Small American flags are displayed April 11 at the My Made in America Store in Gillette. All of the products sold from the store are 100 percent made in America. The store opened in November 2012 after owners Rod and Susan Mathis had conceptualized it earlier in the year. Rod came up with the idea after visiting a boot shop where he requested a shoe made 100 percent in America and had trouble finding the right kind.
Store owners Rod and Susan Mathis, owners of My Made in America Store in Gillette, ordered American flags from Annin Flagmakers of Roseland, N.J. But Rod had to send back some of the poles because they were outsourced to a foreign country. He now sells poles from EZPole Flagpoles of Eastlake, Ohio.
They ordered cast iron cookware from Lodge Manufacturing Co. of South Pittsburg, Tenn. But Rod had to send some glass lids back because they were made in China. He also cannot sell the company’s cookbook because it’s printed outside the United States.
Rod Mathis has discovered labels can be deceiving. Companies will list products as made in the United States when sometimes nearly half of the product was made elsewhere.
For instance, he planned to sell mugs with logos for each branch of the U.S. military. But he had to give up the idea when he learned that, while the mugs were made in the United States, the logos were going to be made elsewhere.
Rod Mathis poses April 11 in front of a 100 percent cotton, 100 percent made-in-America flag at the My Made in America Store he co-owns with his wife, Susan, in Gillette. All of the products sold from the store are 100 percent American-made. The store opened in November 2012 after Rod and Susan had conceptualized it earlier in the year. Rod came up with the idea after visiting a boot shop where he requested a shoe made in America and had trouble finding the right kind. PHOTO CREDIT: Leah Mills/Star Tribune
Sometimes, buying American-made can be more expensive. After all, labor costs are higher in the United States than in China. But Rod held up an Annin flag and showed the quality. The materials were heavier. He believes the flag is worth the value.
“It’s hard to find an American-made flag,” he said.
The store is a place where you can find items of all kinds — including patriotic gear such as American flags, prisoner of war “Never Forgotten” wall hangings, fierce-looking eagles stitched on clothing, organic soap and raw honey.
Appealing to the camo-wearing biker daddy with some stuff for the earth goddess and people in between, Rod and Susan Mathis named their store for the obvious demographic: Shoppers who want to buy goods made in the United States.
“People are unemployed,” Mathis said. “Yet we’re buying stuff made in China.”
It’s not easy to find products made in the United States anymore. It’s even harder to stock a 900-square-foot retail space with solely U.S.-made goods, Mathis said.
Shoppers who want to support local businesses will find baskets and silvery jewelry made in Upton, wall art made in Moorcroft and Cheyenne, coffee tables from Hulett, soaps and lipbalms from Douglas, tissue-box holders made in Gillette.
Five percent of the store’s profits will go in an account to assist wounded veterans, Rod said.
Military veterans receive a 10 percent discount at the store.
Recently, when the Star-Tribune visited the store, no one stopped by. But business is “good when they can find us,” Rod Mathis said. They’re located in a building at 203 Carey Ave., Suite 3, where Rod, who also owns Gillette-based D&P Electric, did electrical work in exchange for three months of free rent.
“We’re not quite six months into it,” he said. “It’s an experiment still.”