FILE: The Bollman Hat Company Factory

Making it in America: Bollman Hats

This Week On Making It In America

We tip our hats off to American manufacturing with Don Rongione, President & CEO of the Bollman Hat Company and Founder of American Made Matters.

Can you please tell us about the Bollman Hat Company?

Founded in 1868 in Adamstown, PA, Bollman Hat Company is America’s oldest hat maker. Bollman has continually made wool felt hats for 146 years. During its first hundred years, Bollman added hat manufacturing capabilities to produce a hat from raw wool to finished product. We added fur felt and straw hats to our manufacturing capability during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Today, Bollman has the best collection of hat brands in the headwear industry, including Bailey, Betmar, Country Gentleman, Helen Kaminski, Kangol and Pantropic. We became the first employee-owned headwear company when we adopted our Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) in 1985. Our employee-owners are proud to cover the world with unparalleled products that provide protection, comfort and style to millions throughout the world. We have nearly 300 people located on four continents and distribute products in 77 countries. Our products can be found worldwide in specialty stores, department stores, major and regional chain stores, and prominent catalog and e-commerce retailers. Throughout its incredible history, Bollman has been a primary supplier of private label headwear to the world’s leading brands and retailers covering fashion, outdoor apparel, uniform, formal wear and sports markets. Bollman owns hats.com, where consumers can browse and buy our products.

When did you first join the company? How did your role progress?

I started at Bollman as Controller in 1982. I have been blessed to serve in several positions within the company including Vice President of Administration, Sr. Vice President of Manufacturing, Executive Vice President and COO and finally President and CEO in 2002.

Why is making it in America significant at Bollman Hat Company?

Bollman is America’s oldest hat maker and will soon celebrate 150 years of U.S. hat making. I experienced the tragic decline of American manufacturing first hand when loss of major customers to foreign competition forced us to lay off more than 100 U.S. manufacturing employees. It was this experience that led me to found American Made Matters (AMM), an organization dedicated to educating consumers on just how important American manufacturing is to our country. Today AMM has close to 300 members in 43 states. Bollman is the home of American Made Matters.

What challenges has the Bollman Hat Company overcome throughout history in order to continue making it in America?

For our first ninety years, the hat industry flourished as wearing a hat was part of the daily uniform. The company always sought to develop new products and new markets. The loyalty and commitment of our people has been a hallmark of our famous company. We have 13 employee-owners during our history who worked for our company for 50 or more years of services. In 1985, we started our Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) making all of our employees owners of the company. Manufacturing in the USA continues to be a challenge for many companies with high labor-content products. However we are dedicated to keeping the jobs for our employee-owners here in the U.S.A. as well as being good stewards of our heritage.

How have you expressed a passion for American manufacturing outside from your business?

I continuously reach out to businesses to join the American Made Matters movement as well as personally purchase products from our own American Made Matters members. Today I am wearing 100% American made from my hat to my socks and shoes!

About the segments: ‘Making it in America’ is a place where individuals who are passionate about work in America can collectively share ideas, insights, and experiences relative to American manufacturing. Participants will be asked to share the ways in which they are ‘making it in America’ within their respective fields & present ways that we too, can help make a difference with work in America.

Past Guests

KNEX CEO Michael Araten.
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH).
Channellock VP of Sales & Marketing Ryan DeArment.
Makers Row - founding team Matthew Burnett, Tanya Menendez, Scott Weiner.
Made in the USA: The 30 Day Journey Producer/Filmmaker Josh Miller.
Quabaug CEO & Owner Kevin Donahue
Tervis - Rogan Donelly
Tito`s Vodka - Owner Tito Beverige
Country Music Artist Amanda Watkins
Annin Flagmakers - Marketing Manager Dale Coots
All American Clothing Co. President BJ Nickol

If you, or someone you know, would be interested in being interviewed on Making it in America, please send inquiries to Boomer Beam at logan@allamericanclothing.com

About the Host:

Boomer Beam is a next generation writer, spokesman, advocate, & marketing professional. His career began in 2011, when he attended his mother`s 25th class reunion, who graduated from high school in 1986. She couldn’t go because she and his father had just moved. So Beam, who was studying Communication Studies at Wittenberg University at the time, went in her place. The rest is a humble beginning... Read more

Brought to you by All American Clothing Co.

Amanda Watkins

Making it in America: Amanda Watkins

This Week On Making It In America.

