Recommend me stores known for quality goods
February 24, 2014 2:15 PM   Subscribe

Partner & I have decided to vote with our dollar by only purchasing quality long-lasting goods, or going without. We will pay more if the quality is clearly there. Rather than waste time driving from store to store, only to find junk, I'm looking for stores known for quality items. Difficulty Level: Sisyphean...

Nothing made in China. That's a strict requirement. Also items ought to have a modicum of style.

Partner & I went to Crate & Barrel for the first time the other day looking at dishes and were pleased with the design & quality of the goods. Prices were a little high but with some digging we could find a nice deal. What other stores would you recommend?

Items can't be made in China (his strict requirement). We're looking for quality goods - quality of materials, construction and hopefully quality manufacturing practices (labour laws). We're ok with paying somewhat more for quality. We don't have money to burn, so the quality/price tradeoff has to be there. No $1500 Prada bags for me, sadly...

We are looking for
- kitchen items (plates, glasses, mugs, bowls, baking items, spatulas omg my kingdom for a not made in China spatula)
- clothes (mostly men's) and shoes (mens & womens)
- household furniture (end tables, book cases, chairs)
- bathroom bits
- anything else you think of (belts, wallets, bed sheets, you name it)

Not looking for single items but entire stores where we could browse and have at least 50% not made in China hit rate.

Example stores we've been to:
- Crate & Barrel: high quality goods made in Portugal, France, Spain & Italy, Indonesia, Thailand. To get a good price you have to wait for a sale but it is possible.
- Whole Foods: overpriced yuppie goods generally available elsewhere but every now & then there is something worth its price
- Ikea: is our version of the 'dollar store'; quality is not there but at least there's a chance it's not made in China
- H&M: quality not great but often has clothes not made in China
- Pier 1: quality is NOT there however some of their goods are made in Thailand or Indonesia.
- The Brick: shit quality; I will never go back.
- Home Sense, Home Outfitters, Target: not a good hit rate for not made in China. <<10% Not worth the drive.

I do buy some stuff locally (pottery by local artists).

I'm wary of etsy because of quality construction. Plus I'd prefer to shop in person.

We're in Toronto, but visit the US semi-regularly, and Europe around once a year (where we fill our boots so to speak).

Help me turn "oh honey we don't have X" into a simple shopping experience! What stores have you come across that have a higher hit-rate for quality goods? Or non-China goods? Quality-loving Me-fites, where do you shop?
posted by St. Peepsburg to Home & Garden (29 answers total) 111 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: For kitchen items, I love Heath Ceramics. They're not Crate & Barrel cheap but they're not Prada expensive and you will have them for a lifetime.

For bedding and bath, oh my oh my, Coyuchi is my favorite. I linked to their FAQ page, and scroll down for info on sources & manufacturing.

For household furniture, Thomas Moser.
posted by janey47 at 2:27 PM on February 24, 2014

Best answer: Some items at DuluthTrading qualify. They do have store locations.

SAS (San Antonio Shoes) used to have Made in USA everywhere; not sure if that is still the case, though they still call their work "handcrafted". They have store locations, not sure if any up near you.

I've heard good things from the PNW in my life about Pendleton Portland. Not sure if they are available in stores.

I love anything by Nordic Ware and it's available in a variety of retail outlets.

Macy's carries USA made furniture as well.
posted by tilde at 2:30 PM on February 24, 2014

Best answer: I know you prefer brick-and-mortar, but I love browsing through Kaufmann Mercantile's website and they occasionally do pop-up stores in NYC.
posted by feistycakes at 2:48 PM on February 24, 2014

LL Bean has retail outlets, but it looks like the nearest to Toronto is in Fayettville, NY. They have very high-quality goods, and an excellent return policy.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:58 PM on February 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Splendid has great minimalist-casual clothes for men and women and much if not most of it is made in the U.S.
posted by payoto at 3:03 PM on February 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: For men's shoes, Allen Edmonds still makes their shoes in Port Washington, Wisconsin. Buy a style that is recraftable so that when the soles wear out you can send them back to the factory to restore them to near-new condition. This costs about 1/3 of the original price of the shoes, but considering it can make one pair of shoes last another 5-6 years on each recrafting, it seems worth it to me. It looks like Harry Rosens in Toronto sells Allen Edmonds. Brooks Brothers sells nice shoes too, mostly English-made (Peal & Co.), but those run about double the cost of Allen Edmonds. And when investing in nice shoes make sure to also get some cedar trees (to put in the shoes when not wearing them to keep their shape), and overshoes/galoshes (for inclement weather).

