Made in NY: From Nalgene bottles to Cutco knives, 6 great Empire State made products

Kate Collins
Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin

While New York State is known globally for its stunning views, award-winning wines and Broadway shows, the Empire State is also home to a diverse manufacturing industry: In 2018, manufacturing in New York accounted for close to $75 billion in gross state product and employed nearly half a million workers, according to U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the U.S. Census Bureau. 

From Rochester's Nalgene to the Aurora Shoe Company in the Finger Lakes, many companies on our list take pride in sourcing all American materials. All emphasize sustainability.

With the holidays right around the corner, here are six great Made in New York products to gift to someone on your list (or yourself) while supporting Empire State businesses. 

Golden Artist Color

A Golden Artist Colors color chart. Located in Chenango County, the majority employee-owned company produces artists' paints. Photo courtesy of Golden Artist Colors, Inc.

After a long career making paints for famous artists in New York City, Sam Golden retired to Chenango County. But the paint pioneer missed mixing up color and in 1980 founded Golden Artist Color, Inc. in a rural New Berlin barn, with his co-founder son, Mark, making weekly trips to New York City to sell the acrylic paints.

Golden Artist Color, Inc. has since expanded to over 200 employee-owners. In addition to the innovative acrylics, Golden makes Williamsburg Handmade Oil Colors and the Golden Artist QoR Modern Watercolor system. 

While free Golden factory tours and gallery visits are offered, the programs are temporarily suspended due to the pandemic.

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Aurora Shoe Company, Cayuga County

Located in the picturesque village of Aurora in the Finger Lakes region, the Aurora Shoe Company has been creating custom-made fine leather shoes since the 1990s.

Each pair of Aurora shoes starts with feet tracings to ensure the perfect fit. The small group of Aurora artisans then handcraft the shoes in-house using only American-sourced materials. The leather, from a family-owned Midwest tannery, is sustainable

Aurora Shoe Company has gained a worldwide following; they've shipped to six continents. For local shoe shoppers, Aurora has a factory outlet open on Fridays.

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McIntosh Labs, Inc., Broome County

For over 70 years, McIntosh has been a pioneer in sound, from powering Woodstock '69 to the Grateful Dead's "Wall of Sound." The iconic "McIntosh Blue" Watt Meters is the global symbol of quality audio.

McIntosh was founded in 1949 in Binghamton, where it continues to engineer and manufacture high-quality, innovative audio, theater and auto sound systems in a factory that looks like an amplifier. 

Grateful Dead founding member Bob Weir is among the brand's fans, recently narrating "The Voice of Sound" for McIntosh.

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Nalgene Outdoors, Monroe County

Nalgene Outdoor is first to market with a unique sustainable reusable water bottle made from 50% transformed 'trash," Nalgene Sustain.  The bottles deliver the same high quality, leak-proof, BPA- and BPS-free, food-safe bottles Nalgene consumers expect. Provided photo / Nalgene Outdoor

Nalgene, the reusable water bottle synonymous with outdoor adventure, began n the mid-20th century, when chemist Emanuel Goldberg developed the first plastic pipette jars and founded the Nalge Company in Rochester.

By the 1960s, the company’s scientists were taking the leak-proof lab containers on Adirondack camping trips. As the outdoor subculture grew during the 1970s, so did the need for lightweight, environmentally-friendly bottles. Thus Nalgene Outdoor began making high-quality reusable bottles and marketing them to adventure enthusiasts.

Nalgene solidified its place in American history in 1980, when the men’s USA Hockey Team used Nalgene bottles during the Winter Olympic “Miracle on Ice” game in Lake Placid.

In 2020, Nalgene introduced its Sustain collection. Made from 50% certified recycled plastic material. Nalgene Sustain bottles are sourced in Tennessee and manufactured in Rochester.

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Cutco, Cattaraugus County

Cutco, North America's largest manufacturer of kitchen cutlery, was founded in the small Southern Tier city of Olean more than 70 years ago and has been making knives there ever since.

The company has grown to include cookware and tableware, with retail stores and independent marketers throughout the U.S. and abroad. Yet Cutco remains rooted in small-town American values: all Cutco products are backed by “The Forever Guarantee" and you can even have your Cutco knife sharpened in your home for free.

Cutco also makes KA-BAR knives, which have been used by the military and sportsmen for over 120 years. Visitors can learn more about the history of both Cutco and KA-BAR knives at the Cutco/KA-BAR Visitors Center in Olean. 

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Hanks Belts, Broome County

Hanks Belts is so confident in their belts that they guarantee them for a full 100 years.

Located in Endicott, Hanks began as an Army/Navy store in 1949. More than 70 years later, Hanks Belts makes belts, wallets and accessories made from full-grain, USA- source steer hide.

In addition to dress and casual belts, Hanks specializes in concealed-carry gun belts and holsters. For pups, Hanks even has a selection of leather collars and leashes.

Hanks Belts has raked in rave reviews for its lasting quality but if you want to try one on for size, you won't find these belts in any retail shop. Hanks Belts sells direct to consumers, currently available online only. 

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