Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Made in USA: SAS Shoes

Yes, you can still buy popular informal shoes styles made in the USA!

SAS Shoes - "SAS" stands for San Antonio Shoes - are not only made in America and are not only available in popular styles, but also are reasonably priced, top quality and very comfortable!

I've long been a fan of SAS shoes. In fact, the photo with this article shows my new pair of the "'Bout Time" style - next to my old pair, which I've been wearing just about every other day for the past five years! The lady in the SAS store told me that most customers wear their shoes about two years, that some like me wear them five years (rolling her eyes at this point), and she even has some who get ten years out of them (with a look of despair that makes me feel far superior to the the ten-year wearers).

I like the way SAS markets their shoes, too. They're sold only by independent businesses and they discourage e-commerce marketing. You walk in a store and all you see is SAS shoes - men's, women's, and kids', in all styles, all sizes, arranged up and down every wall and aisle. They come with a special washable foot-fitting insert and an extra pair of laces.

See the various styles and find an SAS shoes store location near you by clicking here. Then get out there and support your local retailer and another good Made in USA product!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

SewBiz USA: Shirley's Creative Designs

As I've mentioned often before, one of the greatest pleasures of working at SouthStar is hearing from entrepreneurs all around the country who are "making it" in Sew Biz in all kinds of ways.

So I'm glad I can share a delightful letter we received this week from customer Shirley Rash, owner of Shirley's Creative Designs in Carson City, Nevada.

Shirley mentioned that she had come across "An American Story" in one of our old product Bulletins and it inspired her to write:

My grandmother, Grace Branstead, was a seamstress during the Depression and made most of my clothes in Jr. High when I was growing sooooooo fast my mother couldn't find anything for me to wear (I'm 5'10 3/4"). My mother sewed, but worked all the time. I had a sewing class in 7th, 10th grades and one in JR College. The teachers in 7th and 10th grade were great, but the STUPID sewing teacher in college didn't even know how to sew in an invisible zipper and wouldn't let me sew a shirt for my then boyfriend, now husband of 36 years, so I could work at a job my other teachers found for me 6 weeks before the end of school. A man's shirt was something I hadn't ever sewed before and I was going to have him model it for her. I had to drop that sewing class. The ONLY class I EVER dropped in Jr. College!

A few years later I had 3 kids, 2 girls and 1 boy. Both girls sew and my son sewed his Halloween costume one year on my industrial machine! My eldest daughter, Sue, sews and has taught her son, Justice, and daughter, Sera, how to sew and my youngest, Jennifer, sews too.

When Jennifer was little, I sewed a doll for her because all the dolls at the store were for "3 and Up". She took the doll everywhere and our son's eye doctor's nurse ordered 3 dolls! I made a total of 33 of those dolls for friends.

I started my business sewing doll clothes for porcelain dolls. I then branched out to design and sew cloth dolls and stuffed animals. I've been at it since 1993! I THINK that makes me stubborn!

Thank you, Shirley! I hope your story will not only inspire others out there who are on the verge of taking their sewing to a professional level, but also will inspire some of our other established customers to email us their stories for sharing as well.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Robbie's back!

We at SouthStar are delighted to welcome "ol' Sarge", Robbie Matthews, back to the fold!

Literally! Robbie's back to folding box flaps on your SouthStar packages after stuffing them with newspaper to cushion your goods against the cruel blows of the FedEx and UPS "logistics" experts.

Robbie has been with SouthStar since day 1 in 1989, but back in 2009 when it was apparent the downturn in the economy was about to take us down with it, he was "downsized" out with everybody else. Meanwhile he's found full time employment at a local hospital, but fortunately he can come in before his hospital shift and ship packages for us part time.

Robbie and wife Valerie have been married 37 years, raising five children. The grandchild count, so far, is just six...

Welcome back, Robbie Matthews!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sewing Machine Mechanics Wanted

Are you able to work on sewing, cutting, spreading, or finishing machines?

If so, we have customers all over the country who need you!

To let them know of your services absolutely free of charge please visit our new Mechanics page for simple instructions on how to get listed.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

100 million dollars...

