Menu

Categories / American Made Makers

Gordon Brush Logo

The American Dream Comes True

Gordon Brush Family

 Bill Loitz, Executive Vice President; Ricardo Ruiz, Plant Manager;
Ken Rakusin, President and CEO

This feature is a bit different than the others,  in that we have a true life “American Dream” story provided by our friends at Gordon Brush.  We found it really compelling and believe our readers will also. Please let us know, we welcome your comments.

Estranged from his parents and living with his grandparents at the age of twelve, Ricardo Ruiz had to endure severe economic hardship due to the ravages of political unrest in his native country, El Salvador. Warring rebel factions recruiting young males, killing those who wouldn’t join, made life intolerable for Ricardo to have the freedom to continue his studies. “I was studying Industrial Engineering at the university and I was afraid that the political turmoil would make for an uncertain future, so I decided to seek better opportunities,” Ruiz says. Along with a friend who had family in Canada, Ricardo left El Salvador for the chance of a better life at the age of twenty-one.

Traveling north by bus, train, and boat, the two crossed into California on their way to Canada but they were caught at the border and sent to a detention facility in Chula Vista, CA. Fearing deportation after his petition for asylum was rejected for insufficient evidence, Ricardo spent three days in detention before an aunt living in Montebello, CA paid a fee for his release. Upon his release, he was given a work permit.

El Salvador to Chula Vista

 

Ricardo was encouraged by his aunt’s husband to apply for a job at Gordon Brush Mfg. Co., Inc., where he worked. Ricardo was hired as a janitor because at the time he didn’t speak even a word of English and his educational training in El Salvador was not relevant to an open position at Gordon Brush. Ricardo spent two years as a janitor, all the while acquiring new skills, and learning how to work and fix the machines on his own time. “I wanted to better myself. I knew I had the capability of learning and improving my position and if I worked hard, someone would recognize my abilities,” Ruiz notes.

After two years, Ricardo was given an opportunity to learn how to make brushes on the 2nd shift. Ricardo still wasn’t satisfied; he wanted more responsibility and better, higher paying jobs. Because Ricardo was a hard and conscientious worker, the Company sponsored his United States citizenship. A couple of years passed when Bill Loitz, the son of the owner at the time, recognized Ricardo’s ability and took him under his wing. He was made 2nd shift supervisor and was taught the art of brush making, how to use all of the machines and how to fix them too.

Still not satisfied during this time, as his English improved, Ricardo enrolled in community college to study architecture and accounting. Married and with a child, now he was faced with a dilemma: “should I continue my education and pursue a career as an architect or should I stay at Gordon Brush?” Ricardo says he asked his wife. The answer became crystal clear to Ricardo when Ken Rakusin, the company president and CEO, and Loitz offered him the position of plant manager. Finally, after all of those years of hard work, believing in his own abilities and capabilities, the company management recognized Ricardo’s strengths to promote him to this position. Explains Rakusin, “Ricardo is the epitome of the American dream and a model for every immigrant that comes to this great country, not knowing the language and culture but with hard work, desire, drive, and determination to grow and succeed and to make a better life, from that which he had left, for himself and his family, for Gordon Brush, and the community in which he resides.”

Why did Ricardo stay at Gordon Brush, rather than pursue a potentially more lucrative career as an architect? “I stayed at Gordon Brush because I enjoy working with my hands, solving problems, and providing customers a solution. I know that when a part is shipped from the Gordon Brush plant, that the part will meet or exceed all of the specifications and performance expectations of our customer. It gives me great satisfaction in knowing that I contributed to the customer’s success,” Ricardo proudly states.

Initially Ricardo’s role as plant manager was difficult; not from a work stand-point but from a personnel stand-point. Employees were jealous of Ricardo because he was promoted ahead of some with more seniority. However, Ricardo was quick to allay their fears because he showed them that he was there to help them succeed and work with them to do what was in the best interests of the company.

Fifteen years later as the manager, the plant runs smoothly and with minimal issues as Ricardo, 52 years old, manages the coordination of the production of over 15,000 different brushes made by Gordon Brush. “I have complete faith and trust in Ricardo to do whatever he needs to do to run the plant in the most efficient and cost-effective manner, to make and deliver our wide variety of American made brushes to our customers,” Rakusin says.

