseas).  The company has over 200,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing space and employs several hundred pennsylvanians.  The company is operated by 5th generation DeArments. 

You can purchase just about any type of plier or nipper from Channellock online and you are likely to find them stocked in your local Sears, Walmart or Ace Hardware.  Look for the light blue handles on their tools!

Channellock Website

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Musselman’s was started by (none other than) the Musselman family in Biglerviller, Pa…the heart of Pennsylvania’s apple growing region.  John Musselman started the company by purchasing the Biglerville Canning Company, but quickly expanded over the next 13 years to meet demand from Worldwar I.  At the time, quality canned goods were in high demand to feed the nation and hungry soldiers abroad.  mm

In 1928, Musselman’s expanded to preserves and started including Apple Butter and Jellies.  Musselman’s would soon evolve into one of the country’s leading producers of apple sauce.

In 1984, Musselman’s was purchased by a cooperative of growers from the Musselman family.  The cooperative is made -up of Pennsylvania apple growers as well as growers down the Appalachians and in the mid-west.  The cooperative’s vision is to provide a better quality product by being involved with the entire process – from production to selling to consumers, while providing for the 600 family’s who own the company.  Knouse Foods also owns the Lucky Leaf brand, Apple Time and Speas Farm – all available in your local grocery store.  Over 80% of Knouse’s production (5 facilities) is based in Pennsylvania.

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East Penn Manufacturing Company manufactures Deka Batteries and lays claim to being the worlds largest and most modern independent battery maker.  With over $1B in revenues, several million sq. ft. of manufacturing floor space and close to 5,000 employees – it’s easy to understand why they are the largest in the world. 

The company was started by DeLight Breidegam, Jr. in 1946 and is the largest manufacturing employer in Berks County. There are several facilities located in the Lyons/Kutztown area and they also have a facility in Iowa – although, the majority of their products come right out of Berks County.deka1

After WWII, materials for new batteries were scarce so DeLight and his father began collecting old batteries and rebuilt them into new batteries. The company started their business by recycling and to this day, East Penn Manufacturing still makes recycling batteries and material a core part of their business.

So when shopping for a new battery for your car, boat, recreational vehicle, farm equipment, or other large or small engines, check out Deka batteries.  They also just inked a relationship with a Japanese company and they will be manufacturing batteries to “fuel” hybrid vehicles – and important development at Deka.

Purchasing Deka batteries can be  a bit of a challenge, as they are not sold at big box retailers – but, you can find a dealer near you on their website when it comes time to replace any type of large battery in any array of products.

For a list of locations, click this link.

For more information, visit The Company Website.

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Bright Star makes industrial strength flashlights that you will not find in Walmart or even your neighbor’s closet.  At least…not in most of your neighbor’s closests anyway.  Purchasers of Bright Star products expect more out of their flashlights because they are often firefighters, police men and women, miners, or involved in some other serious occupation.  These types of Pennsylvanians rely on their flashlight in situations that we would never dream of encountering.  In fact…I found a police website discussing Bright Star and it’s evident that the quality of their flashlight is a bit of a source of pride.  I suppose if I used a flashlight every day on a night shift – I too would start to become attached to mine as well. 

Bright Star is based out of a 90,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility in Hanover Township, Pennsylvania (Luzerne County).  They werbrightstare established in 1909 as a battery company and introduced a high-impacted, injected molded flashlight in the 1940’s.  The product was aimed at the mining industry which was prominent in Luzerne County.  Their products are distributed by WESCO, but you can find a few for sale on Ebay and other outlets on the internet.

Company Website

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Pennsylvania produces more confectionary products that any state in the country – while a large amount of  this comes out of Hershey, Pa – you will be pleasantly surprised that there are other well-known chocolatiers calling Pennsylvania home.  One of these well-known’s is Gertrude Hawk – based in Dunmore, Pa – a suburb on Scranton.  You’ve likely seen their store fronts in one of your local malls or purchased one of their chocolate bars from a local fundraising effort.

Gertrude Hawk has been manufacturing chocolate in Pennsylvania since the Great Depression.  The company was started by Gertrude Hawk, who began producing chocolates out of her kitchen to help support her family.  Gertrude had developed an affinity an gertrudehawkunderstanding of how to make chocolate years before when she had worked at a candy shop at the age of 12.  Gertrude had quit school after her father died to help earn money to support her mother and her who suffered from a heart ailment.  Gertrude married at the age of 19 and raised two sons, Elmer and Richard. 

