New York’s Sherrill Manufacturing is the last flatware maker left in America.
Low-cost Asian manufacturing had decimated the domestic eating utensil industry by 2007, leading Congress to rescind a longstanding requirement that the military to buy cutlery made in America.
“The issue at the time, which continues to be the issue today, is that flatware is made from stainless steel, and the Chinese government owns the steel mills in China, and they supply their industry with stainless steel at about half the market price and the rest of the world,” CEO and Co-Founder Greg Owens said.
“That means they can transfer stainless steel into flatware. And ship it halfway around the world, cheaper than we can buy.”
Unable to compete with overseas prices, the company created a new key selling feature, Made in America, and a new brand with a bit more essence of red, white and blue: Liberty Tabletop.
While the company stayed afloat, sales were mostly stagnant. Liberty Tabletop worked with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to save the domestic industry, but little progress was made under prior Republican-controlled Congresses.
When the U.S. House flipped in 2018, New York Rep. Anthony Brindisi, a freshman Democrat, finished the job. He re-introduced the SPOONSS Act in 2019, which would reinstate the law requiring the DOD to buy American-made spoons, forks and knives.
He worked with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sherrill Manufacturing to build support for the bill.
“Congress constantly talks about bringing back and keeping good-paying American jobs. This actually gets it done,” Brindisi, who pushed the bill to the finish line, said.
The SPOONSS Act was signed into law in 2020. Owens said it would be “be very beneficial to Sherrill manufacturing and our employees and the community.”