Big Danís All American Store in Bristol takes pride in selling only American-made items. (Ashley Finethy) (click for larger version)
May 02, 2012BRISTOL — It seems that no matter where you shop these days, it's a guarantee that most of what you buy has "Made in China" stamped on it, but that isn't the case at Big Dan's All American Store in downtown Bristol.
"Everything in here was made somewhere in the United States," said owner Dan. "You can see that the South is really well represented here, and I don't know why. I guess that's where a lot of stuff comes from."
Dan was motivated to start his store several years ago, when he went to Wal Mart to buy an American flag.
"I happened to notice it was made in China, and I thought I had the wrong flag," said Dan. "All of their U.S. flags were made in China, and I popped a cork in the store and got really mad. That's my flag; there are certain ways to fly it, certain ways to display it, and as a veteran and a U.S. citizen, I know better than to buy a flag from China."
His wife's experience with finding American made yarn for crocheting also helped to motivate the duo to open the store.
"She said she couldn't find any yarn made in the United States," said Dan. "As a long-haul trucker, I have hauled tons of cotton across the country, and I know there has got to be stuff made right here. So I pointed her to a place in Georgia, and we just kept looking around to see what else is made here, and it mushroomed from there, and we kept finding stuff."
Dan insists that you can find anything you need in the United States, with the exception of light bulb sockets.
"You can find anything you need that is made in the country, except for light bulb sockets," said Dan. "It's strange that we can build missiles, but can't make light bulb sockets."
Though it took a few years to get the ball rolling on Big Dan's All American store, they have been open for almost four months, and continue to be surprised by the amount of American-made goods.
"We were surprised and very gratified that pretty much anything you need is made here," said Dan.
Big Dan's All American Store carries a wide variety of products, from jeans and shirts to children's toys and cooking wear, and Dan knows where all of them are made.
"You can tell this isn't Wal Mart because we can tell you exactly where everything comes from," said Dan.
The store carries several types of jeans, including Texas jeans and PrisonBlues.
"Prison Blues are made east of Oregon, at the East Oregon Correctional Facility," said Dan. "You have guys in the prison who apply and interview for a job at the blue jean factory, and the prison pays them $8 an hour to start."
Big Dan's also carries Texas Jeans, which, as Dan pointed out, are made in the Carolinas.
"All of the brass and buckles and rivets and zippers are all made here, and the cotton is all 100 percent U.S. cotton," said Dan.
If you are looking for unique one of a kind tie dye t shirts, Big Dan's has a large selection of hand tie dyed shirts from Idaho, leather purses and belts from South Carolina, socks from Alabama and very unique sandals.
"Our sandals are from Georgia, and they have little bubbles on the inside that massage your feet when you walk," said Dan. "They're made from number five recycled plastic, which are your yogurt and coleslaw containers."
Not only are these sandals recycled plastic, but when registered with the company, consumers will be sent a coupon for 20 percent off of their next pair of sandals.
"They'll give you a 20 percent off coupon, and you send in your shoes back, and they'll grind them down and make new stuff out of them," said Dan.
Big Dan's also has a wide variety of children's toys from states including Maine and Iowa. Puzzles have been a top seller at Big Dan's, as well.
"The puzzles we have are great," said Dan. "They are made out or recycled cardboard, and they use soy based colors. They've been a great seller."
Big Dan's also has Army Surplus supplies, pet supplies from Nashua and tools from across the U.S. Big Dan's has had customers come in who were dissatisfied with the quality of foreign made tools, and now has those same customers hooked on the quality of American made tools.
"We have a hammer hanging up on the wall that this fellow brought in," said Dan. "It's a Chinese made Mustang Hammer. He thought he was pulling a nail back, and when he looked, the hammer was completely bent."
This bent hammer hangs on the wall to remind Dan, and his customers, of the quality of buying U.S. made items.
"I gave the guy one of our hammers and told him to try one of them, and go ahead and borrow it and let me know how it works," said Dan. "He came back and bought it, along with some other tools."
With a wide variety to offer, Big Dan's hopes to help in a small way to get people thinking about the origin of where products they use come from.
"I think folks now are a little more origin conscious," said Dan. "If you look, you will find it; if not, come here!"
If you are interested in supporting American made products, stop by their location at 11a Pleasant St., right next to Gina's Diner, or give Dan and his wife a call at 774-1070.