No Longer Made In The USA: Manhattan Portage


As long-time readers of this blog know, I am committed to the idea of Made-in-the-USA products. I don’t believe that this country can prosper if we send manufacturing overseas. Nor do I believe that manufacturing jobs are obsolete or unnecessary for America. Not in a country where at least one in six working-age American citizens is effectively unemployed. It’s a nice thought to believe that the American economy can subsist entirely on Starbucks and real-estate sales and working at Subway but it’s not true and it is leading to the inevitable collapse of this country as we have known it.

Which is why I’m typing this as I sit in an American-made chair, wearing American-made shoes, socks, jeans, belt, and shirt. Regrettably, I’m typing it on a Chinese laptop. The next one I buy will be at least assembled in this country. Maybe a Lotus PC.

It’s my goal to bring American-made products to your attention as often as I can. The flip side of that is calling out companies for moving production overseas. So… step into the ring, “Manhattan Portage”!

I’d heard good things about Manhattan Portage backpacks. Noting that they cost a bit less than the Waterford bag that’s served me faithfully for years (more on that in the future) I thought I’d check them out. But when I read the following paragraphs, I knew there was something afoot:

Manhattan Portage is New York Tough and Downtown Smart.

We have preserved our core principles and egalitarian vision of “a bag for everyone” with the added value of “New York Tough” – a bag for all, in a style for everyone that’s as smart as the city itself. We remain committed to the fundamental guidelines that we set years ago for great, innovative designs, use of the highest quality materials, superb construction and excellent craftsmanship which have always been the hallmarks of all our products.

When we began this extraordinary enterprise some three decades ago, it was a labor of love and a lesson in necessity really being the mother of invention. We responded to the needs and lifestyles of New York’s fast-moving bike messenger community by creating the strong, practical and well-constructed Manhattan Portage prototype. The reputation of these rugged and versatile bags spread like wildfire and very soon, not only were working class heroes like messengers using them, but moms, students, artists and musicians, teachers, nurses and people from all walks and ways of life were carrying MP bags in the streets and on the subways all over town and on trains and planes across country.

A local phenomenon was becoming a national sensation and a symbol of the new emerging urban culture. Our bags and backpacks have earned their “street cred”- their proven usefulness as a reliable and really tough companion on the streets in one of the most demanding cities in the world, New York – the epicenter of fashion and finance, the arts and culture, media, music and money.

Like the ever-changing city itself, Manhattan Portage has weathered the tides of history from the economic storms of the 1980’s, the political turmoil of the 90’s, the fallen heroes and the fallen towers of September 11th to the turbulent currents of the new century. And like the city, we were a witness to these events and we have endured, we have grown, we have expanded and we have survived because Manhattan Portage is New York Tough.

That’s why we have created a brand new campaign based on this theme – “Manhattan Portage: New York Tough and Downtown Smart”- because we have lived it and experienced it ourselves from the very beginning through the difficult days of our first venture on the Lower East Side to our current headquarters in fashionable Soho.

Manhattan Portage has weathered the fallen towers of September 11th. And you thought that you knew what the word “shameless” meant. But although MP survived a pair of Saudi-piloted American jetliners, they were unable to withstand Dutch-owned container ships full of Chinese junk. Experienced observers of Chinese sellouts know that the more the company bleats about “New York Tough” or “Designed in California” or “Pittsburgh Tools”, the faster they’re moving production away from those places. Two pages later on MP’s bloated, self-important, and hugely embarrassing “About Us” subsite, it’s time for the money shot:


Yeah, yeah, yeah. Everybody’s got an excuse. We’re so glad you managed to retain the Web design and synergy-leveraging and cappuccino-making portions of the business in your “New York Tough” home office while letting your company become nothing more than an importer for a real factory somewhere else. Hit the road, Manhattan Portage, and take your pathetic attempt to capitalize on 9/11 with you.

39 Replies to “No Longer Made In The USA: Manhattan Portage”

  1. -Nate

    THANK YOU for this Jack ! .

    I’m still trying hard to find American made hose nozzles for the Taxpayers . I found *one* company and the product looks good but apparently they only want to sell large boxes of thousands just yet so who the hell knows where they’re selling to ? .

    America’s reeling thanx to tump and the resat of those venture (vulture) capitalist asshats you so love , I too agree that we can still make money manufacturing good quality products at reasonable prices .


  2. Paul Alexander

    I believe if you look up the word ‘treacle’ in the OED, there’s merely this fucking nightmare of obfuscation.