Elmer later returned from World War II after being kept as a prisioner-of-war for a year and a half.  He took his pay that he earned and invested it into his mother’s business.  At the time, the company was earning less than $3,000 a year in revenues, but it helped the Hawk family make ends meet. 

Gertrude Hawk Chocolates bumped (a lot of bumps) along for many years before some of its partnerships with local churches and organizations to use the chocolate for fundraising purposes began yielding results.  In 1959, Gertrude Hawk Chocolates was grossing $120k/year, which was a substantial milestone in transitioning to the enterprise that it is today.

In 1992, Elmer retired from day-to-day operations and his son David, who had been working at the company since graduating from Penn State.  David later turned the reigns over to Bill Aubrery and the two now run the company.

Today – Gertrude Hawk has over $90 million in revenues – has over 75 stores across the mid-Atlantic and employees over 1,000 hard-working American’s – most of them fellow Pennsylvanians.

Check out their company website to order chocolate or find a store near you.

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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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Perhaps, this lousy economy has me thinking of ways to drown my sorrows.  I got so excited that I found a Pennsylvania made spirit in Bluecoat American Dry Gin that I ran out and bought a bottle and quickly made up a martini.  Perhaps,  I could have waiting until after lunch ;)  bc2

I jest…mostly anyway.  The truth is – Bluecoat Gin is hardly the stuff you drown your sorrows in.  It is well-recognized as one of the top handcrafted, small batch gins in the country.  Bluecoat Gin is distilled 5 times with the usual juniper berries, but also with a special blend of citrus peels to give it extra zest.  It has won quite a few tasting contests in the United States and Europe – beating out well-knowns like Beefeater, Tanqueray and Bombay Sapphire.  The results haven’t gone unnoticed – Bluecoat has received a lot of attention since it rolled out of the distillery in 2006 – they’ve been featured in dozens of magazines, including Forbes Life, GQ, Wine & Spirits Magazine, Imbibe Magazine and many others.  Even the Dutch would be proud.

Bluecoat American Dry Gin was the brainchild of Rob Cassell – a Philadelphia area resident who was inspired by the success of local brewers and wineries.  His thought was rather natural – why the hell aren’t their any distilleries in Philadelphia.  Eureka!  Cassell enrolled in a distilling school in Scotland and went through the groundbreaking process of applying for a Pennsylvania distilling license.  Being the first distillery since prohibition – there weren’t many state employees left who had experience issuing such a license.  Cassell partnered with some friends and launched Philadelphia Distilling in 2005.

Bluecoat is distributed at quite a few liquor stores – but, check out their store locatorto find one in your area.  You would expect to pay about $26 for a “fifth”.  The $26 goes to a good cause – Bluecoat is the first craft distiller to open in Pennsylvania since prohibition – let’s make sure that it’s not also the first to close.

Company Website - Ordering Information Online

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American Holtzkraft is described as “the best kept secret in Central Pennsylvania.”  Understandably so – they’re located in Mount Pleasant Mills, Pa  (pop. 342) – which is lost somewhere between Harrisburg and Williamsport in the rural heartland.  To be a little more precise, the company is a few moments from the Susquehanna, an hour north of Harrisburg and perhaps just a touch longer from State College.hk

American Holtzkraft manufacturers high quality umbrellas and outdoor furniture out of Ash, Brass and two parts TLC from the locals that work there.  The company has carved out a reputation for itself and you can find their umbrellas all over the world.  They hold 8 patents for manufacturing and umbrella design.  That is a testament to their dedication if not their innovation – patents are not for the faint of heart and fly-by-night companies don’t bother with the effort. 

American Holtzkraft was started in 1985 by an apple farmer family that had months of downtime between harvests.  Phillip and Barbara Apple (yes, their last name is Apple) believed that they could utilize the local Amish wood workmanship and the abundance of hardwood in Pennsylvania to start American Holtzkraft.  The company is still a small family owned business, but continues to grow in reputation and in success.  In 2006 they signed a contract with Tommy Bahama to provide the outdoor umbrellas that adorn their restaurants.

