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New England Everyday Goods in Peterborough offers holiday shoppers a variety of gift items made in New England only. (Meghan Pierce/Sunday News Correspondent)

Christmas without China: Shoppers determined to to buy 'Made in the U.S.A.' goods

Holiday consumers have long been aware that shopping local helps their local economy stay vibrant.

This holiday season, though, there is a growing awareness that shopping for gifts made in America helps jobs stay stateside.

"It's the jobs thing. People have definitely connected the dots. Consumers are more savvy and more educated than ever, and the days of conspicuous consumption of buy, buy, buy, buy, buy are gone," said JimTherriault, owner of New England Everyday Goods in Peterborough.

His store only sells products manufactured in New England.

"When they walk into a store, they want to feel good that they are buying something made in America because they are either creating a job or keeping someone in a job," Therriault said.

A few years ago, Pennsylvania blogger Sarah Mazzone became interested in buying "green" products when she was pregnant with her son. It shocked her how much of what she was looking to buy as a new parent had been made in China. Her focus turned to buying American, and she started a blog about it two years ago.

Citing statistics from ABC News and the National Retail Federation, Mazzone issued a challenge to shoppers this year.

"The average American spends over $700 annually on holiday shopping. If just $64 of this was spent on gifts made in the U.S.A., the economic impact would equate to the creation of 200,000 American jobs. So I challenge you to spend $64 on American made gifts this holiday season."

Mazzone is collecting a list of U.S. manufacturers and asking people to make a pledge on her blog at madeinusachallenge.com.

Therriault said he hadn't heard of the challenge, but it sounds familiar.

"Christmas without China," he said.

The idea has been around for the past few years, and Therriault is a staunch supporter of it, he said. Two years ago, he opened his store to focus solely on selling products made in New England.

Previously, he had owned a shoe store in Peterborough and had grown frustrated that every year more and more of his shoes were made in China. He promised himself that if he ever opened another store it would focus on products made in the United States.

"I do believe that free trade is very important - global trade and the globe economy - but it is so out of balance," he said.

Since opening his store, he has seen interest from customers go up and the manufacturers he buys from becoming busier and busier.

"Our motto is 'holiday shopping that feels good.' And you should feel good you are supporting local artisans, you're supporting small businesses, you're supporting the local regional economy," Therriault said.

He said even children come into his store looking to buy U.S.A.-made holiday gifts for teachers and parents.

"They may have had friends or relatives who may have lost a job. I think they understand if you help the U.S. economy, it has that ripple effect," Therriault said.

Popular gift items he stocks include nostalgic, handmade signs from Ox Pond Press in Bethlehem, which are designed by husband and wife Stephen and Kathleen Gifford.

Many of the signs are New England - or New Hampshire - themed, such as "Moose Crossing" signs, and many make a perfect addition to a man-cave, he said.

"It's a great guy gift. What do you get a guy? Not another tie. Get him a sign that says 'Beer: It's what's for Dinner,'" Therriault said.

Stephen Gifford said he has seen a lot of ups and downs since he started Ox Pond Press more than 20 years ago, but business is going strong right now. He may have to hire a few subcontractors to help him and his wife out with the workload.

"Since the recession, we have seen more shops, more customers interested in buying U.S.A. made. We have added a sticker to our signs that says 'Made in the U.S.A.' that has an American flag on it. That has made a big difference," Gifford said.

Great Bay Pottery of North Hampton stocks New Hampshire-made mugs and plates that make great holiday gift items.

Great Bay owner Patrick Frazer said he has also seen an increase in retailers from across the country looking for products made in the United States.

"We sell to a bunch of retail stores that are selling only U.S.A.-made goods. There are a bunch of stores that have cropped up in the past couple of years, and they seem to be going really good," he said.

And if you are shopping for a child, there are an assortment of companies that manufacture toys - from nostalgic wooden log-building sets to yo-yos - in New England including Cogswork in Antrim, Roy Toy in Maine and Maple Landmark in Vermont.

Shopping in Peterborough on Friday, resident Marsha Morrow said she researches online to find American-made products and only buys non-American when she doesn't have a choice, such as in the case of most electronic gifts.

"I think it's because it's jobs that the Americans have lost," Morrow said. "I can't always find things, but I do that first. Today I was looking at something that I thought would be nice to give to my husband, and it looked like something made in Vermont . but it was made in China. So I'll never buy it."

Julia Duhaime of Temple was also out shopping Friday.

"I'm concentrating more on my shopping local. I'm not so much thinking about where it was made," Duhaime said. "I have not migrated to the 'is it U.S. made' as well."

When told about the Made in the U.S.A. Challenge and its potential impact on American jobs, Duhaime was stunned.

"Oh my gosh, that's huge," she said. "Now I'm going to be like, 'Where did that get made?'"

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