A few weeks ago, I was invited to visit Greenville, South Carolina. I was particularly interested in this visit because of the craftsmen, artisans, and food entrepreneurs’ enthusiasm to introduce themselves to me and show off their workspaces, wares, and talent–something that I’ve been interested in ever since I started my work with the American Made Movement–along with a personal love of discovery found in the maker community. Not knowing exactly what to expect, I agreed and flew down.
Delicious Persian tea from Pomegranate on Main Street in Greenville, SC – a perfect pick-me-up after my flight.
Greenville has a rich history with the textile industry that dates back to the 1800′s. As late as 1980, Greenville earned recognition as the Textile Center of the world. Some people, like Bill Mitchell of Billiam Jeans, have been using the town’s backstory as a source for constant inspiration. Bill scours craigslist, searching for non-automated sewing machines and rivet presses–he was even able to procure a vintage cutting table–to produce Greenville-made men’s (and soon to be women’s) jeans. The small business also gives back significantly, donating 20% of all-profits to fight sex trafficking in America.
Bill Mitchell and Mandy Blankenship of Shop-Keep.
I found that taking extra steps to be responsible and conscientious business owners was a recurring theme in Greenville. Sara and Zac Painter, Husband/Wife team of Loggerhead Apparel are another prime example. Loggerhead Apparel’s two part mission is to not only impact the local economy of South Carolina, but also to help serve the efforts of protecting Loggerhead Sea Turtles. The Loggerhead Sea Turtle is an endangered species, and the coast of South Carolina is extremely important to its survival. Loggerhead Apparel has donated thousands of dollars to the protection these of sea turtles, while keeping all the manufacturing of their preppy style-line in South Carolina.
Another note I need to mention is the amazing business relationships in Greenville. Upon a visit with the guys at Kentwool Socks, family owned and operated since 1843, I spied a Loggerhead Turtle emblem on the polos they were wearing.
Kentwool golf socks are known as the premier golf sock and loved by champions such as Bubba Watson.
I also met with Jaryd Walley, artisan of Mobili Farm Tables. Jaryd’s workspace and craftsmanship is beyond-words amazing. The past-time set designer and prop maker hand-builds and designs all his tables with a special love and exceptional precision. Walking into his cavernous converted mill studio, I was greeted by an enormous American Made sign he had created exclusively for the American Made event. Jaryd was proud to tell me how much Living has played a part in his inspiration. Jaryd gave me a quick 101 on furniture history in the Southeast, and let me have a look around his simply breathtaking workspace and showroom. Most of the wood Jaryd works with is reclaimed or discovered by Jaryd and has a story of its own. Leaving his studio made me dizzy with respect for craftsmen like Jaryd. The time, dedication, and labor they’ve invested into becoming the masters of their craft is overwhelming. Jaryd has been designing his tables for years. I asked him casually, why tables? He answered that tables brought the two things he loves most together: family and food. Good answer.
Next up, I had a quick tour of Confluence Water Sports, headquartered right in the middle of the Upstate paddling scene in Greenville. Confluence employs 425 people in the making of canoes, kayaks and other watersport accessories, all in Greenville. From sponsoring the “Paddle It Forward” initiative that keeps used boats on the water, to promoting research and development for a boat recycling program and partnering with groups dedicated to the protection of waterways and open access for paddlers, Confluence’s also shines with strong business ethics.
The factory is huge and is packed with towers of kayaks, canoes, paddles; it was eerily awesome to walk around.
Shortly after, I found myself at Dark Corner Distillery chatting over a glass of moonshine. Dark Corner Distillery designs and builds all of their own distillation equipment to guarantee authenticity and uses the same time-tested methods as Civil War era Appalachian Moonshiners.
After all that delicious moonshine I needed some substance. I walked over to Passerelle Bistro, where I feasted on some seriously tasty bites. Take for instance the baked goat cheese wrapped in a light crispy pastry with petite lettuce, blueberry lavender jam, candied walnuts, pomegranate glaze.
Working with the American Made Movement has always reminded me of what the USA has to offer when it comes to great food or producing great products, but Greenville especially made me appreciate the beauty and wonderful effort of these cities and the makers who call them home.