That's how much siblings Catherine, David, and Geoff Cook got in cash and stock for the sale in July of their social networking site, myYearbook.com, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Catherine is only 21, David 22, and Geoff 36. Catherine and David cofounded the site when she was just 15. Older brother Geoff funded it out of proceeds from a site he had previously created and sold.

I myself have been working on my first $100 million for longer than Catherine has been alive. I've got a ways to go yet, but still I think it's absolutely wonderful that these "millenniums" have become "millenniumaires".

I read about the Cooks' success the same weekend of the sad death of pop singer Amy Winehouse. She was only 27, an apparently jinxed age for young entertainers, many of whom have died at that exact age. (Google it; it's spooky.)

Somehow I'm not worried that the Cooks are going to succumb to the same temptations that took down Amy Winehouse. Although their story is one of exceptional success very fast, they nevertheless made it the good old fashioned way, not just on looks or talent or luck, but perhaps all of the above plus perspicacity and the sweat equity of building a business.

We are blessed with more and more millennium generation customers. One walked in our door just the other day. She has just won a fashion design contest and is full of the excitement of being "on her way" in the fashion industry. Her enthusiasm is contagious - it made my day!

To that end, SouthStar is now on Facebook. I hope that many of you, novice and  veteran alike, will "like" us on Facebook and join the conversation, all part of the most entrepreneurial of industries in the American free market paradise - Sew-Biz!

We boomers still working on our first $100 million can both give to and gain from the millenniums. We may have a head start in terms of experience and know-how, but they can run faster...

(If you'd like to receive a copy of our Product Bulletin #235 from which this column is taken, please email your snail mail address to us.)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

SouthStar Visits the Smithsonian

Our apologies to those of you who were inconvenienced this past week as we closed for summer vacation - actually, we closed even a little earlier than advertised! There were too many orders coming in to get out of town in an orderly fashion! Being a small outfit serving a lot of customers, it's tough to get a breather so sometimes we just have to shut 'er down. We appreciate your patience.

Not that we weren't working for you anyway... we were still processing and shipping some orders, taking some inventory, and working on new and better things for the second half of the year.

But the highlight of the week was a long awaited trip to Washington D.C. for Independence Day!

The picture you see at left was made from the Capitol steps at the annual concert on the lawn, "A Capitol Fourth." Perhaps you saw it on PBS. It featured Steve Martin and Josh Groban among other great performers, including Little Richard bringing in the fireworks in this photo. Seeing it on TV is great, but believe you me, it's worth a trip to Washington some July 4th for the greatest shot of patriotic pride you'll ever get. Just prepare for the heat and crowds and potentially having an eye put out by all the little flags people of every stripe and accent are waving. It's truly inspiring.

Now, we couldn't just make a trip to D.C. for fun. Sew Biz is serious-biz, so we had to investigate the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and see if the sewing industry was represented fairly there, if at all. By golly, I must say it sure is! I was amazed at how much I found on display at the Smithsonian pertaining to our beloved line of work.

In fact, I spied a bona fide industrial sewing machine right off the bat upon entering the lobby, the Juki shown at left. Now, of course, this is the Smithsonian, an institution run by academics who are not necessarily known for showcasing America without some jaundice. So I was a bit miffed that my first find was a machine used to showcase the Labor Department's crackdown on so-called "sweatshops" in Los Angeles, but at least it was a sewing machine in the Smithsonian!

And no doubt there was more than one person in the masses that thronged through the museum that day (to escape the heat on the mall if for no better reason), maybe even one of the Thai immigrants "held in captivity" referred to on the placard below the machine, who pointed out this Juki to their children or grandchildren and said, "That was my ticket to freedom for you." And I wouldn't doubt that there was a SouthStar customer or two who've noticed it and said, "Oh look, that's just like the machine I use!" Anyway, sweatshop machine or not, it was encouraging to see it gracing the very lobby of the Smithsonian, so onward I pressed.

Next I found this toy sewing machine, an example of the mass production of toys in the 19th century, making better toys available to more children. Interestingly the display notes that real sewing machine manufacturers made the toys as a sideline when business was slow and as sales increased, eventually changed over to year-round production of the toys. Not a bad idea for you sewing entrepreneurs out there to keep in mind when the phone doesn't ring--how about creating toy versions of your products to sell at craft shows??? Or doll clothes? Some things about business never change...

