'Made In America' Store Capitalizes On Patriotism Most retail items sold in this country are not made in the U.S. But a brick-and-mortar store in upstate New York wants to change that with a simple idea: selling only U.S.-made products.
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'Made In America' Store Capitalizes On Patriotism

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'Made In America' Store Capitalizes On Patriotism

'Made In America' Store Capitalizes On Patriotism

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

Daniel Robison sent us this report from the Innovation Trail Journalism Collaborative in Upstate New York.

DANIEL ROBISON: This tour bus is just one dozens that's added tiny Elma, New York as a stop this year. In the area to visit sites like Niagara Falls, these retirees are squeezing in a visit to the Made in America store. Owner Mark Andol climbs aboard the bus and tells the group that shopping here is a patriotic act.

MARK ANDOL: Unidentified Woman: Thank you.

ANDOL: Okay. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

ROBISON: Unidentified Singer: (Singing) Made in America, stitched in red, white and blue.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MADE IN AMERICA STORE THEME SONG")

ROBISON: Gloria Giesa of Vassalboro, Maine, says she always looks for "Made in the USA" labels when shopping. But this store saves her the trouble.

GLORIA GIESA: Makes me think of when I was young and everything was American. And that's the way it should be.

ROBISON: But Giesa admits she doesn't always go with American products.

GIESA: You buy the best deal you can find. That's what it's all about. And if you can save 50 cents, that's a lot.

ROBISON: Store owner Mark Andol sees the shop as a way for American vendors to gain traction in a retail environment where they've been priced out by overseas competition. This is personal for him. A few years ago, his welding company nearly went out of business after losing major contracts to foreign manufacturers. He laid off nearly half of his 70-person workforce.

ANDOL: You have no work for them and it's going overseas and you think, 'jeez, these people want to put food on their table. And they're willing to work. There just wasn't enough work for me to keep them.

ROBISON: At first, Andol admits opening the store was more of an idea than a business plan. In fact, it stocked just 50 items.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEEPING)

ROBISON: Now, customers are snapping up its medley of more than 3,000 products. You won't find everything. There's no can openers, coffee makers or just about anything electronic. Prices are competitive: jeans for $30, $14 will buy a T- shirt that says, China is a long drive to work. And...

ROB WEYLAN: American-made toilet paper.

(SOUNDBITE OF CRINKLING)

WEYLAN: Fifty cents a roll.

ROBISON: Manger Rob Weylan makes sure each product is 100 percent American, right down to the glue in the packaging. Vendors have to say where every component of their product is made and sign letters of authenticity. This is necessary, Weylan says, because loopholes in Federal Trade Commission rules allow many items to be labeled "Made in the USA" when it's only half true or better. Weylan says he spends hours verifying manufacturer's claims.

WEYLAN: If for some reason something were to slip through the cracks, we take the product out of the store, burn it or whatever we do with it, because they lied to us.

ROBISON: So far, principle hasn't turned into a profit. Any money the store has made has gone into acquiring new products. Sales have doubled from this time last year, thanks to word of mouth and visits by out-of-towners. Before this group takes off, Andol hands out small flags and flyers mentioning the store's website.

ANDOL: We want to grow these across the country. So thank you. Have a great day. Have a good trip back.

RETIREES: Right. Thank you.

ROBISON: For NPR News, I'm Daniel Robison.

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