Comments Off on Awesome Jacob Bromwell Review & Interview with Company President Sean Bandawat
There are few companies in the US today that evoke a feeling of tradition and Americana like Jacob Bromwell. Having been purveyors of high quality and Made in the USA household and gift products since 1819, you might think that in the 21st century where smartphones and laptops are disposed of and replaced as casually as a pair of socks or underwear, that a copper whiskey flask, popcorn popper or cheese grater would be smiled upon as sweet and nostalgic – but hardly something today’s consumers would be coveting.
Jacob Bromwell’s Appeal
However, you would be mistaken, because Jacob Bromwell has bucked the trend toward disposable consumerism when other US manufacturers have thrown up their hands and thrown in the towel. But not Jacob Bromwell.
This company might appear to be somewhat of a mystery to those who live, work, and shop in a here-today/gone-tomorrow tilt-a-whirl of big box stores and media-generated consumer madness that seems to engulf most of our society.
But the moment you step into the world of Jacob Bromwell, there is a palpable feeling that you’ve returned home, and suddenly, you wonder when plastic replaced glass and metal, or when the slimy and chemical ridden microwave popcorn became “normal” versus fresh-popped.
As I shop at Jacob Bromwell, I am personally overtaken by wondering what the heck has happened to our lives, and feeling that the rest of the world has just gone crazy.
We reached out to the company president
And that’s what brings me here. I had to find out more about this company, so I reached out to Sean Bandawat, President of The Bromwell Company to find out more about what makes these guys keep on ticking.
How is it that this company has been able to avoid being swallowed by big box stores and “Big Corporation?”
It’s obvious, from the moment you visit the company’s website that Jacob Bromwell adheres to its mission of helping folks not only immerse themselves in our historical traditions, but also to help our children and our children’s children do the same. Our history and traditions are too important to allow them to fade away, and the Jacob Bromwell brand aims to be sure that doesn’t happen.
I was so delighted when Sean agreed to an exclusive interview with us here at MyFavDeals.org! It was so much fun that we wound up turning the interview into a video so that our readers and customers could hear all this straight from Sean. So, I have included the video here for your listening and viewing pleasure! If you prefer to read what we talked about, I’ve got the interview right here!
Let’s dive in!
The Jacob Bromwell Exclusive Interview
Kathy Tremblay: Hello everybody this Kathy Tremblay with myfavdeals.org and I have a great and distinct pleasure of being on the phone with Sean Bandawat who is the president of the Bromwell Company. Which is the company who behind Jacob Bromwell which is a wonderful company, a wonderful website, and steeped in tradition; almost 200 years old.
We’re going to learn all about it today with Sean. Sean are you there?
Sean Bandawat: I am. Thanks so much.
Kathy: Thank you! We are so psyched to have you on this. This is really, probably, I’m going to say this is the first MyFavDeals podcast that we’re doing and I’m so exciting about it. I know that a lot of people, probably, already know what Jacob Bromwell is but for those of our readers and our listeners who aren’t familiar with you can you give just a brief background of the company, and a little bit of the history, and how the original Jacob Bromwell got started with this?
Sean: Absolutely. Jacob Bromwell is one of oldest companies in America founded in 1819. Like you said, it’s just about 200 years old, a few years shy of 200. It is the oldest kitchenware and housewares manufacturing company in North America as well. It’s a company steeped with history, American history and, obviously, much older than all of us here, that work here today.
The products that we make are nostalgic, heritage products. Kitchenware, bakeware, home goods, various copper products like flasks and copper cups, things like that. They’re all backed by a lifetime guarantee, they’re all made in the USA, and they all have that nostalgic feel to them. We’re selling in a very niche market to customers that appreciate those types of things.
Jacob Bromwell customers
Kathy: Tell me a little bit about the customer. How on earth did the customers find you? I know that a lot of it has an urban and hip feel to it.