Hey, and how about that thread clip in this display!

It's a Gold Seal #104N! These items are part of a rather extensive and well produced exhibit, including a lot of video, focusing on the growth of Los Angeles and the big part that the fashion industry played in it. You can find most of these things in the technology section on the 2nd floor east, I think, if I remember correctly. In any case it's the entrance floor and these exhibits are on your left as you enter.

Another extensive exhibit involves the Wheeler & Wilson sewing machine company, an early pioneer in mass manufacturing of industrial sewing machines. There are many very interesting photographs of the workers and managers and the physical plant and side exhibits about doing piecework at home and so forth. My picture didn't turn out well enough to show here, but there's even an early sewing machine motor on display nearby right next to a DC motor invented by the famous Nikola Tesla in an exhibit about Thomas Edison! By this time one is getting the message that sewing really has been a foundation industry for the United States.

Actually, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was far more about the sewing business at the Smithsonian than I ever expected, and more than I can show here. But I finally did want to mention the Kevlar exhibit. Did you know that Kevlar was invented by a woman, the kindly little lady shown at left, Stephanie Kwolek?! There is a very good exhibit about Kevlar, showing many of the products made from it and its advantages over normal protective fabrics and metals. I just wished they'd asked me so I could have thrown some wisdom in there about how hard Kevlar is to cut!

So, the bottom line is, don't pass up the Smithsonian National Museum of American History if you're ever in the D.C. area - it will reinforce your pride in what you do!


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Summer Vacation

SouthStar will be closed for the week of July 4th.

You may continue to place orders online and by fax, but the phones will not be manned and we will do no shipping during that week.

Thanks for planning your orders ahead of time and allowing us a little R & R!

Happy birthday, USA!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Made in USA: All American Men's Cargo Shorts

I've searched in vain the last few years for some American-made cargo shorts. At last!

From All American Clothing Co., the new shorts feature two big buttonable pockets on the sides and two rear pockets, again with buttons. There's a draw string inside! 100% cotton makes them cool and comfortable.

I especially like the fact that All American has not skimped on quality or features to keep the price low. When you put them on, they feel like a pair of well made khakis, not the flimsy stuff you get at the big box stores. And actually the price isn't bad at all.

And another thing: All American followed up with an email about a week after delivery to make sure I was satisfied with my purchase. Note there's a good article on the importance of buying American on their web site's home page.

Check 'em out today - All American Cargo Shorts from All American Clothing Co.

Made in USA: L.L. Bean Men's Belts

Once again I resort to my ol' buddy L.L. Bean for a couple of American made gems.

Back approximately in the Neolithic age when I was a young wayfarer to exotic locales, somebody had the good sense to give me a money belt. I have worn one ever since, and to tell you the truth, I think I've only been through two of them. I've had little experience with serious crime in my life, even when we used to have an office in Mexico, but I can attest to the money belt gambit working at least once in the span of the decades. And that was right here in Nashville when three youthful thugs held me up at gunpoint in front of our old office. Not a one of those young Einsteins thought to ask me for the money in my belt.

The last belt had performed years of faithful service but it was on its last leg. Indeed, shortly after my new belt arrived from L.L., the strap broke. The new belt is very handsome, well made, and of course made in the U.S.A. Note that a folded bill fits nicely behind the zipper. There's room for about five bills folded such. The belt is listed as the Chino Belt with Money Zip. Be careful which one you purchase, as some are imported.

Finally, I found yet another type of American made belt at L.L. Bean. Shown at left, it's a really good deal in that it is reversible, includes an extra strap, and adjusts perfectly to fit the comings and goings of the middle-aged belly. This one is known as the Four-In-One-Belt.

And that concludes my belt shopping for the year. Or perhaps the decade.

Made in USA: All American Polo Shirt

Now presenting my spring collection...

I have recently purchased several new items of clothing, all made in America. Pictured here is one of the excellent polo shirts made by the venerable longtime manufacturerer King Louie America, purchased from the All American Clothing Company site.