To order an umbrella – check out their website and give them a call…

American Holtzkraft

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Hanover, Pa based Emeco cemented their place in history and in the design community when it won a contract with the Navy during WWII to produce a long lasting, lightweight chair and would withstand the blast of a torpedo. 

What resulted with Emeco’s most celebrated product…”The Navy Chair” – also, dubbed the 1006 chair.  The Navy Chair is just about as durable as they come – legend has it that it was thrown out of a 6 story window to test its durability and survived with only a few scratches.  The harden aluminum doesn’t bend and is obviously immune to weathering and corrosion.  Perhaps, there was a bit of miscommunication in the initial stages of the contract – the Navy presumably didn’t mean that the chair should be able to survive a direct torpedo hit, but apparently – it more-or-less can.  The Navy Chair has also become an icon in the design community and has been photographic in virtually every design and architecture magazine and can be seen in dozens of movies and TV shows. emeco

Emeco employees several dozen employees and manufacturers an array of chairs – all handmade from 80% recycle aluminum.  If you watch their promotional video – you get the idea that this isn’t an easy process.  The chief designer – Philippe Starck remarks – “most chairs are a result of intelligence [thought] – ours are a result of blood, sweat, tears and love.”  Another employee remarks “when we make a chair – it’s the best in the business.”  One thing is sure, they put a lot of time and resources into both the design and the manufacturing process. 

What’s better about this story is that this is a Pennsylvania company manufacturing high-quality products, employing your friends and neighbors, and contributing to our economy.  Companies like this often contribute 2-4x to what they themselves earn to the economy.

Check out their website to browse their products and a half-dozen videos on their manufacturing process.

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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If you have children or know a child or have ever known someone who’s had a child – you probably know that K’NEX makes some of the very best toys for children of all ages.  Not only are they well built – but they are just plain extraordinary items.  Especially, for those children that are mechanically inclined and have an active imagination.  In fact, seemingly as many adults are enamoured with these toys as the children who own them.  Perhaps, its the versatility of the toy to offer challenges that reflect the mental capacity of the owner – children will build small cars or houses, while adults replicate modern engineering marvels.  If you browse the web, you’ll find virtually every major mechanical invention since the industrial revolution replicated with K’NEX toys.  knex

Amazingly – and something I wasn’t aware of – K’NEX is based in Hatfield, Pa – where they manufacture the plastic, injection-molded toys that grace the isles of toy stores all across the country.  At one point, I live within a few miles of the facility and wasn’t aware that such an operation existed near by.

The company also operates the distribution of the original Lincoln Logs – licensed through Hasboro.  These items and some of the other K’NEX lines are imported – so, you may want to read the labels before you purchase.  But…I did check at the local Toy’s-R-Us store – and indeed, you will see the Made in the USA stamp on their better products. 

K’NEX proclaims on its website that it believes in being environmentally and socially responsible, while providing a safe and meaningful work environment for its employees.  Be sure to look out for products from this “Made in Pennsylvania” toy company and certainly consider them for your children this Christmas. 

Company Website.

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Pyrex – the brand that 75% have in our cupboards – the tempered glass cookware that we use to cook and tote baked beans, casseroles, and sweet potatoes to Thanksgiving dinners, Super Bowl parties, and to our dining room tables – is, indeed, made in Charleroi, Pennsylvania. 

Pyrex is a Corning product that was originally developed as a lantern glass for railroad signals.  The signals were subjected to intense heat and would often break when hit with rain or snow.  Pyrex is a “low expansion” glass made from silica and a smattering of other materials.  It is cooked at over  3000 degrees to mold a extremely heat resistant product that is exceptionally durable.  It has the extraordinary characteristic of absorbing heat rather than reflecting heat – which, regular glass, porcelains and enamels tend to do.  Pyrex is also see through (as we know)- allowing bakers to easily check when their dish is finished by gazing through the bottom.  pyrex

As legend has it – Pyrex became a consumer produt after a wife of a Corning employee implored her husband to bring home some of the material that his company had developed – she had heard about its resistance to heat and its durability.  What she discovered was that the “cookware” had some astounding properties – it was incredibly durable, food cooked eveningly within the dishes and in less time, and it was naturally “non-stick”.  The husband and wife pair took the idea to the product designers and Corning cookware was born.  It took years to persuade kitchen goers that glass was a suitable cookware – but, eventually the product would become one of the most widely used and recognized brand names in American kitchens.

