That Brooklyn spirit of artisanal, local, handmade entrepreneurship is spreading like around the globe like a virus (Don’t turn your nose up at it! It’s a good thing!), and so are the websites that hock their wares. MadeClose, one of our new favorites, created by three guys who live in Brooklyn — Peter Smith, Zachary Terzis, and David Mehlman — has something every guy [and gal] wants or needs, like Beats by Dre wood skins, only $39.99 buy Woodchuck in Minneapolis or Dutch’s ProhiBitters, made in Pine Planes, NY, and perfect for your next imbibing session. We even spotted a few Manual alums on there, like Clifton Heights, Pennyslvania’s Deckstool and Brooklyn’s own Grady’s Cold Brew. We couldn’t stop browsing once we started, so we quizzed Smith on the business, finding things that are MadeClose-worthy and the benefits of this model.
Why did you decide to create MadeClose?
We created MadeClose to fill a void in the marketplace and to bring trust back to the shopping experience. We saw a need for a simple, centralized platform based on a transparency of information, so that people could discover great brands, learn about their production practices, and make more informed purchase decisions. Living in Brooklyn, we were seeing more and more inspired young people who were taking a chance to pursue their dreams, and we wanted to help them. We started the site as a tool to help people find better products by connecting them with amazing producers. While our dreams have grown and we are now working to become experts of the “buy local” movement and conscious consumerism, we’ve never lost touch with that goal of helping our merchants.
What is your criteria for selecting products that are sold on the website?
Every company we list is an established independent merchant whose owners have made it their livelihood to bring you the products you see today. First and foremost, we have to love the product, so quality and craftsmanship is of the utmost importance. When we do find something we love, it becomes all about where and how that product is produced. We require that the transformative process of material into final product take place in the U.S., not only because it helps the local communities and is better for the environment, but also because products take on the character of the place where they were produced. We strive for our products to be infused with the emotions of where they are made, and that they have a story to tell.
Do you just travel the country looking for products?
We wish! We haven’t amassed a large number of frequent flyer miles just yet, but we have expanded based on places where we know people so that they can be our “boots on the ground.” One of the benefits of the technological and mobile revolution is that you don’t have to log all of those travel miles. That said, we certainly have worn through our shoes walking the five boroughs to find and meet our New York merchants. It’s actually the best part of what we do – getting to see where they are producing and hearing their stories.
What are some of the ways you’ve discovered items for MadeClose?
Besides the hours we spend researching and finding brands for MadeClose from online directories, blogs, local associations, and just by walking around local fairs and markets, our favorite way to learn about new merchants is from user and merchant referrals. In a way, these two groups are quickly becoming our resources and brand ambassadors. It’s incredible to know that our merchants are so excited to be on the site that they introduce us to their favorite brands as well. We had always set out to create a community with MadeClose, not only for our users, but also for our merchants. Seeing how these merchants have embraced that idea makes it seem like we’ve hit upon something here.
What are the best sellers?
We offer items in almost every vertical, from outdoor goods to home and office to accessories and fashion, so we’ve pretty much got it all. We have found that people care about the craftsmanship that goes into their products and the stories behind them, and that giftable items do very well because thoughtful gifts of high quality, responsibly made items make great gifts. Some of our best sellers include longboards from Loyal Dean, the ExoVault iPhone cases and the cocktail kit from W&P.
In your opinion, what are some of the most unique products on the site?
So many of our products are made-to-order and are handcrafted from natural materials, which makes them truly one-of-a-kind. Items made from repurposed or recycled materials are always very interesting. To see how someone can take something that may have wound up in a junkyard or a garbage pile and make it into something modern and beautiful is very cool. For example, Heritage Handcrafted makes furniture and gifts out of reclaimed whiskey barrels, and Doc Artisan creates iPhone and iPad docks out of dead trees from the Sierra Nevada. We also love Mi Mesita, who produces amazing tables from tree trunks and other domestically-sourced woods.
Right now most of the items are from the New York area. Do you plan to expand into other areas?
New York City is where we call home and it’s where we were raised, so we definitely feel an obligation to explore all that this great city has to offer. So it’s true that our focus has been in the tri-state area. We also wanted to make our Brick and Mortar Map and Community Guides functional, and to do that we really had to saturate one market before we could plan on expanding. That being said, we are expanding. We are going west. First to other communities that share a lot of the same values as the New York merchants we’ve come to love – local and responsible production, artisanship and craftsmanship, community and character – but eventually to every neighborhood in the country that is producing something. And we always welcome recommendations as well as invitations to come crash on your couch and get to know your community. Like we said, we’ve got frequent flyer miles to earn.
To see the wares on MadeClose, head to madeclose.com.
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