The shirts are 100% cotton, available in several colors, all made in America. I can tell you from personal experience that they feature quality stitching, a comfortable fit, and ease of laundering. (I'm just a throw it in and pull it out kind of guy and they hold up well under that regime.)

New Product: Cork-Top Cutting Table

We've had many requests over the years for cork tops on our cutting tables. Designers like to pin their patterns into a cork surface while working with them. I'm glad to report we finally have cork tops available, both for ordering with a new cutting table and in sheets for applying to an old table.

Although I have yet actually to see the cork in person, it is described as a 1/4" thick "self-healing" cork. In other words, when you pull a pin out, the hole closes back up so you still have a smooth surface for your next use. Our table company rep says it's "pretty slick stuff" - that's slick as in nifty, not slippery.

If you order it with a new table, the cork is delivered already laminated to the standard table tops. Free-standing, the cork comes on 4' wide rolls. If you want to retrofit cork to an existing table, we will cut the 4' wide sheeting to whatever length you need, but if you require wider than 4', you'll have to piece it.

Unfortunately we do not have a recommended method of applying the cork to an existing top, so you're on your own there. Glue doesn's seem to work too well, according to the table manufacturer, which is why they laminate it. But you can't do that out in the field. Double sided carpet tapes comes to my mind. If we get a good report on using that, or some other method, I'll pass it along.

We price the cork by the square foot and price it as an option, so if you'd like a quotation, please contact us.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

♪♪ “My Baby is American Made…” ♪♪

It’s clear from talking to you folks out there in customer-land that many of you were not even born when the Oak Ridge Boys had a hit with this song in 1983.

The song related that so many things in life were now imported but at least the most important thing was still American made—the girlfriend!

The fact that “American Made” was written almost thirty years ago gives some perspective on where we are today. After thirty more years of the push to globalization, it’s harder than ever to find American made products.

But not if you’re a SouthStar customer! For one thing, you can go to our web site and find a big long list of other folks like you in the sewing industry making things right here in the U.S. Just click on “Sewing Business Resources” to get to our Made in America Showcase. And drop us a line if you’d like your company added.

Also, you can read our blog “SouthStar Says” (which can also be accessed from the Resources page) authored by Yours Truly. I have several reviews on the blog of American made sewn products that I buy and wear or use, and the number is growing. In fact, look for a review soon of some fabulous cargo shorts I’ve recenty acquired, some polo shirts, and a couple of belts, all made here in the U.S.

Now, let me clarify: we are not anti-import. In fact, as you know, we sell a lot of very fine imported products. But we love to champion U.S. manufacturing because that’s our “home team”—and of course it’s good for business!

Putting our money where our mouth is, this month we’ve greatly expanded our line of American-made Heritage Scissors. You may have noticed that some old American name brand scissors you’re used to using are no longer American made. Give Heritage scissors a try. They are excellent!

And then you can sing as you work:

♪♪ “My scissors are American made…” ♪♪

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Manny Cuevas: SouthStar Idol!

We first met Manny Cuevas when he was a teenager, picking up supplies at SouthStar to outfit his famous father's Nashville shop after their move from California many moons ago. Now that his fashion is helping make a star on American Idol, we know Manny's something of a decades long overnight success, too. We couldn't be prouder of him!

If you don't know the scoop, read this story about American Idol contestant Paul McDonald and the suit he wears made by the one and only Manny Cuevas.

I just happened to meet Paul when I was visiting Manny's shop in East Nashville a couple of months ago. He's the real deal - a genuinely friendly, charismatic guy. Good luck, Paul, with the rest of the Idol run, and way to go, Manny!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

ABC World News: Made in America

This past week ABC World News with Diane Sawyer has been running a series of reports entitled "Made in America", a favorite subject around here in SouthStarland.

I've just watched several of the reports on my laptop this rainy Saturday morning. They are excellent. My favorite is the one about the fellow who spent a year buying exclusively Made in America. Toward the end he makes a great observation, that you can go local, go green, etc., simply by taking the time to look at the label and choose the Made in USA product which is often on the shelf right next to an import.

