Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Getting Shanghaied: The Imported Fireplace

Made in America? Guess Again

How many Amish are there in all of China?

That's not the start of a corny joke you might find in your average fireside gag book. That's a very real question with very real implications, both for American business and American consumers.

What I'm talking about, of course, are those Amish Roll-N-Glow plug-in fireplaces you see on TV and in the back of Parade magazine, among other places.

According to a story in the Philadelphia Daily News, those glorified space heaters aren't even too good to be true. And they're not really made by the Amish.

I was always suspicious of the blasted things, and the fact is, I'm surprised even the frame is made here in the U.S.A. With every other manufacturing sector shipping its jobs overseas, and the government doing next to nothing to penalize American companies who farm out their labor to the lowest bidder, it stands to reason that the fireplace industry would follow suit. Without naming any more names -- another time, perhaps -- I can think of half a dozen American fireplace and fireplace tool companies currently manufacturing all or a significant portion of their products overseas. And that's a shame.

Of course, I do take heart in the fact that not all American fireplace manufacturers have jumped ship. In fact, there are some very good companies out there who still pride themselves on manufacturing their products in the American heartland, even if it costs them a few cents on the margin. Akron, Ohio-based fireplace door maker Thermo-rite is one of those companies, and one I'm happy to endorse. So is Georgia-based online retailer Brick-Anew, which carries Thermo-rite's line and a few others, and also makes a point of promoting American businesses.

I wish I could say the same for those Amish matchboxes you see on TV, but I just can't. Call me crazy, call me old-fashioned, but something about the whole deal just strikes me as a bit un-American. I also don't see the point in propping my feet before a shoddy backlit picture of a fireplace flame when I've got the real deal right here in my living room.

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