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.




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

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

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

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

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

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.