An economist and a talk show host were talking about this very series a couple of days ago on the radio station I listen to here in Nashville. The host was pointing out that one of the claims made by someone connected to the series is that if every American just bought something like 1% a year more in American made products it would translate into so many hundred thousand jobs. Then the economist pointed out that jobs gained that way would translate into jobs lost by folks working in the import industry. And on and on it went. The same arguments back and forth that came up about NAFTA and that always revolve around globalism in general.

I don't think anyone is really against free trade and everyone recognizes that we live in a global economy whether we want to or not. The point is that you can't have free trade without fair trade, without everybody playing by the same rules. And America has become the rule-makingest society in the world, setting our industries up as an easy target for everybody else in the world who doesn't follow those same rules.

Anyway, back to the subject, ABC has done a dandy job with this series of presenting something we at SouthStar see all day long every day - that Americans still make good products and no matter what, you can't go wrong buying Made in America products. Get on out there and find one to buy right now!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Johannes & Catharine

Family legend has it that one couldn't exist without the other.

Johannes was a talented artist. He won a job to paint Catharine's portrait. That's how they fell in love. Unable to marry in Europe because she was nobility and he a commoner, they eloped to America.

The ship carrying Johannes & Catharine landed at Philadelphia on September 28, 1749. They had just a few belongings and little money. They married and Johannes quickly found a job working with a millwright in Philly. After several years of learning the trade, he moved his growing family to New Jersey to set up his own shop.

Johannes' son Leonard served in the Revolution with New Jersey troops as one of Capt. Hazlett's "Minute Men." He married a girl named Peggy and moved to North Carolina where he was awarded a land grant and took up farming. Eventually they moved on to Tennessee, established a plantation, and raised twelve children. Even with all that, Peggy lived to be 103!

Their son Leonard Jr. moved to Nashville and set up a dry goods store on the public square. Leonard Jr.'s son John, after running away as a teenager, returned home when his dad became ill and managed that business for him until he was well again. Then John started his own business serving the new sewing factories springing up in the South in the 1900s.

One of John's daughters married a fellow from Minnesota with the first name Art and a funny last name. When Art returned from WWII John persuaded him to come to work for him, eventually turning the business over to him.

That's how my name is John today--Johannes was my great-great-great grandfather and Art was my father. Such is the story of many American families, some here for generations, some just starting out. They came here then and they still come here now seeking what Johannes and Catharine found in America in 1749: freedom and opportunity.

One can't exist without the other.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Made in USA: Chippewa Boots

I've been looking for a pair of boots for quite a while, since that time I finally got the cleanout valve loose down in my basement and the last pair got drenched with... well, nevermind. They went straight to the garbage can.

I've sure missed having a good pair of boots. But I never got further with finding a new pair than looking in stores now and then on my way to buy something else. I could find no boots made in USA, so I kept going without.

Finally I got online some time ago and found that Chippewa still makes boots in the USA. So I got in the car and headed out to the local retailer, only to find that the Chippewa boots they carried were NOT made in the U.S. Chippewa, like many fashion retailers, mixes its sourcing. Moral: Don't assume that just because a brand has an American name or projects an American image, that anything or everything it makes is made in USA.

So, it was back to the drawing board. On days when I really felt the need for boots I was tempted just to go by some regardless of origin. But I found a site called Boots99 that was the perfect answer. They carry several brands including Chippewa and have a big selection. I chose a model, placed an order, and included a comment on the order that I wanted to make sure the boots were made in USA.

I was pleasantly surprised to get a note back from Lee Schulz at Boots99 informing me that the boots I had chosen were again NOT made in USA. He gave me good suggestions for choosing from other models that were marked specifically "Handcrafted in USA." The boots I chose are pictured above. They are #20065, described as 6" soft toe laceups.

They're great! They are comfortable, give good support, and they don't get too warm when I'm wearing them in the office yet provide plenty of warmth in the cold and snow we've had this year. And notice the great little American flag that rides in the shoe string. I get lots of comment on that. And it's a great way to launch into a discussion about the importance of made in USA.

Go buy you a pair. Boots99.com.