Starbucks Turns to Ohio, Not China, for Coffee Mugs
Not that long ago, this little Ohio River town could call itself the pottery capital of the nation. Some four dozen pottery factories here “set America’s table,” as the locals liked to boast, churning out everything from fine china to chamber pots and employing a large majority of the work force.
But no longer. Global competition and economic collapse shattered the industry like a poorly executed tablecloth trick and turned East Liverpool into a desperate corner of the country. Median income is roughly one-third lower than the state average, and more than 10 percent of working-age residents are unemployed.
Just two pottery makers remain, and one, the American Mug and Stein Company, was on the verge of closing last fall. Then Ulrich Honighausen called. Mr. Honighausen, the owner of a tableware company, Hausenware, in Sonoma County, Calif., which supplies retailers like Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn and Fred Meyer with ceramics and glassware from producers all over the world, had a plan to revitalize American Mug and create jobs in an industry that had all but died. What if American Mug were to make mugs for Starbucks?