    “Hey, we’re still in New York! Well, where all the money goes at least. And since we value money more than people (and ‘Murica’ LOL), you’ll be happy to know that we have done good by money by shifting our manufacturing operations overseas. So: more money for us here in the Big Apple (big shout out to the other 9/11 PTSD sufferers out there) and a lot less for those that aren’t. All things considered, this was a terrific financial decision, I think our branding should help up weather some of that uninformed commentary that’s sure to follow and us investors are feeling oh New York City Tough©. So everything’s great! Excuse us now, we have to take turns pissing sitting down as we can’t do it with someone else in the bathroom.”

  3. Orenwolf

    Apple, when trying to move production to the US, found that most of the infrastructure, skillset, and capacity to produce high quality electronics in the US. Despite this, they did move production of their highest end product, the Mac Pro, to the US.

    Presumably, they did this because, being such an expensive and lower-volume product, the lack of capacity and likely higher manufacturing costs could be absorbed.

    If one investigates *why* things got this way, the answer is pretty obvious: Consumer desire for ever-cheaper products. Prices would have to raise in order for manufacturing to return to the US, because, of course, we pay workers a significantly higher wage (and, depending on the industry, higher raw material costs).

    This leads to two questions in my mind:

    1 – would the average consumer pay more for locally-produced items?

    In my case, I already do, but not universally. For commodities (including food!), I choose locally produced over foreign every time. My money stays local, and it’s likely better for the environment in reduced transportation required to get the item to me. This is true even if the local item is more expensive. Sometimes significantly.

    However, I do not compromise on quality to do so. If the foreign product is the better made product, then I’ll purchase the better made product. This usually only matters for situations where the product’s performance or quality actually matters though (most electronics, or vehicles). Most everything else I try to purchase locally. However, I can afford to do that. Which leads to question 2:

    2 – what impact would this have on low-income families?

    Most low-income families (which, at one point, included myself) don’t have the luxury of making decisions based on their values. The fact that they more frequently visit fast-food establishments is due in part to the value proposition (even so far as to make their dining choices on posted calorie information, choosing the highest calorie, best value food items to stretch their dollar). They shop at walmart, clip coupons, line up for sales, do whatever they can to stretch their dollar. Most of the solutions that would help bring parity to the “made in USA” problem (taxing imports, restricting imports, legislating local production where facilities exist, etc) would raise prices and disproportionately affect the underprivileged.

    So, if one “[doesn’t] believe that this country can prosper if we send manufacturing overseas”, then what’s the plan for solving the value minded consumer issue with #1, and the underprivileged with #2?

    • kvndoom

      “Consumer desire for ever-cheaper products”

      Ever cheaper? Apple electronics are always the most expensive in their class, across the board. The iphone 6 unsubsidized maxes out at $950! A grand for a freakin cell phone!

      What you say is true for probably every other company out there, but certainly not Apple. They make over 90% of all smartphone profits. Every other cell phone maker is selling at a loss or making razor thin profits, even with Chinese manufacturing.

    • Dan

      “[prices would raise]… because, of course, we pay workers a significantly higher wage (and, depending on the industry, higher raw material costs).”

      The costs that come from paying workers better are unavoidable, paying American workers better is the point of the exercise to begin with, but many of the other high costs that discourage keeping business here are much less defensible.

      EPA standards are far and away the tightest in the world and long into diminishing if not non-existent returns. Their new ozone rules coming up, quietly released without discussion on the day before Thanksgiving because that’s the way this administration operates, will kill between 1 and 3 million jobs depending on which study you believe. The EPA themselves, using their most favorable spin on the numbers, admit that these costs amount to $50,000 per asthma attack averted, a quarter million dollars per workday lost. But they literally don’t care, the text of the regulation itself states that “the EPA may not consider the costs of implementing the standards.”

      That’s not even getting into the insane civil legal climate, complexity in business tax structure, OSHA – the new concrete dust law costs 5 billion dollars a year, which is to say another 50,000 blue collar jobs gone -, etc.

      The federal government writes laws for American industry as if foreign industry doesn’t exist.

  4. -Nate

    Thanx for the heads up ! .

    I can deal with non UK made if it’s good =8-) .

    Now , please find me some U.S.A. made hose bibs ! .


  5. E. Bryant

    Did the company drop their retail prices accordingly? I mean, some of that vomit seems to be centered around the idea of keeping the product affordable, so I’m certain that any savings from the offshoring will be posed directly to the customers about whom the company cares so deeply.

