Leydig, a longtime Barrington Hills resident, said that at the time the stories in the play opened her eyes to the sometimes grave results of U.S. companies’ off-shoring of manufacturing jobs and the effect on wages of workers here.
It was through this experience — and four years of market research — that Leydig’s idea for Norton’s U.S.A was born. This week Norton’s, a general store that sells only American-made products, celebrates seven years in Barrington.
“Once I started, I never looked back,” said Leydig, who started selling products from 20 American companies and now works with more than 500. “I kept staying up late and researching and researching.”
The results of Leydig’s research are apparent when walking into Norton’s, which stocks housewares, garden tools, stationary, clothing, accessories, toys, food, candy, cleaning supplies and tools.
“It’s American-made, so you’re helping someone keep their job,” said Leydig. “I wanted to help the country in that way. It all works when everyone’s working.”
Leydig said it can be quite surprising to find that certain items, like stuffed animals, toasters and televisions, are virtually all manufactured offshore. She carries the only American-made brand of can openers and potato peelers, she said.
Inverness resident Pam Fitton said she makes regular stops at Norton’s since the shop changes its inventory according to the season.
“It’s a great store,” said Fitton “It’s an eclectic, cool conglomeration of items. It’s kind of a hidden gem.”
Popular items at Norton’s are wrapping paper, which Leydig makes herself, and their unique collection of greeting cards.
“In order to have an American-made store, it has to be a general store,” Leydig said. “I’m competing in my mind with Wal-Mart.”
Norton’s can special-order items, Leydig said.
“If someone is looking for something, we will try to find it,” she said.
Norton’s also has a bridal, baby and gift registries.
Leydig said she employs about five part-time staff, all of whom have always been paid at least $10 per hour.
“That was one of my necessities, as well,” she said. “That was very important to me.”
Norton’s U.S.A is housed in a former horse barn, something Leydig said adds to the old-time general store feel.
Despite being off the beaten path at 400 S. Lageshulte St., Norton’s has become well-known in the Barrington community.
Leydig holds a cake auction every year for Barrington Relay for Life and regularly hosts Bingo nights at the store. Gift baskets were raffled off this week in honor of Norton’s seventh anniversary.
During the summer, families can sit on the side lawn of the barn and watch a movie with free popcorn and lemonade.
Leydig, who is originally from Arlington Heights and raised a family in Barrington Hills, said creating a family-friendly atmosphere and making kids of all ages feel welcome was a huge part of her goal when opening Norton’s.
“Kids can ride here and get an ice cream,” she said. “It’s a wonderful thing. It’s been great to be part of this community.”