By Sandra M. Jones, Tribune Reporter
9:56 PM CDT, September 27, 2010
Deborah Leydig is in search of a can opener manufactured in the U.S.
The artist-turned-merchant had been stocking the iconic Swing-A-Way can opener but had to stop this year when production moved overseas.
Some retailers focus on eco-friendly products. Others stock only fair-trade goods. Leydig's passion is jobs. She is banking that shoppers will find helping Americans stay employed just as appealing as saving the environment or helping Third World artisans earn a fair wage.
So in 2007, Leydig bought and restored an old red barn in bucolic Barrington, filling it exclusively with merchandise made in America. The outpost, called Norton's U.S.A., is modeled after a rural general store and carries about 300 vendors including Holgate Toys, Anchor Hocking glassware and Meyer's cleaning products. This month, she expanded online at nortonsusa.com.
The seed for the store began in 2003 when Leydig appeared in the Steppenwolf Theatre Company's Upstairs Theatre production of "Nickel and Dimed." The play explores whether anyone can survive on minimum wage.
The story startled Leydig. And she began compiling a list of products that were made in America. "I knew it had been bad, but didn't realize how much we outsourced everything," she said.
Leydig is convinced that the economic downturn is reviving an interest in supporting U.S. workers. Her hope is that her store can save some jobs by doing "something that is tangible."
Copyright © 2010, Chicago Tribune