Sean: We really have two main types of customers. The first type is for the kitchenware line. It’s actually more middle aged and older women that can identify with the bakeware products. Like the flour sifter, and the cheese grater, things like that.
On that note, really quickly, it’s actually related to this: one in four American households actually owns a Bromwell cheese grater.
They may not know it but it’s a pretty popular item. We’ve sold more than 100 million of those since the company was founded and so a lot of households still have them. A lot of people still purchase those, especially women, because they’re used to that product and they’ve used it for so many years.
Then the other customer that we have is, like you said, the hipster. Men and women who are in their 20s and 30s and urban areas, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Boston, places like that where they’re looking for products that are unique and speak to their individual character.
Bromwell Products = Longevity
Kathy: That is fabulous. I can speak to that one in four households, by the way. Now, I don’t know if it’s a Jacob Bromwell but I have one of those graters at my house that I got … oh my gosh I can’t tell you how long we’ve had it. I don’t know if I got that or if John got it from his family but it is old and it is the only grater we use at home. I’m not sure it’s a Jacob Bromwell but if it isn’t it’s a close imitator, I am telling you.
Sean: It may be a Jacob Bromwell it may not be but over the years, unfortunately … It’s pretty unfortunate but the products weren’t always stamped with Bromwell on it. It actually more than likely is but, unfortunately, there’s no hard way to tell.
Kathy: I’ll tell you, it’s got a lot of age to it. It’s solid as anything we’ve ever had. It’s the only grater. We didn’t bring it down south with us this year because we’re in a tiny car but it’s like how can we live without our grater? That is the grater. It’s interesting that you mention that.
With Jacob Bromwell being nearly 200 years old, to your knowledge Sean, are there any other companies going this strong for so long?
Sean: There’s a handful but most of the companies that are that old, by this point in time, they’ve either been acquired, they’ve been renamed, they’ve gone out of business. One thing or another happened where they’re either not exactly intact anymore.
There’s really only a handful of companies that are as old as we are that have still been in continuous operation making the same products for that long. We’re pretty proud of that accomplishment. Absolutely.
Kathy: You should be. Are any of the original Jacob Bromwell’s descendants still involved? Just out of curiosity.
Sean: They’re not. Obviously, the company was founded by Jacob Bromwell back in 1819 and it stayed in the family for a while. I want to say one or two family members after he passed continued running the company and then, at that point, it was sold so they are not. I actually do have a relationship with some of the family members that still live in Ohio, where the company was founded. It’s pretty neat to talk to them and to get their perspective on things.
Kathy: Wow. I love that. Now, back in 1819, obviously, life wasn’t as complicated and I remember reading over on the site … By the way, that is an outstanding website. I don’t know if you were behind that but that is a fabulous, fabulous website. It’s like a history story in itself.
Sean: Thank you.
Jacob Bromwell History
Kathy: You’re welcome. It started with wire brushes, am I correct?
Sean: It did. It started off as a wire weaving business and a lot of people don’t know what that is. Wire weaving back in the early 1800s was a pretty popular thing. The Bromwell Company had thousands of products in the catalog from wire benches to flour sifters, which we obviously still make today, to mops, brooms, rat traps.
All different types of products that really appealed to Americans at that time. Wire weaving was one of the original types of goods that the company made.
Kathy: There had to be a couple of brick and mortar stores. Was the Bromwell Company originally stretched throughout the frontier, was it a wagon, how were things sold?
Sean: The company was founded in Cincinnati, Ohio which, at the time, was just about as west as you could get in the United States which is crazy to think about. They used to actually call that area the West. That was where the company was founded and Jacob Bromwell himself set up shop.
He was a war veteran of the war of 1812 which was a pretty gruesome battle. The story on our website goes into more detail on this but he, basically, went on a flat boat … a totally true story.
Took a flat boat, crossed the Mississippi River, went to Cincinnati, Ohio, and set up the Bromwell Brush and Wire Goods Company. Set up a shop in Cincinnati, Ohio, and hired people, and started making products.