Pyrex is distributed worldwide and has always been manufactured in Pennsylvania.  They do import some of their plastic coverings and other metal products, such as their Grip-Rite products – but the rest originates in Charleroi.

Company Website

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Channel Craft was started in the early 1980’s by Dean Helfer, Jr. – who used to set-up a “hand made toy” booth at folk festivals around the country.  He would sand and finish toys for his customers as they watched.  He later took his toys to arts & crafts festivals and generated enough interest that he eventually had to set-up a bricks and mortar company in Southwestern, Pa in the town of Charleroi, Pa (population: 5,000).  The company is a a stones throw from the Monongahela river and employees 70 people to manufacture and distributes a very nice variety of toys and puzzles for both children and adults.cc2  Channel Craft makes many of their own toys, but they also distribute a very nice selection of other Made in the USA toys from around the country – all beautifully designed and packaged.

Company Website

To purchase a product…


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Although – this site focuses on products made in Pennsylvania – occassionally, I come across a company where it’s so extraordinary that they still make their products in the U.S. – that I need to give them an HONORARY Made in Pennsylvania designation.  One such company is New Balance Shoes. 

New Balance Shoes is interesting because…first, their shoes are truly well made.  I mean that – I really do, these are great shoes.  I’m terribly happy that a good number of their shoes are still made here.  Compare this to other major brands – Nike, Reebok, and Adidas – who have shipped the vast majority of their manufacturing off to lower cost areas. Admittedly, New Balance does this as well – but, they still have 5 factories in the U.S. (Maine and MA) and a large number of their shoes (especially, their running shoes) are made here.  nb

New Balance was started in 1906 as New Balance Arch Support company.  Their products were targeted towards policemen, nurses, and factory workers who spent all day on their feet.  Up until the 1960’s, New Balance primarily focuses on arch supports, but opportunely expanded its product line in 1961 to include a shoe called the “trackster”.  Sales didn’t pick-up, however, until the 1970’s, when the nation-wide running craze exploded out of Boston (I believe Forrest Gump was involved).  At the time, the company had 10 employess and sold a few dozen pairs of shoes, primarily through mail order.   The company has since exploded into a $1.5B global shoe company – they still specialize in high-grade running shoes and avoid costly, high profile marketing campaigns.

To be exact, you can shop at New Balance.com and select the “Made in the USA” shoes – some shoes are in fact made in Asia.  You can look at shoes made in the U.S. by following this link….New Balance

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Boyertown, Pa based Pro Tool Industries is the proud manufacturer of The Original Woodman’s Pal – which, by all accounts looks like it could do some damage to Pennsylvania underbrush….snaggle weed and trip grass.  Pick your poison.  This tool is “designed to trim, prune, chop, split, blaze trails, brush out lines, clear campsites, chop firewood, split kindling, build hunting blinds or lean-to-shelters.”   Hmm, it may in fact cook eggs, clean dishes, and go to work on Mondays for you.woodmans

The Woodman’s Pal has been manufactured in Pennsylvania since 1941 and has a long history of impressing its customers.  Field & Stream featured it in an article “20 Best Knives ever made.”  What’s unique about it is that it has enough heft to it to serve as both an axe and a machete – the hook is useful for grabbing and cutting brush or grass – anything that’s not going to yield to the other side of the blade.  If you peruse the testimonials – the theme that resonates is that it’s an extremely useful and well made piece of equipment.  Several of the products have leather handles and the company offers a no-questions-asked guarantee on the product.

You can purchase the Woodman’s Pal on the website of you can browse the long list of dealers that carry the product all over the United States – there are a dozen or so in Pennsylvania.  