Ricardo practices what he preaches and gives back to the system from which he received. He is very active in his church and community center. He counsels young people on what it means to work hard to achieve your goals, to stay out of trouble, to listen to parents or others that have more experience, and to stay in school and get an education. “Besides my family and my job, this is my third greatest satisfaction; being able to give back to the community and hopefully make a difference in a youth’s life,” he says.

Does he have any regrets? “I have no regrets whatsoever. Gordon Brush is my home away from home and the employees are my extended family. Gordon Brush is a great place to work, to learn and grow, and to have the ability to raise a family. Because of Gordon Brush, I was able to build a great life for my wife and me and our two daughters; one of which has graduated from college and the other in her second year of college. It has been a home to many other immigrants and their offspring for over 60 years. Seeing second generation employee’s work at Gordon Brush proves that this is a great place to work. All of the employees know that Ken and the rest of the management team appreciate and respect each and every employee. Gordon Brush is not just a job, it is a family, and only in the United States of America could all this happen”, Ricardo explains. Like in the book, The Little Engine That Could, Ricardo Ruiz knew that he could and he did.


Bullet Blues

Bullet Blues

When did you have the “aha” moment that this interest/passion could be a business?

There was no particular moment. I always had planned on it and was just waiting for the right time for me as a mother of a teenage boy.

Were there circumstances that led you down this path, or did you always want to do this?

I’m a blue jean girl when I don’t dress up. Love everything about jeans. It was hard for me sometimes to find the perfect fit.

 

Isabelle Benoit

Business names are very important – how did you come up with yours?

Our trip to Normandy, France. I was very impressed by the sacrifices of the American Soldiers and all the other soldiers too, who led France and the world to freedom. I thought that Bullet Blues would be the perfect name to honor them and thank them and to serve as a reminder that freedom doesn’t come for free.

Bullet Blues Jeans

 What is the inspiration for your style and design?

I personally like sexy jeans with the perfect fit. I also like them to look elegant without bling on them. So the inspiration is mostly a reflection of my personal taste. We will have boyfriend-style jeans for Spring to please the ladies who don’t like tight jeans.

Audrey, Marilyn, Jean

The Timeless Beauty of Audrey, Marilyn and Jean in their Classic Jeans.

Every product has various materials that compose it. What are some of the favorite materials you use in your design?

I like fabrics that are comfortable so I pick fabrics with stretch even for the men’s  jeans, except the men’s button-up shirts that are 100% cotton. We have tops in modal/stretch. Our new tops for ladies are going to be made with a really soft rayon with a touch of spandex.

Where do you source your materials?

For the jeans, we use Cone Denim from North Carolina. Our rivets and buttons are custom made in Kentucky by YKK. I’m using a new company for my new tops Fabrics World USA. It’s a company from up North and we get our rayon/spandex, chiffon and mesh from them. Our care labels are also made in USA.

Cone Denim

What is your favorite part of the creative and production process?

Picking the fabrics is fun. Getting the first sample made is exciting. I love when I have an idea in my head and my pattern maker Cherie Bixler is able to draw it to perfection. She is really amazing and I love to work with her. She has helped me with the designs of my new tops for the Spring Collection. I’m pretty happy when production starts as we have been working very hard to get there.

What kind of relationship do you have with the people you work with?

A professional relationship. I have been working with the same people since I started. I am just hiring more people little by little down the road.

Jeans Hem Stitching

What do you wish you had known when you were first starting out?

I should have studied the statistics of the sizing in America. My very first production had too many small sizes and not enough average and larger.

What is the most important philosophy you live by?

Stay honest, work hard, and deliver the best you can with a smile.

What is your secret to success?

Always believe in yourself. Life has its ups and downs. Also trust your instincts and gut feelings and stay true to your vision as it will happen. I’m a positive person.

Isabelle & FriendWhat advice would you give to others starting out?

Not sure. It depends. They have to know it is not going to be easy. They need to be persistent and I also think that there is nothing wrong with paying someone who is better than you in certain domains that you need for your business.

What has been your most cherished milestone so far?

When I started making a bit of profit which took awhile. I love my customers who are loyal to Bullet Blues.

Bullet Blues

Why is manufacturing in the United States important to you?

It’s a no brainer. Jobs creation, economy, safer products, American Pride…

What’s next?

To keep creating.  Get bigger. Hire more people. There is something amazing that I am planning on doing but it is way too soon to talk about it. The future will tell. Thank you!

