In 2012, during the holidays, John and Amanda McGrew took on what has become known as the Made In America Christmas Challenge. The purpose of the challenge was to encourage gift givers to strengthen the American economy by buying or making gifts with the guarantee that all materials were made right here in the U S of A. The McGrews also had a baby girl, and they were understandably wanting to make sure that her toys were guaranteed to be lead free.
They succeeded in their Christmas quest, and started to “shop American” for themselves the rest of the year. Amanda asked John, “If there was a store like that, wouldn’t it be great?” John’s response was, “Why don’t we do it?” Then came the “Look, either we are going to do this, or shut up about it” phase of their entrepreneurial journey, and they decided to “make the leap,” as Amanda says. The result was Homeland Trading Company, located on Hwy 31 in the strip mall with the clock tower near CVS in Athens, and the address is 1207 East Forrest, Athens, AL 35613. Their tag line is: All items proudly made in the USA, and they aren’t kidding!
Both John and Amanda have other jobs which involve operating equipment and/or supervising in the construction based fields, and they have been able to “spell” each other at the store, that is, hold down the store while the other one is “bringing home the bacon.” John also studied architecture at Auburn, and both of them have a number of creative interests they pursue in their “spare time.” They have their priorities straight: all day Monday is family day. As is often the case with local start up businesses, extended family is on hand to help, and Amanda says her sister, Joanna Whitehead, “helps with everything and is wonderful!”
The target market at Homeland Trading is the blue collar worker, but there is American made stuff for all kinds of folks. I laughed out loud when I saw a 100% cotton T shirt with an old VW bus on it, very close to the one I had almost 45 years ago. Orange is not technically “my color,” and my VW Bus days are long gone, but I am none the less tempted to buy and wear one! One of John’s long term goals is to start a textile company that would bear the same name as the store, and bring the textile industry back to Alabama. They are also determined to demonstrate that the belief that products made in America are “too expensive” is just not true. I can say from a thorough examination that the prices in the store are reasonable, which I think can be corroborated by the fact that while I was in the shop for the interview, there was a steady stream of shoppers and purchases being made.
So, what can you find at Homeland Trading? There is women’s clothing, from dresses to tops to jeans to accessories. The sizes range from small to women’s 6X, and up to size 62 in men’s. Right now there is a 60% off sale for summer items, and there are some prices which are truly “slashed.” There is a small selection of toys, and they are exploring what people are looking for and looking to expand in time for the holidays. Some of my favorites were the “Brio-like” wooden toys that are very similar to ones I played with as a little girl.
There is also men’s work and casual apparel, including denim work shirts, jeans, T shirts, and John’s favorite, Thoroughgood brand work boots. He says, “These are the kind of boot that you never throw out, you get them re-soled. They don’t wear out, they ‘ugly out.’” He swears by them.
The local craft market is also being supported at Homeland. For now, they have a number of homemade soy candles created in Elkmont. The colors and aromas are abundant, and more artisan items are going to be added, again, in time for the holidays.
For this fall football season, Auburn, UNA and Alabama fans alike will be able to sport the colors of their favorite team. There is an entire wall of dresses in Bear Bryant houndstooth, blue and orange Tiger stripes, and other items that will work for everything from the office to a tailgate party.
They have children’s camo overalls, in an assortment of sizes, and all of the “departments” in this modern day “dry goods” store, (without the groceries,) will only be increasing.
So, if you want to get on board the local “Made in America” train, the “station” is Homeland Trading Company, and the McGrews will get you there. “All Aboard!!”
Homeland Trading Company
1207 East Forrest Street Athens, AL 35613
Hours: Tue-Thur 9-5, Fri-Sat, 9-5:30
Facebook: Homeland Trading Company
Website is under construction
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner