It took 11 years, but there are now 10,000 items in stock at local Made in America stores. Owner Mark Andol said that is quite an increase from the 50 items at the first store in Elma.
"Today, we are the largest store of its kind in the U.S.," Andol said.
Andol opened his first store in 2010 to push back against China and the way it had driven so many American businesses and workers out of work. His own General Welding & Fabricating business was hard hit, when a major customer left for a cheaper version in China.
"I had lost half my account to China," Andol said. "I had a part we were manufacturing at General Welding. A customer took it over to China to be made. A lot of things hit us hard. We had to lay off a lot of employees."
So he started looking for products 100% made in Americ. Today, his stores remain rigid about that manufacturing standard and will drop a supplier if there is a change.
"We’ve got a pretty easy way that they can fill out these free forms and we vet ‘em," he said. "We’ve got a piece of paper on every product in our store. Just like a military project. We follow it, track it. And if somebody changes something in the product, we have to toss that product back out. But we make it easy on people making things for the first time."
Besides the original Elma store and two others, Andol said the company works with retail outlets that would like some merchandise that is made in America, like the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park. He said there also is a growing web business, which doesn’t use Amazon, but one type of merchandise isn't sold at all.
"We support 500 privately-owned American vendors, a lot of them Mom and Pops. We’re proud of that," Andol said. "But no electronics. Really nothing in our store that takes a battery or plugs into 110 voltage, which is a shame. We’re in the United States of America. I said that since the beginning. I used to joke we can get to the Moon, but we can’t build a toaster in the United States."