 

 


Chapman Manufacturing

Chapman ratchets

When did you have the “aha” moment that this interest/passion could be a business?

When I started about four years ago as an assistant to the owner, the press that stamped our cases was down and had been for a few weeks. Our customers, both individuals and large companies, were very patient and willing to wait for several months for us to make ratchets and ship their orders. It struck me that even in the age of instant gratification, our tools were worth the wait.

Were there circumstances that led you down this path, or did you always want to do this?

I’ve been in manufacturing my whole life, everything from printing to radiators to taps and dies. It’s gratifying to work in a company that uses quality USA made materials instead of undercutting US manufacturers by using foreign materials. As I see it, all of us USA manufacturers are “in it together” in this global economy.

Tracy with Jay Leno

Car aficionado Jay Leno talking with CEO, Tracy Camassar, about Chapman Tools

Business names are very important – how did you come up with yours?

Our tools were invented by John Chapman in 1936, right around the corner from where our shop is now. Our tools have always bore his name, which is now synonymous with quality, precision tools that are great in tight spaces.

What is the inspiration for your style and design?

Though we’ve added more screwdriver bits, are tools are essentially the same design since 1936. The style of our tools, website and print materials are inspired by products; geometric with high attention to detail and a little retro.

Yellow Tool Box

Every product has various materials that compose it. What are some of the favorite materials you use in your design? / Where do you source your materials?

All of our materials used in our tools are quality products Made in the USA. We use USA tool steel, USA stainless steel and USA plastics, the way it’s been since 1936. We also try to source USA products used around the shop and in the office, which are sometimes difficult to find but worth the time and effort to support other manufacturers like us.

What is your favorite part of the creative and production process?

My favorite part of the process is developing new products that our customers get excited about. Many of the new tools we’ve invented we originally created for ourselves in the shop, tested for a while, and we determined that our customers would find the tools handy too! For example, we started making our “spinner,” a low profile hand tightener, to reach some impossible screws on one of our machines.

The Chapman Mfg. Family

 What kind of relationship do you have with the people you work with?

We have a small, tight knit shop with less than 20 employees ranging from college students to octogenarians. Though we encourage working together and everyone is trained on a couple machines and office procedures, I love to see how people pitch in when we need to get a big order out or work on a special project. In some companies colleagues are willing to work with you, but not put their work on hold to help you out of a jam. Here everyone is more than willing to lend a hand immediately. To me, that really shows the quality of the relationships here at Chapman.

What do you wish you had known when you were first starting out?

I wish I had known how many hours of work I would have to put in, and how gratifying it is now that we’re growing. I wish I had known how fun it is to meet and talk with customers, many with old red case kits they purchased from us in the 1980’s and before.

What is the most important philosophy you live by?

Simply treat others as you would want to be treated, and that includes team members, customers, employees and everyone from our competitors to the man who plows the snow. Everyone deserves to be treated kindly. (See Editor’s Note below)

Kind People Treating People Kindly

What is your secret to success?

Definitely our quality tools and customer service at a reasonable price. Almost daily someone calls to tell as that they’ve inherited our tools from their grandpa, the tools still work perfectly but over the years a couple parts are missing. We keep open stock on all parts, so they’re delighted to update their kits. After a couple months go by, the customer calls back to order new tool kit!

 What advice would you give to others starting out?

Start slow and steady and develop your products so they sell themselves!

What has been your most cherished milestone so far?

To be able to give back to the community by offering a local high school student a scholarship. Also to donate tool kits for raffles that support disabled veterans and rescue more abused dogs like our beloved Savannah, who hangs out in the office with us all day.

What’s next?

We’re expanding our product line into security bits, low profile bits, and adding related tools.

Why is manufacturing in the U.S. important to you?

Manufacturing in the U.S. is important to us because it supports our community with employment, our state and country with tax revenue, and the world with top quality tools. When you buy Chapman tools, you’re supporting many other US manufacturers and services providers because we only purchase American made raw materials. As we see it,  American businesses are all in it together!

Chapman Mfg. Co
471 New Haven Road
Durham, CT 06422
 
Phone:860-349-9228
website: www.chapmanmfg.com

 

Editor’s Note: Tracy Camassar’s response that “everyone deserves to be treated kindly” extends that belief to four-legged friends. Here is a side story about their mascot Savannah from son, Joel Camassar.