    • Paul Alexander

      Hello, this is the brand ambassador for Manhattan Portage. I love your question! To answer that, let me say that we are currently exploring methods of lowering the price point through a number of avenues, which includes a new MP Customer Loyalty Program and discounted offers for affiliated brands, like Brooklyn Beekeeping Supply Co. and The sOcial eXperment (medeival yogurt shop and entrepeneurial workspace). So there are some very exciting customer-centric discount bundles that are certainly in the work! Keep your eyes peeled on our Twitter page! MANHATTAN STRONG!

      As for your comments regarding ‘offshoring’. Well, that’s a little bit of cheap shot IMO, but that’s neither here nor there. Yes, we are transferring our manufacturing base to a more economically advantageous geographical region. Yes, there will be the unfortunate process of disengaging with some of our current Portage family members, which will certainly leave emotional scars for those who will have to break the news. But we remain committed to our core goal of selling overpriced luggage and bags to concerned shoppers. After all, we are an extraordinary enterprise!

      • Texn

        you must have majored in art, history, or literature. Or a combination of the three, because you just spewed a whole bunch of crap. I hope they’re not paying you to be an ambassador…well they won’t be when they have to “optimize”.

        • Paul Alexander

          That comment was completely ironic, I have no affiliation with Manhattan Portage, nor would I ever associate with a bunch of money grubbing, soulless hipsters.

          I will take your ‘you must have majored in art, history, or literature’ comment as a compliment, as I have no degree to speak of.

          • Paul Alexander

            Please replace ‘ironic’ with ‘tongue in cheek’. I couldn’t think of the correct term earlier. Irony has been ruined by hipsters and their He-Man butt fucking Garfield tattoos and mom jeans.

          • Jack Baruth Post author

            “their He-Man butt fucking Garfield tattoos”

            I know you just made that up but I bet somebody has it.

        • Guest

          Nothing wrong with majoring in art, history, or literature. Even though Paul said he didn’t have a degree, he writes like he had one from one of those three fields that you named.

          Writing skills are underrated. Many employers need them.

  6. Reese B

    For anyone seeking a good US-made bag, I’ve had a Bailey Works 253 (made in NH) for almost 20 years now, and I don’t expect to replace it for another 20 at least. One of the toughest things I’ve ever owned, period.

    • -Nate

      Long before Courier Bags were trendy I was using new old stock WWII surplus ones , every few years one would get pinched , now I’m using Military Surplus Medical bags

      Not stylish to other perhaps but cheap and durable .


  7. Ronnie Schreiber

    I haven’t been able to find out where Jansport currently makes their backpacks, but they do still honor their lifetime warranty. I bought their leather bottomed pack decades ago on clearance and they’ve replaced it a couple of times, no questions asked. I use it to carry stuff when riding my bicycle, so they get wet from rain and bleached by the sun, and they’re pretty durable.

    Eddie Bauer still honors their old lifetime warranty, but it’s not the same company. They don’t make a coat as good as my 25 year old Ridgeline parka any more. It’s looking pretty ratty at this point and there are enough things wrong that they’ll replace it for free, but what they sell today is dreck.

  8. Jim

    If you need an American made “messenger” bag or backpack for your job delivering important documentation by fixie, there are plenty of companies which will accommodate you, including Rickshaw Bagworks of San Francisco.

    I know it’s off point, but it appears most of the bicycle messengers in my town have taken to delivering sandwiches to maintain a hipster lifestyle. After lunch recently, one of them was waiting in the lobby with his bicycle tattoos, nose ring, carefully ripped shorts, white guy dreadlocks, and a damned cardboard box of Jimmy Johns. When I came back down several minutes later to meet a colleague he was still there, looking a little bored, waiting for someone to accept his delivery. Premium Rush indeed.

    The messenger bicycle of choice appears to be the Surly Steamroller. I’d encourage you to visit surlybikes dot com. It appears they have cynically copy/pasted/rewritten the Pearl Jam Vitalogy album liner notes in an attempt to make people forget that most of their product comes from Taiwan. A Schwinn descendant is still making stuff in Waterford, Wisconsin, but why spend three times the price to get the same quality?

    Youthful rebellion may be as dead as most American manufacturing, but at least Americans can still give each other meaningless lifestyle tattoos.

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      I’m around the corner from a Jimmy John’s at work and I see the delivery boys and girls all day. The boys strike me as fairly ridiculous. A couple of the girls… would fuck them once and die in their embrace like a praying mantis.