Website…Woodman’s Pal

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Art Baker founded Baker Stoves in 1977 in York County, Pa, where the stoves are still manufactured today.  At the time Baker was concerned with our dependence on foreign oil and believed that wood & coals stoves could be significantly more efficient.  Baker invented a brand new stove, for which he held several patents.  The stove is unique in the sense that it uses a baffle system to trap hot air longer in the stove.  The stove is also equipped with a fan system that funnels cool air from your house through the hottest portions of the stove.  These two attributes make the Baker Stove significantly more efficient and a much more enjoyable & sensible heating source.baker2

One of the most significant benefits of burning wood or coal as a heat source is tends to be significantly cheaper than oil and natural gas.  Depending on your local costs of wood or coal and what the market rate for oil is – you can save anywhere between 50% and 70% on your heating bill.  Consider this…it is estimated that a cord of wood is equivalent to 125-175 gallons of fuel oil.  If fuel oil costs $2 per gallon (it was $4 gallon recently) – you will pay $250 to $325 for an equivalent cord of wood (typically costs between $100-$200).  This comparison becomes even more lopsided if cut your own (you can get a permit to cut dead wood on state lands) or can find good deals on wood over craigslist.  Wood also has a lot more price stability – Wall Street, the Middle East, and growing emerging markets are sending oil prices in wild directions.  In all likelihood – with the cut in oil production by OPEC – we will see very high oil prices within the next 2 winters.  Maybe a wood burning stove incentive should have been added into the stimulus package ;)

For the environmentally conscious….I also want to note that wood is a renewable resource – Pennsylvania is one of the most forested states in the country and has more forest coverage that it did in 1900.  The State actively manages the forests – cutting acreage on a 30-80 year harvest cycle. 

In any event – you should check out Baker Stoves – you may be able to replace a stove in your home and receive a return on investment within 2-3 years.

Check out Baker Stoves Online

Also, check out an article in the Washington Post about the recent popularity in Wood/Coal Stoves…

Washington Post Article

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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!


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Arguably the highest quality and most famous guitars in music – Martin Guitars – are made right here in Pennsylvania.  The Nazareth, Pa martin21based Martin Guitars is still run by the Martin family – 6 generations after its beginnings in the 1800’s.  Martin Guitar has maintained its commitment to quality and innovation over its 175 history, having to adapt from folk music to the hard-edged rock style popular in the 1960’s and 70’s. 

Martin Guitars have been the instrument of choice for -known guitarists such as Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Eric Clapton, Arlo Guthrie, Paul Simmon and many more of our favorites.  The company offers tours and has a museum to view the master pieces.  Company Website.

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Pennsylvania, known for it’s industrial strength manufacturing and workers more apt at swinging a slege hammer than twisting a kobold2precision screwdriver, isn’t exactly what many would associate with luxury watches, but Michael Kobold may change all of that. The Frankfurt, Germany born Kobold, launched Kobold Watch Co. in 1999 and has turned a lot of heads with how quickly it has found success. In fact, some are touting Kobold watches as being of the same quality as a Rolex and other prestigious Swiss brands. Part of Michael Kobold’s secret is that he uses the same parts suppliers as his Swiss counterparts. Kobold served as an apprentice in Europe to a well known, Swiss watch maker – that experience earned him a few good connections and the right to purchase high-end parts from Europe – not to mention a crash course in high end watch making.

Kobold also may have received a bit of a lucky break when James Gandolfini, the no-nonsense star of the Sopranos, ordered a few for his personal use and agreed to allow his photo to be used in marketing material.  Mr. Gandolfini doesn’t advertise many products – especially ones that he doesn’t wear or use.   Kobold watches also benefit from exclusivity – they only assemble 2,500 a year – creating scarcity (Kobold went to Carnegie Mellon in Economics – he’s well-schooled in the idea of scarcity).  What stands out the most though about Kobold Watch Co. is how successful they’ve been – I don’t think many people would have given them a chance in hell on paper, but I suppose they’re under estimating Michael Kobold and the value of a well made product.

Company Website

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If you’re the type of person that would be interested in buying natural, safe cleaning products from a local company – check out Norristown, Pa based Sun & Earth.  You’ll recognize their logo if you’ve browsed the store aisles for something a bit less caustic than some of the brand name cleaners that litter the shelves.  Sun & Earth prides itself in creating cleaners and other household products that sunandearth2are phosphate free, chlorine free, dye & perfume free.  Their secret is the use of plant, fruit and vegetable oils that are extremely effective and umpteen times more healthy for you and the environment.

The company was purchased a few years ago by a socially responsible venture fund  established by Ben Cohen – the co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s.  It is fascinating to note that 20% of the company was more-or-less given to the employees as part of the arrangement.  I suppose invested employees are more likely to really work hard to make their product successful and something they would use around their own homes.

