Today we are talking with the fine folks at Northern Grade, a pop-up market of American Made products.
Can you give 50 BUILT readers some background on yourselves and how Northern Grade came to be?
Well being based in Minnesota, we are surrounded by brands like Red Wing and Duluth Pack who represent the authentic heritage brands. We thought we should do something to celebrate them and promote their historical significance. We also saw a lot of men in this area who did not know where to shop for premium American brands.
How has Northern Grade evolved from when it started in 2009?
We have grown from an event that had about 600 people at the first one, to 3000 at our last. We still have about 20 vendors. We like to keep things in scale with our venue, Architectural Antiques.
Has the Made Local/USA always been the sole purpose of the event?
What has the reception been on a local and national level.
We have seen a jump as of late in national support from the consumer, and interest from the print magazines. We have definitely seen a jump in the website visits.
Why does Northern Grade find it crucial to network with, and provide exposure for, fellow American-made brands?
We feel it is vital to provide a place for the consumer to come and find these niche brands. Our fellow vendors are mostly based online, so this is a platform to help bring them faced-to-face with the consumer. Something they benefit from – mutually.
Any great success stories that have come from the Northern Grade experience?
We loved seeing Sanborn Canoe in the Vanity Fair Punch Hutton’s Gift Guide last month. Pretty cool! I don’t think that was because of NG but it is always a pleasure to see our friends get some good press.
Is there a sense of strength in numbers?
I’d say so yes.
Do the exhibitors benefit from being around each other as much as being in front of potential buyers and consumers?
Sure – we all learn from each other and of course that is how some really special collaborations are born.
According to your website, you have plans to expand to San Francisco, Nashville, Denver and Moscow. What is it about those markets that make them prime for an American-made ‘expo?’
San Francisco is definitely on for next year. We’re thinking April. Nashville is in the works for March possibly. Moscow is a proving logistically challenging as we have to work on a different model for checkout etc. But we’ll try to make it happen. We work with some great people over there who have expressed interest in this. They have a massive network.
Any other top-secret or not-so-secret plans for Northern Grade coming up?
If you could give the 50 BUILT readers one reason they must attend a Northern Grade show, what would it be?
Well of course to meet the folks behind the brands. We enjoy meeting you and talking about what you like and don’t like etc. Lots of live music in the future. Always good food and drink… it’s just a good time. But it’s really important to have your support to keep this going. hat is what it’s about.
If you could tell our readers one factor that is the greatest threat or advantage to keeping things made in America, and allowing companies like Northern Grade’s vendors to succeed, what would it be?
Our pricing. Just like organic food – it used to be pretty high to buy an organic apple – but the more people demand it, and buy it, the more affordable it becomes. We need this to keep going to become more mainstream as far as prices go – our costs are extremely high to manufacture domestically.
Thank you so much for your time, and best of luck with your expansion plans!