For women's shoes, my wife has good luck with the quality of Frye's boots and shoes. Here is a link to the styles still made in the USA.
posted by 2ghouls at 3:06 PM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Furniture: This is maybe pricier than what you are looking for, but as you in Toronto, I thought I'd share one of the items I'm coveting. Inabstracto sells these new Canadian-made mid-century style pieces by designer Evan Bare at 608 Design. Local, sustainable design and manufacture!

(Plus, Inabstracto and other places around like it sell lots of used pieces, and used = sustainable and likely not made in China. Also try Ethel's.)
posted by girlpublisher at 3:07 PM on February 24, 2014

Best answer: As an alternative to Whole Foods (which, aside from being insanely overpriced, you may want to avoid on the basis of their labor practices, if that's something that matters to you), try Sprouts or Trader Joe's.
posted by scody at 3:11 PM on February 24, 2014

Best answer: Also, Joe Fresh is the only Canadian company I am aware of that signed the Bangladesh Accord.* Not high quality, but cheap and less horrid than some of the alternatives in this category.

(*Not to be confused with the Bangladesh agreement created by and for The Gap and Walmart.)
posted by girlpublisher at 3:13 PM on February 24, 2014

How does the Bay work out for these items? Home Outfitters is in essence their downmarket brand so they may be higher up the quality continuum.

Uniqlo should have some items not made in China (jeans at the very least) and their clothes are good quality for their price.

Can't speak to their quality but Anthropologie is pretty good at listing where items are made in their catalogue so you can at least avoid made in China goods.

Shopping-wise, if you can make it to Bayview Village you will find lots of shops where the bulk of goods are not made in China.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:15 PM on February 24, 2014

Best answer: I believe that most, if not everything, at Room and Board is made in America. Everything I've bought from there has been of amazing quality - I have a gorgeous mid-century style sofa that gets compliments from guests all the time and still looks wonderful even after 4 moves in 6 years.
posted by joan_holloway at 3:15 PM on February 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If you're ever in London - Labour and Wait is the place for you!
posted by Middlemarch at 3:31 PM on February 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

Totally scratching my head over why you are not in antique stores. All of the things you listed and then some are sitting there ready to be used for another century. Not the posh kind but more the "flea market and antiques" mix of stuff. These old English-made Skyline spatulas are going to keep spatula-ing forever. You can get linens made out of linen for less than new.

I source and sell old stuff and in doing so have upgraded nearly every object in my life. Nearly nothing in my house is disposable. Unless it's new. I put a super-cheap bathroom sink in as a placeholder until I can find the right antique one; it is now quite cracked, because my kid filled a bowl of water in it and dropped the bowl. A fifty-year-old bowl. I heard the big bang and thought: @#$*, so much for that set of bowls being a set. But no! Old Pyrex will take out a modern sink.

Barely worn, splendid, easily re-soleable shoes are all over Etsy & eBay for less than the price of "leather upper!" new brand-name blecch. Same for most garments.

I have, though, had excellent successes with handmade off Etsy. Enlarge the photos, read the feedback. The good is really quite superlative.
posted by kmennie at 4:06 PM on February 24, 2014 [6 favorites]

Patagonia for clothing/outerwear. Sur la Table for kitchen items.
posted by donovan at 4:11 PM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Williams Sonoma for kitchenware.

For classy men's clothes I still love Brooks Brothers.

I've liked a lot of furniture at Dania.

But truly, if you aren't looking online, I'd say you want to visit cities like Seattle and San Francisco and Vancouver, not to mention your own Toronto, and stroll around. It is the local places, like our Fireworks and Urban Hardwoods stores, to randomly name a couple here in Seattle, that are selling locally and beautifully made items.
posted by bearwife at 5:12 PM on February 24, 2014

Estate sales, thrift stores and have much nicer china and flatware than any store around.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:12 PM on February 24, 2014

Slight derail, why not in China? I just got a backpack from crate and barrel by Baggu which is good quality, washable and says it's ethically made in China, the usual factory monitoring and fair trade type deal. I won't buy some things from Indonesia and India because I know they're made in particularly crappy situations.

The vintage category in etsy by the way gets you some seriously nice things. Pricey but in better condition and easier to buy than eBay.

Anchor hocking glassware is great and sturdy and made in the US usually.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:22 PM on February 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Also, you should use kk's cool tools website for quality product recommendations. They often list the country of origin. There's also a reddit for what you're doing: buy it for life.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:25 PM on February 24, 2014

Best answer: I agree with kmennie about antique stores for quality kitchen things. My spatulas came from my mother - they were a wedding gift to her in the 1930s and they're so exceptional that I actually handed them down to my granddaughter when she got married - she loves them.

