'It's very hard' stocking shelves at Made In America, where everything is 100% U.S. made
Mark Andol lives the "Buy American" ethos.
As It Happens host Carol Off spoke with Andol about his challenging business model and why believes things will be easier under U.S. President Donald Trump. Here is part of their conversation.
Carol Off: Mark, if I walked into your store right now, what are some of the more interesting items that might catch my eye?
Mark Andol: We're up to 7,000 products so we carry quite a bit. We've got clothing. Our favourite T-shirt's the "Made In America ... Because China's a Long Drive to Work." It's gained some attention. We've got different nostalgic toys. We've got a food aisle with different things like Johnnie Ryan pop or tuna fish that's actually pole caught. Then we've got nostalgic signs.
CO: What are the things that you have wanted to stock in your store, but they didn't meet your criteria?
MA: It's very hard. Out of all that product, we don't have one item that plugs in or that takes a battery — so those are items we're always looking for.
CO: Because those kind of items they don't make in the States anywhere?
MA: They don't. We just don't make those items no more. It's really sad that we've got to the point where we don't make certain items, like a fishing pole. I still can't find one that's made in America.
They shipped a lot of our product overseas and a lot of our work overseas. It was greed, I believe, and lower cost labour.- Mark Andol, Made In America owner
CO: I understand that even the packaging, even the glue that holds the packaging together, needs to be made in America.
MA: From the beginning, when we opened April 3, 2010, I said our products have got to be 100 per cent made in America, top quality and feeding American families. We require three letters of authenticity stating that the product is made in our country with American components, by American workers. It's a tough criteria to follow.
CO: What inspired you to start the business?
MA: I owned a manufacturing company called General Welding and Fabricating. I had lost half my business. it was making a steel post that went inside PVC fencing to give it rigidity. It was a $3-million plus account and I had lost it at the end of 2008.
My customer wanted more money out of it, but I couldn't give them any more money out of making this post. So they said we have a manufacturer in Florida that can make it. It ended up not being Florida. It was China. It was being made in China and then shipped to Florida, then back up to Western New York.
So they took my business away pretty well overnight. That was kind of the start of the recession area. That's when I came up with the idea.
I wanted to make a statement for our country, soldier and American worker — people that work with their hands. That's what kind of energized me to do it.
CO: This whole "Made in America" idea has taken on new life with Donald Trump as the president. He pledges to restore those jobs, bring corporations back, buy American, hire American. You know what the challenges are for that, so how difficult do you think it's actually going to be for President Trump to fulfil this pledge?
MA: You know, I tell people we're always non-political. I say I'm with the American party and I joke about it because we've done really good. It wasn't an R thing or a D thing, a union thing or a non-union thing. It's a 35-year mistake ... the United States made.
They shipped a lot of our product overseas and a lot of our work overseas. It was greed, I believe, and lower cost labour.
I like that Donald Trump is mentioning this, just to talk about it. We try to educate. A lot of people don't realize that a lot of our product isn't made here. It's going to take years to build the supply chains back up because we lost so much of it.
CO: And do you think he can do that?
MA: I think he can. It's going to take time to start. I think it's going to take a lot of time. But our skilled workers shortage is a big concern of mine because the schools aren't teaching in your shop classes, your work classes.
CO: I just want to ask you, finally, just about clothing. Unlike Ivanka Trump and her clothing line, your clothes are all 100 per cent made in America. You must wear 100 per cent America. How are you dressed?
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MA: Everyday, I am 100 per cent. I've got Thorogood Boots on. I've got Texas Jeans made in North Carolina. My belt is 100 per cent made in America. My wallet is 100 per cent, my shirt is a Bayside shirt — right down to the underwear.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. For more on this story, listen to our full interview with Mark Andol.