Written by Emily Glaser | Photos by Anthony Harden
There was a time, they say, when things were done differently. Old men lean back in their recliners and forward across sticky diner tables, pointing fingers and furrowing eyebrows as they repeat that gravelly refrain: “In my day…”
According to these unassuming sages, it was a time when the word “quality” meant something; when a man who made a product felt proud enough to stand by it. A time when taking stock of your business’ waste and trying to minimize it wasn’t “sustainable”, it was common sense. A time when “Made in the USA” wasn’t a marketing campaign, but a matter of course. A time when budgets were kept, mortgages were paid, and when work was done when it was done—not at quitting time.
It’s a bygone era that whistles into the American consciousness like the old-timey tune of Andy Griffith, kept alive by these veterans lamenting its loss and the misdirected attempts at its redemption by a slew of industries reclaiming the word “craft.” The art of these common sense business practices is largely lost on a generation of co-working, synergistic millennials, but it lives on in the practicalities of entrepreneurs like Gabriel Hargett.
Hargett, founder and CEO of Oowee Products, operates largely within the framework of those old-fashioned business principals, as do the employees who help handcraft and sell the company’s leather goods—customizable and co-branded accessories like pint, can, and bottle sleeves, leather patch hats, and luggage tags—to an increasingly global market. Modern economists might call it “lean,” or “sustainable,” or “efficient,” but the truth is, many of the tenets of Hargett’s business are just plain sensible: Make a high-quality product using American-made, sustainably sourced goods; use simple tools, not new-fangled gadgets, to get the job done; employ members of your local community and train and pay them well; and give back in whatever way you can.
The full article continues below. Click to open in fullscreen…