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Rebuilding an American Dream in East Liverpool, Ohio

At one time, East Liverpool, Ohio was known as “the Pottery Capital of the World.” Today this city – like so many others in America – is facing a jobs crisis as its industries decline. But I recently got to visit one ceramics factory that is the story of a remarkable resurgence.

Inspired by Create Jobs for USA, a program Starbucks launched in November 2011 with Opportunity Finance Network, one of our long term suppliers, Ulrich Honighausen, came to us with a vision to address a gap in American manufacturing with a modern ceramic factory.

But rather than build a new facility from the ground-up, Ulrich wanted to reemploy skilled ceramic workers anxious to return to their craft.  All roads led to the American Mug and Stein company in East Liverpool.

Despite it’s wealth in artisanship, the company had been forced to cut wages and benefits and reduce employee hours just to keep operations afloat. Now, American Mug and Stein is producing a ceramic 12 oz. “Indivisible” mug for us. It’s a sleek white celebratory product made with raw materials sourced from Tennessee, Ohio, Georgia, and Florida. Retailing for $9.95, Starbucks will make a $2 donation to the Create Jobs for USA Fund with each purchase

When I went back in April to see the factory in full production, I found hope and new energy among the workers.  With the Starbucks orders, American Mug and Stein was able to rehire people that had been let go in previous months and years, and hire new workers who desperately needed employment. And through Opportunity Finance Network, the company was able to secure a loan that will spur even greater growth. 

As we hear on the news everyday, the problems our country faces are complex, but often the solutions start small. We’re not solving the unemployment issues through these orders but it’s a start, and we’re hoping this concept inspires you as much as it has inspired us.

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