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Made in the USA: Wichitans go the extra mile to buy American

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, May 25, 2014, at 12:26 p.m.
  • Updated Monday, May 26, 2014, at 9:24 a.m.

Photos

Places to shop American-made this summer

Here are some area companies that sell American-made products and online retailers selling wares made in the USA. In addition to stores, places to find regionally made goods include trade shows such as the Outdoor Living and Landscape Show and the Home Show, craft fairs, and farmers markets.

Nearby Kansas

Prairie PastTimes, co-op of things made in the Flint Hills, including quilts, stained glass, pottery, woodworking, decorative blacksmithing, wool weaving from local sheep, juried artwork, custom-carved limestone. 220 1/2 Broadway, Cottonwood Falls; 620-273-6020; www.prairiepasttimes.com.

Yoder Furniture Co. Amish-made furniture mainly from Pennsylvania, 3405 E. Switzer Road in Yoder; 620-465-2220; amishhomeplace.com‎.

Sturdi-Bilt Storage Barns of Hutchinson; storage sheds, cabins, patio furniture, chicken coops, animal shelters, garage doors sales and service. 3909 Stacy Road, Hutchinson; 316-265-2276; www.sturdi-bilt.com/indexbldgs.htm.

Online retailers

Martha Stewart American Made. Curated online store on eBay featuring local, handmade products, including gardening tools, flags, stationary, toys and kids clothing, and home decor. At ebay.com.

Made Collection. A Boulder, Colo.-based curated flash-sale site featuring all kinds of products made in America.

Polar Bottle. Eco-friendly water bottles. At polarbottle.com.

K’NEX. Building toys manufactured in Pennsylvania. At knex.com.

Be Present. Colorado-based yoga clothing company (most items are $69 or less). At bepresent.com.

Epicurean. Cutting boards, utensils and knife holders. At epicureancs.com.

Fresh Produce. Clothing made mostly in the USA. At freshproduceclothes.com.

Dickies 1922 Collection. A small, limited-edition group of shirts ($165 to $175) and pants ($200) for men, as they were made in 1933. At dickies.com/1922.

AG Adriano Goldschmied denim. A premium denim line (most priced around $200) of jeans, tops and accessories for women and men. At agjeans.com.

Sources: Lesley Kennedy of ShopAtHome.com; Annie Calovich of The Eagle

It’s something many people aspire to — buying as many things as possible that are made in America. Easier said than done. But some Wichitans take the extra time and effort – and money – to actually do it.

“I think the problem is most people go to the store and ... first look at the price. If it’s cheap and it’s what they want, they buy it. I look at where it’s made,” said Wichitan David Gittrich, who buys nothing made in China and as much as he can that is made in the USA.

“And it usually costs more. I’m ready for that. I don’t mind. I ... think people ought to be supporting America.”

Consumer Reports reported last year that a survey by its National Research Center found that given a choice between a product made in the United States and an identical one made abroad, 78 percent of Americans would rather buy the American product, and more than 60 percent would pay more for clothing and appliances made in America.

The reasons the Wichitans give for buying American involve the American economy, the quality of the products, human rights and health.

When Todd and LuAnne Duhnke had a new house built in Wichita five years ago, they wanted it to be like the Frank Lloyd Wright-style houses they’d grown up around in Wisconsin and Minnesota. So they wanted some authentic products made in that region. But they wanted something more.

“We made it clear from the get-go that we didn’t want anything made in China and we wanted as much as we practically could that was made in the United States,” LuAnne Duhnke said. “We just did a lot of research,” combing specialty-house magazines they picked up at Barnes & Noble.

“It cost a little more in the long run, but I think the quality is better, and it’s keeping our people in the U.S. employed.”

Gittrich said he finds it fascinating that “many people who are working in the United States as workers or laborers in the unions, they go to the store and buy things make in China, then wonder why they’re losing their jobs.”

Ben Blankley, who works at Spirit AeroSystems designing and making durable goods, is not one of them.

“I work in U.S. manufacturing,” so Blankley said he supports it by shopping American-made.

When he recently went shopping for jumper cables at a hardware store, for example, he found that “the cheap jumper cables were all made overseas, but the premium cables, the ones that would last, are still made stateside. This tends to be the case with a lot of consumer products.”

Other American-made products that Blankley has particularly noted: pots and pans, vacuums, faucets, flashlights, Vornado fans, laundry baskets, men’s formal wear, skateboards.

The Duhnkes buy American to support jobs in this country, but also because they say China doesn’t trade fairly. The latest unfair-trade claims made by the United States against China came last week when the United States charged five Chinese military officers and accused them of hacking into American nuclear, metal and solar companies to steal trade secrets.

And there are health issues with some foreign-made products as well, Todd Duhnke said. For example, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has found some drywall from China to be toxic. “Absolutely no product from China is acceptable” in such a category of goods, Duhnke said.

Much of the Duhnkes’ furniture is American-made Stickley; Traditions is a local retailer that carries the line. One thing the Duhnkes could not find for their new house: an outdoor motion light that was not made in China.

Gittrich gave some practical advice for buying American.

“First of all I don’t buy anything in a hurry. I don’t have to have anything right away. So I make myself a continuing list of things I like to have. As I go shopping, I look for things.”

Gittrich will shop online but not buy online. Recently, for example, he wanted to buy a popcorn popper. He found an American-made one online, but he went to Williams Hardware to buy it.

It’s usually not hard to find the country of origin labeled on products, he said, but sometimes he’s had to open a package, or an employee has had to hunt down the box that a product came in to find the source.

Gittrich will buy things made in Vietnam or the Philippines or Mexico if he can’t find them American-made. But nothing made in China.

“When you have forced labor in China, I’m not going to participate in that,” Gittrich said.

When shopping for lightbulbs, after searching in a lot of stores, he found some made in Honduras at Dillons.

“Some items if I can’t find them made in American or a country other than China, I’ll go to an estate sale or second-hand store,” Gittrich said. He recalls having a great time a few years ago in a hardware store in Chapman where he found lots of stuff made in the United States. He stocked up because “I know they’re going to be replaced by things made in China. Whenever I’m in a small town, I’ll look in their stores.”

Reach Annie Calovich at 316-268-6596 or acalovich@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @anniecalovich.

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