When my toaster, which I received in the early 60s, finally died, I bought a replacement at Target. Toasted once or twice with it and threw it over to a thrift store - it would make a little round circle of brown, toasted bread in the center of each slice of bread - all the rest of the bread was soft and untoasted. I went to an antique store and bought a REAL toaster - old, art-deco design, cloth-covered cord - and boy, does it ever toast bread perfectly. Yes.

To all the good suggestions above, I'd add maybe the Vermont Country Store.

Still, try the antique stores - you might be impressed.
posted by aryma at 8:41 PM on February 24, 2014

Best answer: Try Paderno brand for cooking wear. Made in PEI!
posted by saradarlin at 11:52 PM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Outdoors stores are often a good source for clothing that is both well made and ethically produced. Some brands to consider: Darn Tough Socks, Ibex, and Filson. Other conscientious companies that I trust, but who do work in China, include Icebreaker and Patagonia.
posted by andythebean at 10:13 AM on February 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For mens and womens high-quality shoes, visit the Fluevog Shoes store in Toronto. You can read about their factories and conditions on their website.

I came across this article from a Canadian publication while Googling, you may be interested: "For buying clothes ethically, is there a how-to guide?"
posted by stompadour at 10:22 AM on February 25, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for all of these ideas - some companies I have never even heard of. Some I couldn't check off because the website doesn't clearly state where the products are made or its not quite our style. I guess I'm looking for the price/quality/style trifecta.

Antiquing - we generally don't do it because we just don't have the time & you've got to plan ahead, but when we're oot & aboot we'll check out those places for sure. I just hate it when we go "oh honey we don't have X" and then it's a huge ordeal to find one.

Antique toaster story - what a score, I can only hope to be so lucky

Sprouts / Trader Joes - I always hit this place when in the US; patiently waiting for the day that it comes to Canada....

Allen Edmonds, Duluth Trading - file these under "I never would have known", thanks guys

Heath Ceramics - drool... let's start saving for these now and see where I'm at in 5-10 years...

Bangladesh accord - thank you for that link, good resource and has a list of participating companies too :)

Darn Tough Socks - fabulous, thank you!!

NP Article - good read, yes we try to go for well made timeless fashion, I have skirts from 10 years ago that still hold up in style & wear/tear. It's better to spend $50-$100 on a skirt and have it last forever.

Made in China - not to get too much into it but totalitarian regimes and ingredient safety standards come to mind. My partner is more strict than I am, and of course some items you just can't avoid MiC (I'm looking at you, elusive spatula!).
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:00 PM on February 25, 2014

Best answer: I think that a bunch of these companies may source some items from China (or other countries with terrible human rights, labor, or safety concerns) but not all, so you really need to check each item. Some also change over time.

That said, I have been very happy with the design and quality of just about everything I have purchased from Serena and Lily, and while I don't know if they have a stated anti-China policy, I do see that most (everything) they sell is made elsewhere. A lot of what they sell is very expensive, but I keep finding good deals as well. I have been buying everything from the catalogue and website.

Ditto for Garnet Hill, which is the company I think of when I think of nice bedding, but they sell clothing and other products as well.
posted by semacd at 4:19 PM on February 25, 2014

Best answer: Here is a list of brands that are made in the USA.

I'll also add Tom Bihn bags. The only thing on the bags that isn't US made is a specific fabric they can only get in Japan, and it's custom dyed for them.
posted by bibliogrrl at 6:42 PM on February 25, 2014

Etsy, for lots of stuff, including clothes and some furniture items are of enormous quality and cheap. Some of my favorite sweaters and what have you are definitely from Etsy. Also art from Society6.
posted by xammerboy at 1:28 AM on February 26, 2014

household furniture (end tables, book cases, chairs)


McRoskey Mattresses
posted by JDC8 at 11:09 AM on February 26, 2014

I think OP should note that some brands only produce high-end in USA, most others in China. Allen Edmonds,Filson,New balance,LL bean just to name a few fall in these categories.

Also a writeup from Patagonia which mentions why goods esp textiles are not made in US. Also note quality is not necessarily dependent on country of origin. Apple everything is made in China and known for its high quality manufacturing.
posted by radsqd at 3:36 PM on February 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

I know this is quite late, but I just wanted to mention Dr. Bronner's soaps. Good quality, ethically sourced.
posted by barnoley at 9:31 AM on February 27, 2014

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