“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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