Take a moment to read some of the product testamonials – you’ll note that some customers are using the cleaners as laundry detergents, others swear by the performance of the products, and you will also see that the sensitive skin types are extremely happy with the product.  In any case, you should check-out their products and their website – what a great Pennsylvania company.

Company Website

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In the spirit of the holidays – it would be nice to point out that Bradford, Pa based Holgate Toys still makes its wooden toys in Pennsylvania.  Holgate Toys was established in 1789 in Kane, Pa and relocated to Bradford, Pa in 1929.  The company chose Bradford, Pa because of it’s proximity to vast tracks of hardwood timber – predominantly maple.  Holgate Toys makes childrens furniture in addition holgate2to a broad selection of wooden childrens toys that are all handsomely painted and would be excellent for any toddler.  Holgate Toys has capitalized on parents interest in purchasing safe, non-toxic, locally made toys that will last through multiple generations.  The toys are all incredibly well built and make great gifts!

Company Website.

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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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Twizzlers was originally a product of Y&S Confectionary dating way back to 1845.  The company merged with several others and became the National Licorice company in 1902 and then was renamed back to Y&S in 1968 – finally, they were acquired by Hershey’s in 1968.  Twizzlers were not a traditional Hershey product for many years.  They are based out of Lancaster and have made those chewy treats dating back to prior to the Civil War.  Perhaps, Gettysburg was rife with AWOL soldiers off on midnight runs to get the Candy. 

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Peeps – the marshmellowly, soft, chewy candy that Americans associate with Easter as much as the Easter Bunny is produced by Bethlehem’s own Just Born.  Just Born acquired the original producer of Peeps, Lancaster based Rodda Candy Company, in 1953.  Today – Just Born produces over 1 billion Peeps per year and sells the product in 50 countries – worth close to $50 million in sales to Just Born.  The company also produces the movie theatre favorite – Mike and Ikes as well as Hot Tamales.  The Bethlehem company employees 560 employees.  The company just announced

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Asher’s Chocolate was started by a Canadian/Scottish immigrant in Center City Philadelphia in 1892.  The company located to the historic Germantown section and expanded their product line to include jams, jellies, ice cream, and a number of other treats.  Today – Ashers Chocolates is still being run by the Asher family – it has a warehouse in Montgomeryville and a 125,000 sq. ft. manufacturing and executive office facility in Souderton.  Despite the relocation – the company still takes a van to Germantown every day to pick-up some of the employees that still live in the historic area and were part of the early days of the company.  Ashers also purchased another chocolate factory in Lewistown, Pa – a town sitting between State College and Harrisburg on the Juniata River.  Ashers is currently the oldest, continuously operated, family own candy company in the world.  Link to company website.

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TastyKake is well-known in at least half of the State as the ultimate Pennsylvania company.  The company is as synomous with Philadelphia as cheesesteaks and pretzels.  TastyKake – known for its sweet, frosted cakes – was established in 1914.  The founder sold 280 cakes on his first day of business and over 3,000 in the first week.  At the end of the year, he had sold close to 3 million.  Today, the company grosses close to $250 millon a year selling favorities such as Kreamies, KoffeeKakes, KandyKakes, Krimpets, and Cupcakes.  By any standard, TastyKakes are tasty, which fits there age old jingle – “no one bakes a cake as tasty as a TastyKake.”  Decades of  Philadelphians agree – Marvin Harrison of the Indianapolis Colts is claimed to receive a shipment of the cakes once a week.  Although, he probably exercises enough to wear of the extra calories.  Company Website.

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Since 1918, A-Treat Sodas has been making its original recipe for Pennsylvanians to enjoy.  The company was started by Joe Egizio, who expanded his traditional neighbor fountain soda shop to include bottled sodas.  The company is based in Allentown and carries over 16 different flavors.  The sodas are made from essential oils and is one of the few soda companies using cane sugar rather than less expensive high-fructose corn syrup.  That’s right – A-Treat uses the raw ingredients that it originally did in 1918 – the birch beer is still made with real birch tree extract.  The company is a pure Pennsylvania company with distribution mainly throughout the State and some distribution in Maryland, New Jersey, and sunny Bermuda.