Savannah

Savannah was pulled off death row at a Georgia shelter when they discovered she was pregnant. A Connecticut dog rescue called Running For Rescues had her driven up to Connecticut and fostered at my friend’s house with her 7 puppies. Once the puppies got big enough, everyone was adopted out to local homes and I took Savannah. When I got her, she was still very thin from being pregnant and previously emaciated. It was clear that prior to being picked up by the shelter in Georgia she was abused horribly, possibly from a dog fighting ring. She has scars and when you went to pet her she would shake and was literally paralyzed with fear. Her bed is in the office, so everyone that works here would come in and pet her, talk to her and feed her treats, including our UPS driver and several other delivery people. That was about two years ago and since then she has come out of her shell. She’s kind of our mascot, and she’s been awarded the title of “Top Dog” and is in charge of employee and visitor welcoming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Stormy Kromer

Stormy Kromer Hats

When did you have the “aha” moment that this interest/passion could be a business?

Sewing manufacturing is not a growing industry in the United States, in part because the skill is not an overly abundant trade in the U.S.  However, it is a skill that Bob Jacquart has had the majority of his life, quite simply because it was in his blood and his family’s line of work. From an early age, while working with his father, Bob was already looking at additional opportunities to grow the business. Fast forward to 2001, when upon sitting down to a cup of coffee, the conversation that occurred changed the course of his business, and subsequently his life.

He learned of the imminent demise of the Stormy Kromer cap and decided to make a call. Initially, Bob thought he would try to produce enough caps that would mean he wouldn’t have to do any seasonal layoffs and could provide year round employment and security to a small number of employees. However, by honoring the heritage of the Stormy Kromer brand as well as his family’s sewing manufacturing business, he wrote a new chapter in the history of Stormy Kromer.

Were there circumstances that led you down this path, or did you always want to do this?

This answer is a carryover from the answer above. Bob Jacquart didn’t set out to be the owner of Stormy Kromer, but his passion for business and growth has always been there. He certainly saw potential in a brand and product that was basically on the brink of extinction, but if you asked him if he knew he always wanted to own Stormy Kromer, no, yet, he cannot imagine not being the “Caretaker of the Legend” that is Stormy Kromer.

Business names are very important – how did you come up with yours?

Stormy's StoryGeorge “Stormy” Kromer was a real guy – a semi-pro baseball player and railroad engineer. Not the kind of guy you’d expect to start a clothing company, in other words, but one who happened to create a cap that became known for long-comfort and the ability to stay snug, even in the fiercest winds.

Mr. Kromer, known as “Stormy” to the folks who knew his temper, was born in 1876 in Kaukauna, Wisconsin. He grew up with baseball and would eventually play on nearly 30 semi-pro teams throughout the Midwest. He might have continued to play that field, too, but he met Ida, and before Ida’s father would allow her hand in marriage, our ballplayer needed to find real work.

That meant the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad and long, cold trips across the plains. Stormy was an engineer, and to see where he was headed, he had to stick his head out the window – into the wind. Mother Nature stole his cap more than once, and as the story goes, he set out to get her back.

In 1903, he asked Ida (now his wife and an excellent seamstress) to modify an old baseball cap to help keep it on in windy weather. The all-cloth cap with the soft, canvas visor was a departure from the traditional fedoras of the day, but it was more comfortable and because of its six-panel fit, it stayed put.

In 2001, when Bob purchased the rights to produce the cap, the company was called the Kromer Cap Company and they made other caps (mainly welding caps), so naming it Stormy Kromer just made sense. The nickname was a perfect fit for a cold weather cap and a company based in the Upper Midwest, it also provided separation from the Kromer Cap Company that was still in existence.

The Cap

What is the inspiration for your style and design?

The caps are still based on the original design from 1903, the styles, patterns and color options have changed and evolved, but the cap endures because of a basic functionality, which is defying cold and wind and keeping wearers warm. Everything we design is based on being functional and fashionable, there must be a level of authenticity that Stormy and Ida would be proud of, yet, we work to make sure it is also a modern extension of the brand, using classic features and materials, but modern details. Our other goal is versatility that our products and designs can work in the woods or the streets of a bustling metropolis.

Every product has various materials that compose it. What are some of the favorite materials you use in your design?