The company grew rapidly and by the late 1800s it was actually the largest manufacturing company in the United States for a short period of time. Had thousands of employees across seven states: Indiana, and Ohio, Illinois, all throughout the Midwest there.
It was a pretty big operation for a while.
Long History, and Early Presence on the Internet
Kathy: Can you imagine what he would think right now about the Internet? To think that 200 years later his goods would be being sold in this space-age.
Sean: Electronic world, yeah.
Kathy: When did you guys hit the Internet? When did Jacob Bromwell go online?
Sean: We were actually pretty early to e-commerce. We went live with our site in the early 90s like ’93, ’94.
Kathy: No kidding? Wow.
Sean: Yeah. Which, at the time, was pretty aggressive.
Kathy: That’s interesting. If you think about the similarities between Jacob Bromwell 200 years ago doing something that was very unusual in his day and the company still did something unusual not even 200 years later by being one of the pioneers in e-commerce when you think about it.
Sean: That’s true. Absolutely.
Bromwell Products Made with Pride in the USA
Kathy: I know there’s a big section on the site about made in the USA and also I’ve seen on your blog where you talk about the differences between assembled in the USA, made in the USA, et cetera. There’s a big point of pride, I think, with the Jacob Bromwell company about being US sourced.
Are the craftsmen themselves using any vintage or original types of equipment? Is everything sourced in the US? Tell me a little bit about that aspect of production.
Sean: Being made in the USA is absolutely important to us. It’s important to our customers, it’s important to us ethically and morally. We want to make products here. A
lot of the reasons our products are so expensive is … it’s pretty obvious anyone looking at our products the first thing they almost always notice is price. The fact that they’re made here, fully made here, to answer your question, 100% made here with materials sourced domestically. When you add up those costs it can get expensive.
Again, we believe that where a product is made is just as important as the product itself. That’s important to our customers. Obviously, we can’t sell as many units as other companies sell at a Walmart or a Target for a fraction of the cost of ours but it’s important to us and we’re selling to a segment of the population that values that.
Factory Locations & Employees
Kathy: I think that’s wonderful. I value it and I know an awful lot of people personally who do value that which is, of course, one of the things that caught my partners and my eye when we first came across you. We really, really love featuring high quality products on the site.
I happen to know where one of your factories is. It’s up near Jay, Vermont, if I’m not mistaken which is about as north as you can go in Vermont before you’re at the border. It’s just a couple of hours away from my house.
How many people are you guys employing these days? I know that area, I know the North country and the North country is a tough, tough place to make a living. To have a factory that far north says a lot about the integrity of your company. Tell me a little bit about the employees.
Sean: Thank you. Sure. We operate a few different facilities. The one up in North Vermont is our copper facility where all of our copper goods are made. Then we have a factory in Markle, Indiana which was where we make all of our heritage products, are kitchenware and bakeware primarily. Then we have offices in Los Angeles, where the company’s headquartered, and a sales office in Orange County.
We have a variety of different other facilities as well. Overall, we’re employing about … On and off, the company’s seasonal and we scale up during high season but I would say on average we’re about 25 to 35 employees.
Kathy: 25 to 35 employees, that’s pretty amazing. All that stuff comes out of the hands of 25 to 35 people. Wow.
I’ve seen some of the videos and I’ve seen some of the photos with some of the workmanship going into it. Are some of the craftsmen using original types of equipment? Is everything more modern or do some of them actually use some of the older types of tools?
Products Made to the Authentic, Original Designs
Sean: That’s right, you’d asked that. All the products we make have brand-new parts. Just to give you an example. For example, the flour sifter is authentic to the original design that was used 200 years ago. Everything is brand-new but we essentially re-created the tools and the parts to be exact duplicates.
Kathy: I see exactly what you’re saying.
