It’s no secret that I’m a fan of locally-made businesses: our series on unique local makers across America helped us discover a ton of new favorite brands last year. Now that you’re all caught up, why not take another trip and see some different small businesses worth checking out? We’ve already paid a visit to the South and Northeast, so let’s continue our journey to celebrate the best handmade, eco-friendly and small batch goods that the Midwest has to offer.
Illinois: Middle Brow Beer
A Chicago-made brewery that donates half of its proceeds to local charities. While many breweries utilize local ingredients, no one seems to be taking the community approach as far as Middle Brow Beer! The brewery not only comes up with their own inventive ales, but they also partner with other local crafters and businesses to help bring their drink visions to life. From salted caramel to sweet and refreshing orange peel, there’s a perfect flavor profile for any beer lover. And best of all? You can sip happy knowing that the company donates half of the proceeds to area groups in need.
Indiana: LM Products
Third-generation family leather goods company from Anderson, Indiana. “We take great pride in doing things the right way, even if it’s the hard way.” The artisans at LM Products don’t take this motto lightly: the family behind the brand has been handcrafting beautiful music accessories and various leather goods since 1975. Guitar straps, backpacks, wallets and purses are just some of the one-of-a-kind items that they make by hand, and everything is really well-priced…proving that you don’t have to sacrifice quality for a great product and deal.
A strictly handmade letterpress studio in Audubon, Iowa. For Chad and Meg Gleason, it all started with the purchase of a 100+ year old letterpress: the duo wanted to bring a personal touch to the often mass-produced world of paper goods, and this was the foundation of Moglea. The company offers a range of items, from stationery and greeting cards to phone cases and original art. Everything from painting to printing is done by hand and on-site, meaning that anything you purchase is a one-of-a-kind creation made by talented local artists. And what’s better than that?
Kansas: FNL Denim
Premium selvedge denim handcrafted in Wichita, Kansas. What do you do when you’re trying to build a better jean? If you’re like Frank Hopkins and Levi Fitzmier, you start with sewing lessons from your grandmother and work up from there. The friends behind FNL Denim have truly taken the DIY approach: sourcing professional advice and even YouTube tutorials to master the craft of creating beautiful, perfectly-customized jeans. As someone with long legs, I know firsthand how hard it is to find properly fitting jeans; for the price of an average pair you could get at the mall, turn to FNL instead for a lifelong investment in quality.
Michigan: Michigan Sloyd
Woodworking products handmade using traditional Scandinavian techniques. While once popular here in America, the Scandinavian handcraft principles of “Sloyd” are now harder to track down. Lucky for us, Michigan Sloyd is reviving this lost art of woodcarving: objects meant for everyday use (like spatulas and ladles) are lovingly crafted with a modern, minimalist edge. The finished products are coated with flaxseed oil and beeswax, and can be oiled over time to maintain their beautiful condition. Learn more about the tradition and pick up some affordable pieces of your own!
Clothing designed, made and packaged on-site in Minneapolis, Minnesota. When you want something done right, you do it yourself. The team at Winsome understand this idea perfectly, carrying out every aspect of design and production in their Minnesota studio. This means total control over quality and reduced waste, so you can feel good about buying their clean, modern and wearable clothes. But act fast if you see something you like: the handmade approach means limited quantities of their designs!
Missouri: Urban Matter
A St. Louis gift shop that carries locally-made and specialty goods. We’re big fans of one-stop shopping, especially when it has a locally-made focus. That’s why Urban Matter is such a great destination: of the 100+ artists featured in the store, the majority come from the St. Louis area. From planters and dinnerware to bags and handmade jewelry, you could essentially furnish any part of your home (and body) with the goods at Urban Matter. So skip the stress this holiday season and get a gift with real local flavor.
Nebraska: Earthen Joy
A small-batch clay art studio in Omaha, Nebraska. Joy O’Conner is the powerhouse behind Earthen Joy: a one-woman operation producing modern clay jewelry and home goods. Minimalist necklaces pair perfectly with little studs, and the faceted planters would fit into any modern home. All of the items are bright and cheerful, as if you can sense the love and attention put into each carefully-made piece. And like so many others I like to include in these roundups, Joy’s prices are super affordable for an artisan operation like this. Support local Nebraskan talent!
North Dakota: Catie Miller Ceramics
A wildly inventive ceramic artist from Fargo, North Dakota. Think you’ve seen it all when it comes to ceramic art? We think not. What sets Catie Miller Ceramics apart is the addition of prints: she transfers her original drawings and patterns from newsprint right onto the raw clay, allowing for beautiful detail to tell a story. It’s a refreshing, contemporary take on a traditional art form, and there seems to be no limit to Catie’s creativity in the designs. Functional art for your home.
Ohio: ONE SIX FIVE
A modern handmade jewelry studio in Columbus, Ohio. Kaleigh Shrigley and Claire Lowe are the designers and crafters behind ONE SIX FIVE, a modern jewelry company and handmade haven. Minimalists, you’ll love this one: the precious metals are really allowed to shine when featured in such clean and contemporary designs, and they’re all made to be wearable with any look. The duo personally design and make each piece, proving that minimalist design still means maximum effort.
South Dakota: Miner Brewing Co.
A Hill City craft brewery with experience going back five generations. What do you get when you combine regional and seasonal ingredients with classic European brewing techniques? Craft beer with a solid South Dakota edge. Miner Brewing Company has an impressive range of offerings for a craft operation: everything from strawberry and rhubarb to the unexpected oatmeal stout will keep your mouth entertained. When you’re ready to experience it yourself, head to their tap room and taste the local flavor.
Wisconsin: First Settlement Goods
Fine leather goods handcrafted in Madison, Wisconsin. There are a ton of cheap mens accessories brands out there, but wouldn’t you rather invest in quality? Oliver Sell is the craftsman behind First Settlement Goods, a handmade line of leather goods made exclusively for Context, a local store. You can’t go wrong with the combination of high-quality materials and careful, handmade assembly, and the final products really demonstrate the skill behind it. Next time you’re in the market for a new wallet or belt, you know where to go.