• Wool – It is nature’s original performance fabric. It’s made a resurgence of sorts, with people realizing that it’s not all itchy, but we’ve known that all along. It is warm, breathable and absorbs moisture.

We use 100% and 80/20 wool/nylon. Nylon gives added strength to the wool.

• We have also expanded with some products that are waxed cotton. It is water resistance and adds a hearty and rugged look.

Where do you source your materials?

It is a combination of domestically and internationally. Sourcing is a combination of factors, including: where we can find the right combination of quality, price and lead time.

What is your favorite part of the creative and production process?

Designing new plaid patterns. Our customers don’t typically realize the process that goes into creating a new plaid and that we design them. Each year, we share this process with them through our blog and social media outlets, we always get great feedback, which often includes names for the new patterns.

We also love seeing the first prototype of something, when it becomes a reality and leaves the pages to become something tangible to touch and try that is always exciting.

Stormy Shirts

What kind of relationship do you have with the people you work with?

We are based in a town of 5,000 people, so if we were not a close knit company, we would be doing something wrong. Our employees are a part of the Stormy Kromer family and you can see it in the work that they do and the level of quality they bring to every step of the production process. There is pride packed in every product that leaves our warehouse and it is comprised of a group of genuine, passionate and darn good people, who every day strive to provide products produced with passion and pride.

Stormy Hat & Hands

What do you wish you had known when you were first starting out?

To never underestimate the potential. It’s hard not to be tempered by all the realities that come with being in and doing business, but if you don’t believe, who will? Work hard; don’t let your spirit be dashed because dreaming big is important.

What is the most important philosophy you live by?

I look at this journey as an endless set of stairs. Take it one step at a time, even if you only move up one step, you are still climbing and headed up instead of jumping ahead and actually moving backwards because of setbacks. Keep looking at where you are headed and keep climbing.

What is your secret to success?

Get lucky enough to passionately love your work.

Cutting Fabric

What advice would you give to others starting out?

Go slow and ask a lot of questions from others who know more than you. If you don’t let your pride get in the way, there is a lot of help out there, but you have to be willing to ask and to take it. Others will help you and in general people wish to see others succeed, not fail, but is in your approach. I continue to look for others who can offer me advice and help me grow – personally and professionally.

What has been your most cherished milestone so far?

Buying Stormy Kromer, because it has given me the opportunity to work with both of my daughters, and I guess also going to work with my father, because had I not joined our family business, I’m not sure that I would be in charge of Stormy Kromer.

What’s next?

What’s not?

Certainly growth and expansion. To date, we have not been limited by our location or our US-based manufacturing, in an industry that is consistently outsourced. There are more potential than limits for Stormy Kromer.

Stormy tees

Why is manufacturing in the U.S. important to you?

When Bob Jacquart bought the company in 2001, he likes to say, he became the “Caretaker of the Legend.” That legend is Stormy Kromer and in continuing and honoring that legend, an important part of the legacy is manufacturing the products in the USA (and ideally in a place that still has winter). Quite simply, it matters to our customers, it is part of continuing what George and Ida started more than 100 years ago and it is symbolic of the hard-working folk who proudly purchase and wear Stormy Kromer products. Stormy Kromer products are produced in a town of 5,000 people, with an average temperature of 39 degrees, there are two things we know a lot about – how to work hard and overcome challenges and how important it is to have a hat you can rely on.

Stormy Kromer

 

Stormy Kromer Mercantile, USA
1238 Wall Street
Ironwood, MI 49938
 
Telephone: 888.455.2253
info@stormykromer.com
http://www.stormykromer.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Wallet

Rogue Industries

rogue industries

“There’s a pride of place that Mainers have, and for good reason. We know our state is something special. Our natural environment has been inspiring creative types for years. Longfellow and Thoreau, Winslow Homer and Andrew Wyeth… Our environment is our patrimony, and we try to take good care of it.”  ~ Wells Lyons

Where are you from, what are your roots, and how did these places cultivate an idea that led you to where you are today?

I was born in Portland, Maine, a fifth-generation Mainer. Growing up I spent my summers way up the coast in Lubec, the easternmost town in the U.S. It’s the type of small town where time just stopped about 50 years ago. There’s no Internet, no cell phone reception. This part of Maine is modest houses and hard-working people, steeped in frequent rains and blankets of fog. There’s an abundance of nature – it’s not uncommon to encounter seals, bald eagles and loons all in the same day. My family’s place is a little cabin surrounded by pine trees, it was built by my grandfather. There’s a steep path leading to a stony beach. It feels like nowhere else.

There’s a pride of place that Mainers have, and for good reason. We know our state is something special. Our natural environment has been inspiring creative types for years. Longfellow and Thoreau, Winslow Homer and Andrew Wyeth… Our environment is our patrimony, and we try to take good care of it. I think our cultural legacy is one of reserved self-sufficiency and a love of Yankee ingenuity – a sort of practical creativity. I think this comes through in our products. Designed to last, well-made, reasonably priced.

Materials

What’s a good synopsis, what is Rogue Industries all about?

At Rogue Industries we craft well-made, innovative accessories. We don’t aim for trends, but rather utility and understated style – wallets that fit your front pocket comfortably, shave kits that always survive the trip, and journals hand-stitched to hold your thoughts and musings.

We use unique and custom tanned leathers to set our products apart, sourced from all over the continent– the Horween tannery in Chicago, and bison from the American West. Our ‘Made in Maine’ collection builds upon Maine’s history as a center of leatherworking. We’re always striving to improve upon what we’ve built.

Wallet

Is manufacturing in the US a major priority? Tell us a bit more about how you feel regarding the sacrifices and rewards of making goods in the United States.

We’re a small, family-owned business. We don’t have quarterly earnings reports or a need to increase short-term profits to keep shareholders happy. We’re accountable to our workers, our customers and ourselves, not to shareholders – and that allows us to be the company we want to be.

Our Made in Maine collection is something we’re incredibly proud to offer. By manufacturing here in our home state, we’re able to provide good paying jobs to our neighbors at a time when our economy still isn’t working for most people. And by manufacturing locally we’re able to closely supervise every aspect of the manufacturing process, and can make quick changes to our designs. We can get prototypes to buyers in days, not weeks.

At the same time, not all of our products are made in Maine. We let our customers make the choice – do they want to pay a little more for a locally made product, or do they need to buy the most affordable wallet we have? We want our products to be accessible to consumers across all income levels.

logo

Why is it important for you to dedicate your business to be an American manufacturer?

For us the major factors are quality, the speed of turnaround, and the ability to provide good paying jobs in our community. Millions of Americans are out of work. Buying American made products is one of the best ways we can get our economy going again. When we buy local we keep dollars in our communities.

What are your personal thoughts on the importance of buying American made products?

Buying American made products keeps dollars in our economy, rather than flowing beyond our borders. As far as American made, I say, the more local the better. Rogue Industries is a member of Portland Buy Local, which is a great organization dedicated to supporting Portland’s locally owned, independent businesses. They’ve done some studies on the impacts of shopping locally, and the results are incredible. For example: for every $100 spent at a locally owned business, $45 stays in the local economy, creating jobs and expanding the city’s tax base. For every $100 spent at a national chain or franchise store, only $14 remains in the community. For every $100 spent on an imported product bought at a national chain store, the amount that stays in the community is probably even lower.

sewing

Let’s talk sourcing; bring us into the process a bit, was it a challenge to find domestic material? What, about the leather that you chose, makes it significant and superior?

We look for the highest quality materials we can find. I really like working with companies that have been around for a while, and have a history of offering American made materials. Horween, out in Chicago, is one of the oldest tanneries in the United States, and has been a great partner. They are custom tanning leathers for us for our iPhone cases. We use Lenzip zippers in our shave kits, because they look great, they’re extremely durable and they’re American made.

Wells Lyons

What inspires you and gives you the drive to keep on creating?

Nature is endlessly inspiring. Outside is where I’m happiest, and where I do my best creative work. I like overseeing the process of idea to product, of actually making something you can hold in your hands and give to a friend. It’s rewarding to see effort pay off. It’s meaningful work.

This interview was conducted by the folks at Citizen Native, a store dedicated to finding remarkable, well-designed goods, entirely made in the USA. You can find Rogue Industry’s Made in Maine wallets at Citizen Native.