Sean: Either exact or they’re near exacts. It’s been a balance that we’ve had to strike because we’ve obviously wanted to maintain the original look and feel of the product but also increase the quality wherever and whenever that was needed. It’s been a fine line that we’ve had to walk on some of the items but whenever possible we try to maintain that authenticity.
Kathy: Has anybody come forward with a real antique, with a really old piece? What’s the oldest piece you’ve seen come through since you’ve been on board with the company?
Sean: We get customers all the time that reach out with a Bromwell product that they’ve had passed down for 50 years, or 100 years, or even more. Very common. We hear from customers weekly with those types of comments and photos. We have products here in our sample room and in our office that are literally from the early 1800s, original pieces.
Kathy: I’d love to come across some of that type of thing. We always have our eyes open for pieces when we’re out on the yard sale and auction circuit. It’s just one of those things I’ll keep my eyes open for especially up in the North country.
(NOTE: Since this interview aired and went on YouTube, I have personally located 3 vintage Jacob Bromwell products! Here are the photos!)
We’ve talked a little bit about the history and what have you. If you were to pinpoint one particular thing what’s the most significant event that you can think that has been part of the company’s history? The biggest impact or most significant event?
The Company Survived the Great Depression
Sean: That’s a great question. The first thing that comes to mind is The Great Depression. We have a lot of company documents here from The Great Depression and the business came extremely close to going out of business during that time.
According to records, the company was losing money every year by a lot. The management, at the time, decided to stay the course and continue to employ people.
They believed in the upcoming prosperity of America and that they were going to get out of it. I’m so happy that they decided to do that and they didn’t close the doors because that would’ve been a fatal mistake. A lot of businesses at that time did close their doors.
Sean’s Point of View as President of the Company
Kathy: Wow. How long have you been part of the company, Sean?
Sean: This is going to be my sixth year now.
Kathy: Awesome. That’s really great. I have to tell you, I personally really appreciated the communication that you’ve given me.
I know you’re a busy guy so to be able to talk with the president of a company is really a rare instance in your busy day and I want you to know I really do appreciate it as do my partners, and as do our readers because they’re going to be seeing this.
Since you are pretty much the head honcho what, would do you like best?
Sean: There’s a lot of leaders of companies that just like to sit behind their desk, and close their office door, and just be a hermit.
I’m the exact opposite. I really enjoy people, I enjoy talking to customers, I enjoy talking to constituents like yourself, anyone that is involved in the business in some way. I like to be on the front lines as much as possible. While I enjoy leading, and setting a vision and direction for the company, and managing people I also very much enjoy being on the field and talking directly to customers and getting that feedback directly.
Kathy: Since you are so involved and you’re involved in every aspect of the company from the person who, probably, packs the boxes up to the person who’s hammering copper when it comes to this company what is it you’re most proud of?
Sean: Boy, that’s another good one. I’m going to sound a little bit like a broken record saying this but it’s really just the fact that our products are made here and that we’re employing American workers.
It would be so much easier to just start producing these products offshore and so many ways. Logistically it would be easier, it would be cheaper, our margins would go up exponentially. Some analysts could look at it on paper and just say that’s totally the right decision go offshore, just like every other company go offshore.
It’s really, really something that I’m personally proud of that we’ve resisted that and that we’ve stayed true to our heritage.
Remaining true to their heritage has been one of their most enduring traits.
Kathy: We’re going to come back to that in a minute because there’s a question I want to ask you so I just made a little note of that said, “Don’t forget that.” When you just talked about going offshore … I think about this sometimes whenever I’m looking at products like yours which are so enduring and just so well made. You just don’t see them. You do not see products that are meant to last the way Jacob Bromwell products are.
We’re in an era where we see so much of this. We see the plastic gadgets, we see disposable household items that we never would’ve seen growing up. When we see so many people with the throwaway products what do you think has contributed to the desire for this enduring product in, what would be considered, a throwaway society?