      • -Nate

        Jesus H. Christ Jack ! lighten up , they’re just ignorant KIDS (differing from stupid kids) .

        Didn’t you ever do foolish things ?! hell , I used to wear bell bottom trousers and have long hair to my waist….

        I sure wish I could find some ‘photos of back then , you’d spit out your coffee ! =8-) .


  9. Adrian Sun

    Here in Australia we are facing similar issues with a huge decline in what we manufacture locally, from cars to clothing etc. An uncompetitive labour market is cited as one of the reasons, and the current Conservative (read Republican) government is attempting to reduce penalty rates for those who work on weekends, such as employees of Starbucks and Subway. Yet recently they decided not to look at closing corporate tax loopholes where billions of dollars of profit are syphoned offshore.

    Do you think that the millions of average employees of Starbucks, Subway, service or manufacturing industries can afford to spent a couple of hundred dollars on some towels or similar on a pair of Allen Edmonds shoes?

  10. atonge40

    Where do you get American made socks? Wigwam? Fox River? I have the hardest time finding good, US made, dress socks.

    • -Nate

      @ atonge40 :

      Wigwam works for me ~ I ordered cushion soled boot socks and received some very nice thin (I can SEE through them) black dress socks that still look new a could years later .

      I only wear them occasionally or when I’m out of cushion soled boot socks .


  11. -Nate

    @ awagliar ;

    This is _NOT_ hijacking ! this thread is all about made in America ! .

    It looks like this one : will work .

    The other one doesn’t have the pistol grip typ of regular hose nozzle I need …..

    THANK YOU SO MUCH ! I’m a Computer dummy and have been diligently searching for these .


  12. Cdotson

    I had never heard of Lotus PC before. I know Velocity Micro builds computers in the US (a few miles from my home) but I’ve never personally used one.

    I don’t intend to be a contrarian but US manufacturing output is as high (higher I think) as it has ever been. Additionally manufacturing productivity in the US has advanced so rapidly that we produce more even as we employ fewer people in manufacturing. The things the US makes just aren’t the things individuals buy for their daily lives and I don’t necessarily see an inherent problem with that.

  13. Orenwolf

    Kvndom: I apologize if my post was confusing. I didn’t intentionally infer that Apple bringing a major product line to the US had anything to do with ever cheaper products.

    The quest for cheaper products pushed manufacturing capacity overseas. So much so that when Apple, who has the margins needed to make products I the USA, tried to do so. They found the infrastructure and skill set did not exist in North America any longer, which lead to them creating that infrastructure from scratch, and, a huge delay in the release of the new Mac Pro.

    So if that’s what *Apple* was facing, imagine the barrier for companies with smaller margins to follow suit.

    • Texn

      We bought a refurb iMac. The bigger one. I was pretty stoked the box said “Assembled in USA”, it’s the small things that make me happy. I’m sure it was refurbished/reassembled with Chinese made components but at least an American has a manufacturing job with a computer company. I should add that I remember my dad’s disappointment when he bought anApple computer and it did not say it was made in the U.S.

  14. Pingback: Made In The USA: Waterfield Bags | Riverside Green

  15. John Peters

    As founder of Manhattan portage I made all our products in NYC for almost 30 years. Yes I would have be rich if I went overseas and retailers don’t care where the products are made it only the mark up that matters. When i sold Manhattan Portage the new owners started importing all the products. they could get a bag made for 18 bucks and retail it for 125 dollars. NY made i worked on 40% mark up. All the talk about NY tough was because they feared they would lose customers when consumers found out products were not american made anymore. I currently manufacture under John peters new york in Korea. All products are sold in korea. Over the years i started a new industry of bags by using plastic hardware and cordura nylon. Made my first cordura bag in 1976.

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      Mr. Peters, thank you for chiming here, and thank you for the work you did over the years to keep Americans employed!

    • Guest

      I have a Manhattan Portage bag that I bought in 1996 and am still using. Its famous red patch states “Made in,” but doesn’t make it clear where. I assume it was made in Manhattan or New York or the U.S.

      The current Manhattan Portage bags no longer have “Made in” printed on their patches.

      My bag suffered some damage during its early years. One of its buckles broke, while its smaller pocket (the one enclosed by a zipper) developed a hole. Both times I took it to the Spring Street location and they replaced the buckle and fixed the hole without charge.

      I wonder if they’d do that today.


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