 
Rogue Industries
386 Fore Street Suite 502
Portland, Maine 04101
(207) 899-4331
 
http://www.rogue-industries.com

 


3 New Sectional Vign

Simplicity Sofas

We were intrigued by the fact that there is a one page assembly instruction sheet for all Simplicity sofas and chairs. The instruction sheet has a total of 54 words and 6 pictures. The sectionals, like the beautiful piece above, do not require an instruction sheet at all. It is so simple it cannot be assembled incorrectly.

We had to talk with the company’s founder, Jeff Frank, to get the skinny on how such a beautiful American made product could be so simple in design.

Megan with Box T Cushions

When did you have the “aha” moment that this interest/passion could be a business?

When the largest furniture manufacturer in the world agreed to license my patents in 1991.

Were there circumstances that led you down this path, or did you always want to do this?

I have been in the furniture industry for over 35 years. I did not really consider an entrepreneurial path until I was fired from my job in 1989.

Simplicity_Sofas

Business names are very important – how did you come up with yours?

The word “Simplicity” refers to the ease with which our products can be assembled. “Simplicity Sofas” is short, alliterative and easy to remember.

What is the inspiration for your style and design?

The basic principle behind our furniture is to combine high quality, classic styling and ease of assembly. All of our designs are a function of a modular customization process. Using only 30 different modular frame components, a few custom options and a selection of over 200 fabrics, we can create thousands of alternative looks for our customers to choose from.

Picture 4

Every product has various materials that compose it. What are some of the favorite materials you use in your design?

We build our furniture with heavy-duty materials that will hold up over the long term. Our solid oak sofa frames, steel spring systems and premium grade cushions are all backed by lifetime warranties.

Where do you source your materials?

We try to source as many materials as possible in the U.S. All of our frames, cushions and proprietary hardware are sourced within a few miles of our High Point, North Carolina factory. When we first opened six years ago 95% of our fabrics were imported. We now source nearly 50% of our fabrics from American mills and that percentage is growing steadily.

sl-EnduraEase

What is your favorite part of the creative and production process?

The challenge of figuring out innovative solutions to “impossible” problems.

What kind of relationship do you have with the people you work with?

Everybody in the company works very closely together and has multiple overlapping functions, including customer service. In our six years in business we have achieved 100% customer satisfaction. A happy and satisfied workforce is critical to achieve the “extreme” levels of customer service that we extend to our customers. Working with happy customers makes it much easier to maintain a happy and satisfied workforce.

Picture 2

What do you wish you had known when you were first starting out?

Innovation is not always appreciated by those you work for.

What is the most important philosophy you live by?

Treat others with respect and honesty and you can expect the same in return (most of the time.)

What is your secret to success?

  • Hard Work.
  • Innovation
  • Surrounding myself with good people.
Founder, Jeff Frank

Founder, Jeff Frank

What advice would you give to others starting out?

When starting an entrepreneurial business find and develop a small market niche that has been overlooked or ignored by your larger competitors.

What has been your most cherished milestone so far?

I have two most cherished milestones:

1. The $20,000 Grand Prize awarded for the 2012 Most Innovative Small Business in America.

2. My company’s ongoing achievement that after six years and more than 2500 customers we have never had a negative review.

What’s next?

I simply want to continue to grow the business.

Simplicity Sofas, Inc.
2726 W. English Rd.
High Point, NC 27262
Toll Free: (800) 813-2889
Phone: (336) 882-2490

https://simplicitysofas.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


little girl cropped

Jack & Mary Designs

pinecone

Designer, founder, and mother of four, Marilyn Robertson is committed to creating fashion-forward, functional, stylish, accessories, that are hand-made in Maine. Since its debut in 2009, the company has garnered a loyal following of style-conscious, eco-minded consumers.

little girl

 

When did you have the “aha” moment that this interest/passion could be a business?

I realized that my hobby could be a business when I switched the focus of my company from retail to wholesale.

Were there circumstances that led you down this path, or did you always want to do this? 

I left a successful Interior Redesign business in Southern Maine when my husband’s job took us to rural Wyoming. Starting this business allowed me be creative and travel.

 

Women's Fingerless Mittens

 

Business names are very important – how did you come up with yours?

My parents were go-getters, adventurous and great role models and I always loved the way there names sounded together Jack and Mary – Jack and Mary Designs.

 What is the inspiration for your style and design?

I get my inspiration from being observant. I get ideas from nature, architecture and others fashion designs and then create products my way.

fingerless tree

 

Every product has various materials that compose it. What are some of the favorite materials you use in your design?

