We recently travelled to Somerville, Ma, a suburb of Boston, to visit the Headquarters of The Grommet. This innovative business has helped to shepherd thousands of unusual products to market, including hundreds Made in the United States.Our tour guide for the visit was Nick Sozio, who walked us through the Grommet’s playful and beautiful spaces: a colorful, curved meeting room, a stylish industrial kitchen, an entryway with an antique sewing machine on display. The decor captured perfectly the combination of cool, whimsy and utility that characterizes their product line.
With Nick’s help, we have assembled a selection of American-made gifts for Father’s Day that will surely give your Dad a smile. Even better, you can get 20% off your purchase on June 5-6 by using promo code DAD17.
Disclosure: We’ll get a small commission if you buy through the links above: Please do!Whether he’s towing it behind his canoe or floating it in the pool, Dad will love grabbing cold drinks and food from the CreekKooler.Does Dad have a special place in his heart for a certain waterside location? The lake house he played in as a child, the site of the bayside cafe where he proposed to your mom, the harbor where his family arrived in the USA? Now you can get a customized topographical artwork that beautifully maps these special bodies of water. We saw one of these in person and it is even more beautiful than it appears in pictures.If Dad appreciates his beer, The Cap Trap line of products will let him show it off. These laser-cut wooden maps of the USA, individual states and a variety of other fun shapes, are designed to be filled with the bottle caps of local brews. They are made in Tampa from Baltic birch plywood.These fish-inspired knives and corkscrews and perfect for the outdoorsy dad.If Dad rides a motorcycle, he’ll love these little Guardian Bells, since they are considered good luck charms among riders.The New York Times Commemorative Book is always a fun gift, since it compiles the items that were in the news on Dad’s day if birth.Dad may not know it yet, but he needs this Maine-made Brahm’s Mount herringbone blanket. He can gather the grandkids under it to read a book, snuggle with mom and have it around long enough to pass to the next generation.And finally, Cutting boards from Brooklyn Butcher Block will make dad’s cooking and grilling even more enjoyable.
Matthew and Carly Jo Morgan are a design team from California that has created some incredibly interesting items. A married couple, they make each piece themselves in the Topanga Canyon area. You can see more of their work on their site, Made by the Morgans.
When actor Zac Efron strolls down the beach in the upcoming “Baywatch” movie he’ll be wearing Randolph Engineering’s aviator-style sunglasses. Tom Cruise wore them in “Oblivion” and Eric Bana donned a pair in “Deliver us From Evil.” A favorite of pilots and stylish men for years, Randolph glasses are among the few still made in the USA.
I had the pleasure of touring the Randolph Engineering facility in Randolph, Massachusetts recently. My host was Richard Zaleski, son of one of the founders and a 35-year employee who has worked his way up from machinist’s apprentice to his current position as Engineering Manager.
Rich explained how his Dad, Stanley Zaleski, and business partner Jan Waszkiewicz came to the US from Poland and went to work in the optical industry. In 1972, they struck out on their own to produce the machinery needed by that industry.In the early 80s, when the US Government was looking for a supplier of aviator glasses, they made the leap into the business of producing eyewear. For years, they sold exclusively to the military, which explains some of their most-appreciated features. For example: you know how annoying it is to have the little screw come out of your glasses and they come apart? Well, Randolph’s answer is to flatten the bottom of the screw so it can’t back out. As Richard said, if you’re a Navy pilot, you can’t be worrying about your glasses coming apart in the middle of flight ops. (The image above is the very cool cleaning cloth you get in your maintenance kit when you make a purchase.)While there was plenty of new technology in the operation, I also loved seeing the equipment from years ago that was still in service. I couldn’t help but feel that the reliability and durability of the brand owes a debt to both founders.It was just as impressive to watch some of the operators doing hand soldering as it was to watch a 3D cutter carve out a pair of Carl Zeiss lenses. Richard walked me through the entire operation and I must say, it is really fascinating to see the 200+ steps required to make a pair of glasses. The company employs about 68 people with average tenure in the shop of about 12 years. The factory is gearing up for summer – its busy season – and will work overtime as needed. The number of styles and lens options the company produces, is really impressive.I found the production of the stainless steel frames, a Rx prescription frame, very interesting. The basic shape is chemically etched from a flat piece of stainless, then goes through a multi-step process to shape frames like the Harvard Series and others in their Foundry Collection.A true testament to the quality and workmanship? Send-in a ten-year-old pair of glasses and be assured that your new lenses will fit perfectly.
On a personal note, I told Richard about my experience years ago flying in the rear seat of a specially outfitted P-51 Mustang and couldn’t help but think how much cooler the experience would have been had I been able to reach into my shirt pocket and pull out a pair of classic aviators made in the US by Randolph Engineering.