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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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Williamsport, Pa based Lycoming Engines started as a sewing machine manufacturer in 1845 when the lumber industry ruled the town.  By 1907, the automobile was making headlines and fast becoming a way of life for Americans – driving the shift for Lycoming Engines from sewing machines to automobile engines.  In 1929, Lycoming Engines successfully produced its first aircraft engine to power a beech wood bi-plane.  By the 1930’s – LycomingEngines became the world’s preeminent manufacturer of piston aircraft engines.  After World War II – Lycoming Engines was award the prestigious E-Award for its contributions to the war.  The company eventually would fall on difficult times in the 1980s because of a slow aircraft engine market, nearly going out of business – but, by 1997 – over 85% of new general aviation aircraft were powered by Lycoming Engines.  Today, over 50% of all general aviation aircraft use a Lycoming Engine.

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Crayola – the name we all associate with Crayons – has remained in Pennsylvania for 108 years.  Formerly known as the Binney & Smith cayolaCompany, Crayola is headquartered in Easton, Pa and has its main manufacturing facility down the road in Bethlehem where it produces Crayons, markers, paints, and clay among other things.  The company’s was first major product was dustless chaulk that won a gold medal for at the 1902 St. Louis World Fair.  A year later, the company produced a wax-based product – the Crayola Crayon, meant for children.  Crayola was a brand to represent their children’s line of products, which was considered the first non-toxic marketing utensils for the age-category.  The company has been a sibsidiary of Hallmark since 1984 and also is known for Silly Putty and wshable markers.  Also, check out their Easton Visitors Center for kids (and adults) – a 20,000 sq. ft. creative & visitors centers dubbed the “cornerstone of the revitalization of Easton”).  Company Website.

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Pennsylvanians love small companies who produce quality, hand-crafted products and Troegs is just one of those places.  The added benefit is that the product is beer – so, we’re biased.  Harrisburg, Pa based Troegs is one of the breweries that sprouted up during the microbrewery boom in the 1990’s and has continue to expand ever since.  Troegs was started in 1997 by the Trogner brothers (Chris and John) who were enamoured with the craft and quit their day jobs to go off on their own.  You have to admire their gumption.  Troegs distributes their product in a 3 hr radius from Harrisburg because of freshness concerns – just far enough to cover every corner of the State.  If you want a weekend job – they have a beer tasting greeter position open.   Also – try there Mad Elf Holiday Ale – it has a 11% ABV – almost enough for the Government to start asking questions.  Tours are free on Saturday if you swing by at 2pm.  check out their website to find out where you can buy the beer Company Website – also, the have a fun interview on Good Morning America that you should watch.

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Two architects in Bermuda, stuck on the idea that toothbrushes needn’t be ugly, hard-bristled, and awkward, launched RADIUS toothbrush in 1982.  The two men relocated to New York for better access to the right talent and resources and officially started producing a one-of-a-kind product that would soon develop an avid following. Their perfect toothbrush has 4x more bristles than an Oral B that were 2/3rd the thickness.  It had the first ever round head and bristle alignment that cut down on gum wear and tear.  The unique and attractive toothbrush was awarded the Accent on Design award on 1984 for having the most innovative use of design.  The company soon grew out of its New York facility and relocated to Kutztown, Pa, purchasing and restoring a historical 20,000 sq. ft. brick mill built in 1863.  The company remains in Kutztown and has a dedicated following that has included Robert Redford, Sting, Whoopi Goldberg and Cher.  Check out their website to order the orginal RADIUS toohbrush and support your fellow Pennsylvanian businesses,

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I was reading the latest edition of Forbes Life magazine…browsing through exotic, mainly European products, that I couldn’t possibly afford.  I was admiring a $10,000 oak table and a gallery of Chris Craft style wooden boats and…behold, on Page 50 to be precise, there was an article featuring Victory Brewing Company in Downingtown.  The article was talking about “cold beers you could love,” something I could both appreciate and afford.  True-to-form, most were European, but what caught my eye was that Victory’s Prima Pils was proudly displayed front and center.  Pretty neat considering this is a internationally distributed magazine.  This isnt’t the first time this particular beer garnered international attention, the Prima Pils was also ranked the top worldwide lager in 2005 (July issue) by Men’s Journal and has received the Grand Champion ratings in the U.S. Beer Tasting Championship 2002-2005.  Whoa – pretty good for a local brewery.  Victory Brewing Company was started in 1996 and quickly expanded after receiving the type of attention normally relegated for old world beers you’ve never seen on tap before.  The company could be missed if you’re driving a bit too fast through Downingtown – but, they brew close to 35,000 barrels a year and distribute all over the country.  Victory is a great place to stop by and grab some food and drinks – their brew hall is wide open and has a warm ambiance – a great place to enjoy a pint of beer and to caulk out grand plans on the back of a napkin.  Take a moment to browse their website to see where you can find their beer.  Company Website.

