June 27, 2011 — -- When the "Made in America" team traveled to Niagara Falls, it found that one of America's great vacation spots was not only a place for families to get soaked, but also to pick up a few souvenirs -- though many of the items for sale bore the labels of Made in Honduras and Made in China.
The "Made in America" team quickly discovered that hundreds of tourists hop on buses from Niagara Falls to make a patriotic pilgrimage 40 minutes away to the tiny town of Elma, N.Y.
That's where the Made in America store is located.
Owner Mark Andol opened the store a year ago with just 50 products. Today, he has more than 3,000 items and they are all made in the United States.
There are paper towels from Arizona. Flip-flops from Georgia. Cleaning supplies from Illinois. Even dog food from Minnesota. And they're all selling, too. In just a year, sales at the Made in America store have doubled.
'Helping Our Country'
"A lot of them [customers] say, 'Have you seen the "World News" series?'" Andol said. "Once you guys did that, it really helps our story. I believe it's helping our country."
Andol swore that every piece of every item in his store is 100 percent made in the United States -- and not just the T-shirt, but the hanger too.
And he means business. His team spends about 25 hours on each item making sure that every component, down to the glue in the packaging, is 100 percent American. And if it's not?
"I cut it up, actually," he said of one particular object. "I cut it up and blew it up with a torch and I burned it up. That shows them how real we are."
For Andol, it's a personal battle. A few years ago, his welding company nearly went out of business after losing a major contract to sell steel posts.
His company was selling them for $17. China was selling them for $14. From 2007 to 2010, he had to lay off nearly half of his 70-person work force.
"You're looking at these people and they really want to work and we have no work for them," Andol said.
He said his story and his shop struck a chord with customers.
'People Travel 600 Miles'
"People travel 600 miles, 800 miles," he said. "I think it struck a nerve. People lost hope in a system and they see the country fall apart. They just lost faith in the system. They know this is the greatest country in the world and it's a shame all our, you know, jobs are overseas."
One customer said a Made in America store should be in every community in the country.
"This is groundbreaking stuff here," the customer said.
"Consumers have a lot of power in the country," Andol said. "They can change a country. It's so simple, it confuses people."