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Posts Tagged ‘Pennsylvania Companies’

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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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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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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