RoadTrip – USAmart Style

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This summer my daughter and I hit the road for our annual summer vacation. She chose an area of the country rich in history, yet we found that it was also rich with companies that believed in making their products right here in the USA. We started our trip in Boston, tracing the route Paul Revere rode, now called The Freedom Trail. Filled with a real sense of history as we left Boston, we decided to make a quick stop at the home of Henry David Thoreau. His well know quote sets the tone for many of the companies that we were going to be touring in the coming days. “If one advances confidently in the direction of their dreams, and endeavors to live the life that they have imagined, they will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

After multiple days of hiking 25,000 steps, we were ready to relax and have fun as we drove to our next destination in Waterbury, Vermont, the home of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. Here we were flashing back to the past- 1978 to be exact – where two guys started to make Ice Cream in a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont.

Here is a little of their story:

“With a $5 correspondence course in ice cream making from Penn State and a $12,000 investment ($4,000 of it borrowed), Ben and Jerry opened their first ice cream scoop shop.” To sum up their mission: They take care of their people, focus on sustainable financial growth, and look for ways to make the world a better place. After our long drive to get there, it was really the free samples in the tasting room we looked forward to enjoying!

We checked in early to the ski town of Stowe, Vermont where we were staying for the night. In the summer, Stowe is a little more laid back than in the height of ski season. People were out hiking and biking as they were all enjoying the experience of being in the mountains. I rose  early to enjoy a coffee on the front porch as I wrote in my journal. After a great breakfast and a visit to the general store we were off to Shelburne, Vermont, home of The Vermont Teddy Bear Company. This was a stop that was on top of Anne’s list, after all — who doesn’t like a soft Teddy Bear growing up?

Like Ben and Jerry’s, the founder of Vermont Teddy Bear started with a vision. He opened a cart on Church Street in Burlington, Vermont selling the bears he had made in his garage. One thing that has not changed through the years is the quality craftsmanship that goes into these bears, as well as the bears’ lifetime guarantee. They also believe in giving back through their Little Heroes Program, as well as using 100% recycled stuffing in every bear.  Even the scraps of fur are saved. They gave each of us a small cut-out of a bear with a slit in it that you could put over a button on your shirt.

Keeping with the feeling of soft and cozy, we headed toward our next destination, The Vermont Flannel Company. Flannel has made a huge comeback in recent years. My daughter says even the kids in school think it is cool to wear flannel again. So of course with more stores jumping on the flannel bandwagon so to speak, cheaper and cheaper garments are being made. The flannel of 25-30 years ago was soft with vibrant colors, it was thick and it did what it was supposed to do in the Fall and Winter seasons… keep you warm.  Now some flannel is made as thin as a t-shirt and somehow it’s still called flannel. When I realized that we were passing through Burlington, I knew we needed to stop at this store! The company was started by Mark and Linda Baker over 25 years ago and they have remained committed to making all their products in the USA. What we found in this store was amazing, from the quality of their products to the knowledge of the staff. The colors jumped out at you from every rack and bin. You wanted to touch and feel how soft all their garments are. You could actually imagine yourself on a cold Winter day coming in from the cold, joining family and friends around the fire. As they say in their video, they are on a mission to fill the world with comfort.

While we both planned a lot of our trip, the credit for our next stop, the Bragg Farm, goes to Anne. The Bragg Farm is located in the hills of East Montpelier, Vermont. When we looked and saw that it was not far off our route, we knew we needed to stop. The family has been producing Vermont Maple Syrup for 8 generations. We found out they do it in a traditional way: using buckets and a wood-fired evaporator. Now that I am writing this it is coming back to me that one of the reasons Anne wanted to stop was to try, as the Bragg Family calls it, the “World’s Best” Maple Creemee. After a tour and a movie on the history of Maple production, we were ready for the tasting to begin. So many samples to try, even the biggest sweet tooth would leave satisfied! They carried many Vermont products throughout their store and it was great to see how many were made locally.

So what’s behind the longevity of these USA made products? All four of these organizations started with individuals that had a vision:  A vision to make a great product. Make it here in the USA. And treat their customers like family. Each business started from very humble beginnings, and most were told at some time it was not possible, but all of them stayed steadfast to their vision. This is why they are not only around today, but why they are thriving. We at USAmart encourage you to support these businesses. Lastly, when you last hit the road, what did you find? Share with us stories of your experience and your new favorite products that are Made in the USA.

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