Dresden and Company produces the first collection entirely made in the United States

DRESDEN – For Dresden & Company, carrying on the century-old tradition of basket weaving in the village is not just about selling baskets.

After the Longaberger company closed in 2018, founder Jim Lepi saw an opportunity to meet two community needs: employ the basket weavers who lost their jobs and help their families in need.

Jim Lepi

“There was absolutely a desire to keep going, and not just let go after all these years of Dresden being known as the basket capital of the world,” Lepi said.

Now that the company’s first 100% made-in-the-USA collection comes out for the holidays, stories are being told of artisans across the country, not just those working in the workshop on Main Street, Dresden.

And that was the purpose of the collection. Vendors from across the country came together to play a part in the collection. From featured pieces like Connecticut jingle bells and Zanesville pottery, to basket handle plating from Northwest Ohio, everything is sourced directly from the United States.

“Everything and every project in there has an amazing story about the craft, about the people who make it,” said marketing director Brenton Baker.

Debbie Alexander weaves one of the limited edition Snowstar baskets from the holiday collection.  The veneer used for the woven pieces is sourced from upstate Maine and the dye is purchased in Indiana.

Company retained in the United States

After the formation of Dresden & Company, in 2019 the Longaberger brand was revived by an out-of-state company to sell branded baskets under that name. Dresden & Company was contracted by the Longaberger Company to manufacture a number of baskets, but Dresden & Company is otherwise not affiliated with the Longaberger brand, Baker said.

A number of unique products from American companies passed down from generation to generation are featured in the collection.

Cici Bevin now represents Bevin Bells, the six-generation family bell company based in East Hampton, Connecticut. The town was once home to 20 bell companies and was colloquially called Belltown.

“Especially at times like now when things seem very uncertain, I feel the American-made message resonates very strongly and what that means on a deeper level,” Bevin said.

Cici Bevin

Every material in Dresden & Company’s baskets is sourced from the United States to the eyelash of a gnat: the hard maple veneer comes from northwest Ohio and upstate Maine, the liners from plastic basket come from Columbus; wood stain is supplied by Indiana.

This continues in the November-December holiday collection, with glassware handcrafted in Ohio, wooden bowls with wood sourced from Midwestern forests, and natural ingredients in soaps and sauces.

Holland Bowl Mill in Michigan has been practicing the art of wood bowl turning since 1926. Full grain wood is sourced directly from regional forests and every part of the tree is utilized.

“It’s something we really hang our hats off to,” said Kory Gier, company vice president of the plant’s USA-made products. “One of the reasons we’ve been able to last so long is the Michigan and Midwestern clientele.”

Kory Gier

All of the dinnerware in the collection was made by the pottery company of Zanesville, Ohio Stoneware. Zanesville is often referred to as one of Ohio’s pottery capitals beginning in the 19th century.

Creative director Michael Kennedy said basket making originated in Dresden to provide baskets for the pottery industry.

“It is our responsibility to ensure that this story continues,” he said.

Continuing the tradition of Dresden

Dresden & Company was founded following the closure of Longaberger in 2018.

“We felt a strong desire to resurrect basket weaving in Dresden and employ locals who have spent their lives making baskets,” Baker said.

Part of that preserves Ohio’s long pottery history, Kennedy said. This is part of what started the Dresden basket weaving tradition 100 years ago.

Debbie Alexander lives in Dresden and wove baskets for Longaberger for 39 years before closing her doors.

“I had no idea what I was going to do after that,” the Dresden resident said. “Like you’ve worked your whole life doing the same thing, and that’s it.”

His two children were also basket weavers for Longaberger.

Heidi McPeak had started at Longaberger in 1992 when she graduated from high school and worked there for 10 years. Dave Longaberger spoke at his graduation.

McPeak, who lives in Warsaw, started working at Dresden & Company years after leaving Longaberger and was initially worried about going back to weaving, but she said it was “like riding a bike”. She just picked it up.

“I just decided, I want to see if I can still do it,” she said. “I saw on Facebook that they were hiring and decided to apply because I really missed it.”

Now more than a year in the business, Kennedy said it’s these stories that make Dresden & Company’s mission unique.

“I think what resonates is that there are thousands of cities like Dresden across America,” Kennedy said. “I think it’s something people can connect with.”

For information visit Dresden & Company website.

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Twitter: @erinccouch

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