By late 2008, Mike Petro had seen enough. It was, for many, the height of the financial mess in this country, marked by bank failures, mortgage crisis, and bailouts; in his view, the financial structure of the United States was teetering on the brink.
“Middle-class workers were taking out home equity loans to pay bills because they were maxed out on their credit cards; their 401(k) plans were shrinking,” Petro said.
In his hometown of Dayton, Ohio, he said, six General Motors plants closed, jettisoning thousands of mostly middle-class workers.
Petro said something needed to change. In response, he and business partner Dennis Cunningham drew plans to create the All American Store, where every item sold would be made or assembled in the United States.
“We wanted to create a company where people came to a central location and bought products made by Americans at American-made companies,” Petro said.
It took well over a year for Petro to compile -- and vet for authenticity -- the list of manufacturers who could supply an 8,000-sq.-ft. store in Brookville, Ohio, with everything from nails and screws to blue jeans. “It was a difficult search,” he said.
The first All American Store opened in April 2010. There are now two locations in Ohio and business is good, Petro said.
"We are very unique in having only U.S.-made products," Petro said. “Every time a customer comes into our store and purchases a product, we say, ‘Thanks for buying American; we’d like you to know you are supporting fellow Americans.’ ”
Though the All American Store has a wide variety of items, one constant is its “Made in the USA” label, which supports Petro's goal of building-up the country's work force. "We are here for the American workers, for the families they have to support and for the communities in which they live, in the greatest country in the world."
Since starting his venture, Petro has garnered a great deal of favorable attention. He said one story attracted 20,000 hits to the company website, allamericanstore.us, within a 72-hour span. “The business definitely has grown in the two years -- it makes you feel good,” he said.
Petro’s goal is to have The All American stores in every U.S. state and to eventually take the company public. “We’re getting inundated with requests for franchising opportunities,” he said.
Petro said if efforts like his can retain or create jobs in the United States, “I think we can impact the quality of life of the everyday person of this country. That’s the whole focus of this company.”