'USA only' store does a booming bizBy CYNTHIA R. FAGEN
New York Post - They're 100 percent American-made, every dang product.
A hardworking upstate welder got so fed up with losing work to overseas competition and being forced to lay off his own relatives that he decided to forge a new business -- a sprawling, Walmart-style store that peddles products entirely made in America.
Store owner Mark Andol says his proudly named Made in America business is defying hard economic times and thriving in Elma, near Buffalo. It's become a must-see for the tour-bus hordes heading to and from Niagara Falls.
"I always supported America. So I wanted to try something a little crazy," said Andol, 47, a married father of four. "People told me it would never work. No one wanted to buy American anymore."
But at the grand opening of his store last year, 800 people stormed through the doors.
"Everyone was shaking my hand and crying," Andol said. "People lost trust in the system. This gives them hope."
His patriotic store's shelves are crammed with products such as old-fashioned maple syrup tapped from US trees and bottled in jars made in America. There are wood-crafted educational toys from Pennsylvania, shrink-wrapped in American-made plastic.
A pair of Texas-brand jeans made in North Carolina goes for $30. US-made toilet paper is 50 cents a roll.
Sales have doubled since the store opened, Andol says, although he keeps the exact numbers close to his vest -- which is American-made, of course.
"When we opened the store, we had 50 products, some manufactured by ourselves, like a campfire ring," Andol said. "Now, we have 3,000 items, and I'm looking to expand it to 6,000.
"When you go through my doors, I've done the homework. I have done the research for you," said Andol, noting that he and his staff thoroughly check that nothing "is foreign-made."
Unlike some manufacturers, who can legally claim that their product is "made in America," even if some of the parts are imported, Andol said such items won't be sold in his store. Every stitch or screw or raw material has to be from here, he said.
Andol said he hopes to eventually open stores in Nashville, Tampa and somewhere in Texas.
"I think I could open a small [store] in New York City, too," he added.