Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

Everything in the store is American-made -- and now the store itself is, too.

Mark Andol, founder and CEO of the Made in America stores in western New York, is hosting another celebration this Saturday, May 21. The event is to mark the grand opening of his newly built, 12,000 square-foot flagship location in Elma, New York.

The Elma location, the first of Andol’s Made in America Stores, was launched six years ago. He now has eight locations in the Buffalo area where all items for sale are made in America.

But the original flagship location had outgrown its smaller, two-story location. Interest in Made in America products has been rapidly growing, so Andol decided to expand to a new location at 1000 W Maple Court, located about 600 yards from the original Maple Street venue in Elma.

“The new store is three times the size, with one-level shopping and four-foot wide aisles,” said Andol. “The old store was beautiful, it was my baby, but as I moved I realized how tight it was in the original store.”

The new location, in addition to its front entrance, also has a bus entrance designed for tourism and travelers. The bus entrance includes a large canopy, six ladies’ room facilities, a staging area to sit and a kitchenette. Gone are the curbs and bumps, making it easier for people to navigate into the store – especially the elderly, people in wheelchairs and those with baby strollers.

"I say, go out and vote with your dollar. If you want to make change, at least go out and look at what you are buying. Just take a look. Flip it over and see where it’s made. If you want your potholes fixed, buy Made in America." Mark Andol

The flagship replacement store features 7,000 products and supports 500 privately owned American businesses. The added bus-friendly design became a necessity after an unexpected number of tour buses brought folks in to see and purchase what America is making.

“We are going to hit our 500th bus tour sometime in the beginning of June,” said Andol. “A lot of people can’t believe we get buses from all over the United States. They even fly in from Japan to come here and take tours.

“I always say it’s a commonsense idea, the Made in America store, but it’s an action plan right now. I say, go out and vote with your dollar. If you want to make change, at least go out and look at what you are buying. Just take a look. Flip it over and see where it’s made. If you want your potholes fixed, buy Made in America.”

If everyone in the United States were to just spend 5 percent more on made-in-America goods, one million jobs would be created across the country, according to the Million Jobs Project. Purchasing American-made goods not only strengthens U.S. manufacturing companies but creates more American middle-class jobs.

Andol is a champion of the Made in America movement and he remained true to his mission when building the new store. It’s construction was all American-made.

“The building supports all American skilled trades. We made the columns at my General Welding & Fabricating company, which is across the street. There are 40 of the columns and they are all peg-welded. The steel, we had the sheet metal crew do the work, we had the framers do the wood, the masons did the brick and inside all the subcontractors took pride in this because it’s our whole story.”

Saturday’s family-friendly event will feature 55 outdoor vendors, a barbecue, music with five bands including Nashville recording artist Ricky Lee, and a multitude of American-made products to peruse inside and outside the store.

On Friday, May 20, Andol will showcase his continued commitment of supporting America’s military veterans with a smaller, private event called Joining Community Forces. He will present a plaque to a Gold Star mother who lost her son on the battlefield in Iraq. Veterans from the Buffalo area will be out in force to honor our fallen soldiers and listen to an intimate concert by Ricky Lee.

Andol opened the original Made in America store in Elma in April of 2010 after his General Welding & Fabricating business had to cease operations at two of its four locations because half of his contract business was outsourced to China. The two remaining plants are located in Elma and Henrietta, a suburb of Rochester, New York. These days his steel business sees its ups and downs, but the Made in America store idea has really flourished.

“The feeling in the country right now, it makes sense,” said Andol. “People are realizing you have to produce more than you can consume. We’re always trying to educate and raise awareness.

“I’ve got a great team. Without my family and my team, I wouldn’t exist. They’ve been outstanding throughout this, especially this year. I can’t believe where six years went.”

There is still a lot of progress to be made, however, in returning American manufacturing to its former dominance across the globe. Andol hopes to be part of this resurgence by opening Made in America stores throughout the United States.

Andol believes his Made in America concept will help out the “mom and pop” ventures around the country.

“There’s probably 10 to 20 smaller companies associated with each product we sell,” he said. “My newest message is, ‘consumers create jobs with every purchase.’ It’s what we do. We’re all in this together.”

Now that’s something to celebrate.

Saturday’s grand opening celebration will take place at the new Elma location, 1000 W. Maple Court from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.