While huge retail and food service chains are often knocked for having a negative impact on smaller, independent businesses, there are ways in which a mega chain can result in a boon for a little guy.
Take, for example, the story of American Mug and Stein in East Liverpool, Ohio, which just finished its largest order ever — 20,000 coffee mugs for Starbucks.
“I’ve been so close to going out of business so many times,” the company’s owner tells NPR, “my accountant … he just doesn’t know where to send the bill sometimes.”
McClellan just completed his biggest order ever — 20,000 mugs for Starbucks. The sturdy, beige mugs are metal-stamped with the coffee giant’s Indivisible brand on the front. They’ll sell for $10 each.
The coffee colossus and its mug supplier opted to make these mugs stateside, even though the order could have been done faster and for less money overseas.
“They’ve come out, they spent time in my factory, they’ve listened. And that has made me really proud to do a good job for them,” the mug maker says about his Starbucks experience.
And it looks like the 20,000 mugs wasn’t a one-time deal, with Starbucks contracting the mug maker to knock out a few thousand more each month. This has allowed him to keep his staff of around 20 people, which is double the number of employees he had before the big order.
“It’s life-changing for me,” he tells NPR. “It’s life-changing for the employees. I have employees here who have been unemployed for six months, a year, a year and a half.”
He and his partners have also bought a closed-down pottery factory nearby that they intend to fit with newer equipment.
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz says there are other towns out there that could also benefit from companies like his choosing to invest domestically:
There are hundreds of East Liverpools around the country today… These towns have been left for dead. And even though it’s more expensive to manufacture this mug in the U.S. than it would be in China or Korea or Mexico, this is what we need to do.