I use recycled wool and cashmere sweaters to create my accessories line. I love when I find a very ugly patterned sweater and turn it into something fabulous.

Where do you source your materials?

I source my materials from thrift stores, craigslist, and friends closets.

mittens

 

What is your favorite part of the creative and production process?

Thinking up a new product and working on a prototype.

 

What kind of relationship do you have with the people you work with?

I have an open, honest and appreciative relationship.

hat

 

What do you wish you had known when you were first starting out?

To outsource what I am not good at – book keeping.

What is the most important philosophy you live by?

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

friends

 

 What is your secret to success?

Jack and Mary Designs success comes from a lot of hard work and dedication.

 What advice would you give to others starting out?

Go for it, be prepared to work really hard and find good advisors along the way.

Jack-mary-logo-bk-01-300x229 copy

25 Sentry Hill Road

York, ME 03909

207-337-0521

 info@jackandmarydesigns.com

www.jackandmarydesigns.com

 

 

 

 


Tough Traveler

Micah ~ Courtesy Amanada & Bill Faulkner

Micah ~ Courtesy Amanada & Bill Faulkner

In our discussion with Tough Traveler CEO, Nancy Gold, we discover how a need provided 40+ years of sustainable manufacturing for this iconic American manufacturer.

When did you have the “aha” moment that this interest/passion could be a business?

Tough Traveler started long ago to make comfortable backpacks and shoulder bags, which at the time, could not be found. It then continued into an assortment of different items; comfortable hiking packs later became comfortable backpacks for school kids, which transformed into travelers backpacks, baby backpacks, and even dog carrier packs for comfort. Likewise, shoulder bags for carrying work gear, became shoulder bags for daily living which evolved into briefcases for files, computer bags for computers and other electronics, duffel bags, luggage, garment bags, and carry-ons for going to the gym, and business and vacation travel. We even offer emergency medical services packs and bags for ambulance and fire departments!

Scott & Nora Lindsay

Courtesy of Scott and Lisa Lindsay

What is the inspiration for your style and design?

Requests from the general consumer for much needed products, and observations and thoughts of what is needed to help with carrying for daily life, family, work, travel, and other uses.

The Stallion Child Carrier

Courtesy of Scott and Lisa Lindsay

Every product has various materials that compose it. What are some of the favorite materials you use in your design?

We often use the same USA-made materials: 1,000 d. Cordura® that looks like canvas but is actually very durable nylon, Packcloth, Rhinotek® and various other materials. We like materials that will hold up for usage and we like comfortable good-looking materials too!

Tough Traveler ® in Mexico, Courtesy of Xander Warasta

Tough Traveler ® in Mexico, Courtesy of Xander Warasta

Where do you source your materials?

USA when possible, approx 99%+

Photo courtesy of Sandra Johnson

Photo courtesy of Sandra Johnson

What is your favorite part of the creative and production process?

Right now we are enjoying assigning different products to increased usage, with design modifications and lots of fun in the process. Re-purposing! We have always been able to add pockets when possible, but now we are even adding whole sections!

Aedan, with Wakhi Guide, Afghanistan

Courtesy of Jason Kerr, Great Game Travel Afghanistan

What’s next?

USA manufacturing in the textile products area of bags and packs is very difficult, although it is rewarding to both create new products and to get excellent products to individuals, companies, and agencies. We do not pay 50 cents/hr, nor do we discard our wastes in the nearby river, and we do observe State & USA regulations for unemployment, worker’s comp., etc. USA-made products in this field of manufacturing are not generally sold by USA retailers, so to continue to design and manufacture in the USA we depend on word-of-mouth for new customers, longtime customers, and an increasing interest in USA-made products!

Great Wall of China Courtesy Claudia Wink

Great Wall of China Courtesy Claudia Wink

 

Waiting for the bus, adorable  friends of Tough Traveler

Waiting for the bus, adorable friends of Tough Traveler

Kid Carrier

Kid Carrier

 

 Courtesy of David Riley, www.AmericansWorking.com

Courtesy of David Riley, www.AmericansWorking.com



In North Carolina, courtesy of Erick Allen

In North Carolina, courtesy of Erick Allen

 

In North Carolina, courtesy of Erick Allen

In North Carolina, courtesy of Erick Allen

Stallion Made

Stallion Made