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If you’re the type of person that runs into some dirty situations and has called upon your vacuum cleaner to do do some outrageous jobs – then you are most likely a customer of Williamsport, Pa based Shop-Vac. Shop-Vac is the industry leading brand because of its 40 years of experience putting long-lasting, strong suctioning, quality, American made products into the hands of consumers and industry professionals to do ultra dirty work. Shop-Vac is the duct tape of power tools…a product that is so darn useful for so many different and unusual things that everyone should consider owning one.  If you browse some of the product stories on the company’s website, you will get a chuckle out of some of the stories about using Shop Vac vacuums…anything from using the vacuum as a snow blower to using it to remove yellow jackets from a ground nest or even using the vacuum to remove loose dirt when digging post holes.  What a great product for Pennsylvanians…made by Pennsylvanians.

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If you’re a cyclist, Cannondale will be one of the few brands you’re likely to list if asked which company sits atop of the industry in reputation and quality.  Connecticut (headquarters) based Cannondale was first known for clothing and gear, but blossomed into a global phenomenon when it released a line of mountain bikes at the front-end of the global mountain biking craze.  Despite the number of competitors that sprang from every corner of the globe to take advantage of the trend,  Cannondale made a name for itself by producing well-built, lightweight and innovative bikes that both the expert and weekend warrior could appreciate and afford.  The industry came on hard times when mountain biking waned and it boxed Cannondale into a corner.  Today, the company has switched ownership several times and now produces some bikes over seas – but, the original Bedford, Pa manufacturing facility is still producing hand-crafted bikes.  Company Website

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All-Clad began producing artisan cookware in the 1970’s after discovering that bonding (cladding) different metals together gave the resulting product heating qualities not found in individual metals.  The cladded products proved to be ideal for cooking and the company began marketing professional quality cookware products.  All-Clad developed a strong following amongst professional chefs and other avid cookers because of the cookware’s “extraordinary qualities, striking aesthetics and exemplary cooking performance of this revolutionary bonded cookware.”  Today, the company enjoys the reputation of manufacturing the finest pieces of cookware in the world.  It is the only bonded cookware that is made in the United States and is manufactured with all American made materials.  Company Website

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W.R. Case & SonsIn a day and age where you are more likely to find a iPod, cell phone, and USB drive in someone’s jeans pocket than a knife, W.R. Case still manages to produce and sell the same high quality, handcrafted knives that made it a famous at the turn of the previous century.  The Case brothers originally started selling handcrafted knives off of the back of wagon in upstate New York in 1889.  By 1905, the company was recognized as the premier knife company in the U.S. when the relocated their company to Bradford, Pa.  Soon after, the company was called upon by the Government to produce knives for servicemen and women during World War I.  According the company’s website, Dwight D. Eisenhower was one of the many famous avid collectors of Case knives.  Perhaps, on one of his many fishing trips to Pennsylvania or on a visit to his brother at Penn State is where the former President became enamoured with Case knives.  Case knives are a great piece of Americana and a great piece of Pennsylvania history.  W.R. Case knives are manufactured primarily in Bradford and are 100% American made.


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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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Perhaps, most famous for the distinctive clicking noise it makes when being opened, the Zippo lighter is still being made in Bradford, Pennsylvania. The company was established in the 1930’s and still stands by its lifetime guarantee.  In a time when flimsy plastic products have edged out built-to-last products – Zippo still manufacturers its click style, last-a-lifetime, metal plated lighters.  The lighters are still made with flint and wicks, but the company has also created a butane line to keep pace with the industry.  According to the company’s website, the Zippo lighter was named as one of the top 100 products.  Its easy to see why Pennsylvanians are proud of this company.  Take a moment to browse the company website or visit the very popular museum.  Company Website.

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