This week, 'Making it in America' reaches a high note with country music artist Amanda Watkins! Amanda`s musical journey has led her to opportunities performing with the likes of Dierks Bentley, Jamey Johnson, Dwight Yoakam and Brad Paisley. She has also appeared on the hit television series "Hart of Dixie" and has performed on "Jimmy Kimmel Live." In addition to her musical career, Amanda is a leading supporter of American made items...

Please tell us a about yourself.

I was born in the wild and wonderful state of West Virginia spending my years between there and Florida. It took all of my first four years of life to realize the agenda for me was going to be singing, songwriting, cooking and eating great food and, as cliche as it may sound, expressing my love for America through each of those avenues. I come from a hard working, God loving, life-is-what-you-make-of-it, hard headed, hillbilly vegetarian, tight knit, music lovin' family. They inspire me to write songs about the working man, love and just simply getting by in this crazy life. Work hard, play hard and love hard. Straight up.

This love of music has blessed me with a pretty wonderful life thus far. Touring, meeting incredible people who share this love of singing and writing and being able to express myself through song. From singing "Jonah In The Belly Of A Whale" in church at the age of five to standing on hallowed ground at The Ryman Auditorium to a full house, I feel like the luckiest girl on earth.

Performing live with some incredible Country artists has been my deal thus far. Dierks Bentley, Jamey Johnson, Dwight Yoakam and Brad Paisley are but a few whose careers I greatly admire and each for their own reason. I grew up never being able to get enough Waylon, Willie and George. There is a sense of freedom and at the same time a sense of responsibility that I can honestly say I love assuming in life. Music has taken me on a wild journey and I keep going. For the love of God and for the love of music.

Why is making it in America important to you?

There are so many reasons American made is important to me. The obvious reason is for helping to create jobs domestically and, in turn, hopefully bettering our economy for this generation and generations to come. When buying American made products, we can be more knowledgeable and confident about where and how the products are made and under what conditions. There are a variety of unknown situations overseas that we often can’t be privy to in terms of working conditions and standards. Supporting American manufacturers and domestic workers is truly important to me because we are also much of the time supporting safe working conditions and fair wages. It’s important to set that standard.

In what ways have you made it in America?

I am a recording artist and touring musician. I have traveled across the USA from the coal fields to Washington state singing "workin man" songs and bringing attention to the American made movement. My most recent single, "Whole Damn Train,” typifies and epitomized this topic. I have spent a good part of my life waiting on tables at Baby Blues BBQ in Venice, CA where I have had the absolute pleasure of meeting people from every walk of life... from the trucker stopping in before his long haul back across the States to the all-American visual artist selling their work in galleries and on street corners. I had the privilege to work for Rick and Danny, the owners and creators of Baby Blues, and see their American Dream come true - all because they worked hard enough.

How have you and/or your company expressed a passion for manufacturing in USA throughout history?

I only purchase American-made products for my Amanda Watkins merchandise to sell at shows and online. I also advertise that what I am selling is 100% made in the USA .

What is your favorite quote? How does it affect you in your efforts to support manufacturing in the USA?

I have two… "There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America". I love this because I think it's so easy to harp on how negative things are but it’s harder to stand up and do something about it or to be positive about how good we have it. Perspective is a powerful thing.

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." It’s another reminder that it truly takes only one person. We have the power to change anything we want to change all we have to do is believe it can happen.

About the segments:

‘Making it in America’ is a place where individuals who are passionate about work in America can collectively share ideas, insights, and experiences relative to American manufacturing. Participants will be asked to share the ways in which they are ‘making it in America’ within their respective fields & present ways that we too, can help make a difference with work in America.

Past Guests

Thank you.

Thank you to The Made in America Movement, The Darke Journal, All American Clothing Co., and to all participants for your support.

If you, or someone you know, would be interested in being interviewed on Making it in America, please send inquiries to Boomer Beam at logan@allamericanclothing.com

About the Host:

Boomer Beam is a next generation writer, spokesman, advocate, & marketing professional. His career began in 2011, when he attended his mother`s 25th class reunion, who graduated from high school in 1986. She couldn’t go because she and his father had just moved. So Beam, who was studying Communication Studies at Wittenberg University at the time, went in her place. The rest is a humble beginning... Read more

Brought to you by All American Clothing Co.