Sean: That’s a great question. It might be American society has just become such a fast-paced society. I think that might have a lot to do with it. People barely have time to grab lunch they’re so busy.
Kathy: In cases like that, what do you think was the turning point for some of these folks? The ones especially we’re talking about, a lot of urban dwellers who are really attracted to the Bromwell product line. What is it that’s making them want this? Is it because it’s so fast-paced that they feel like they need to anchor themselves in something solid? Your popularity is going through the roof, your popularity is insane.
Jacob Bromwell satisfies a desire for simplicity and quality
Sean: Thank you. Yeah, it’s really been catching on. I think that people are longing for the past in some way. The Jacob Bromwell brand, the products that we sell there so much more than it’s just a flour sifter, just a flask. It’s so much more than that. Our brand speaks to a time when life was simpler and when things were made with care.
When people had to spend with family and friends around an open campfire, and share stories, and cook popcorn, and do those types of things. That’s really what the Jacob Bromwell brand stands for. All of our products are really secondary to that. I think that once you understand our brand and our message it becomes really clear that any of the products that we sell can help you achieve that.
Perfect for Vintage Decor
Kathy: It got me thinking about something. I was thinking about how many of those products I would love in my own home up north. John and I, my husband and I have a mountain cottage and it’s a vintage cottage. It’s been modernized, of course, but these are the types of products that would fit in perfectly with our house.
I was a little surprised at a feeling that I noticed coming upon me almost like when I’m looking at your products. It’s like a rush of wistfulness. It’s like I, again, want that simplicity and that peacefulness that seems to saturate your product line. I was thinking, and my out of my mind?
Sean: Yeah you’re absolutely right. There’s also another part of our product line that’s extremely important to us is embracing the imperfection of our products.
You go to Walmart, for example, and you go to the camping section, and you go to try to find a stainless steel mug it’s perfect. Perfectly machined, came out of the machine in China, they probably made 10,000 that day; the same one that you’re looking at. There’s just nothing there. It’s probably a 3 or $4 cup and it’s perfect, and you use it, and you throw it away, and that’s it. That’s the end of it.
Our products are 100% authentic from the day they were created. Part of that means that they’re not perfect. They may not have the most efficient design, or the most efficient handle, or whatever it is but it’s embracing that authenticity and finding the beauty in it.
The products are sometimes used in surprising ways…
Kathy : Surely, you’ve seen some unusual uses for the products. Obviously, a flask is going to appeal to someone who wants to carry a nip around in style. Is there anything that you’ve seen, any of these products used for that has had you either shaking your head or has surprised you?
Sean: Oh yeah. We have a lot of environmentalists that use our tin cups, for example, because they’re 99% biodegradable. Meaning a lot of people don’t go out camping with their cups or they’ll use their cups for painting, or whatever it is. They’ll use the cup for whatever it is they want to use it for and then instead of throwing it away they just throw it out in the soil or out in the field.
It is biodegradable and over a period of time it actually becomes one with Earth again so that’s pretty interesting. It’s certainly not something that we market or advertise people to do but we’ve had a lot of stories of people doing that.
Kathy: Fascinating. I can’t believe that people would actually toss a mug. Anyway. You get all kinds right?
Jacob Bromwell: seen in movies and TV
Sean: Another interesting thing is Hollywood set designers often frequently use the products. The products have been used in a variety of different films none of which are any that we’ve paid for product placement or anything like that. It’s just been all to our surprise so that’s been neat.
Kathy: I saw that. You were actually pretty sure you saw some in ‘The Revenant,’ the Leonardo DiCaprio film that recently won some awards.
Sean : Yeah. Did you see that movie?
Kathy: Not yet. I’m thinking we we’re going to though because I’m sure that that’s one we would both really enjoy.
Sean: It’s a great film. It’s long but it’s really good. He carries around this canteen with him, this water canteen, for the majority of the movie he’s carrying this canteen around. That’s a Jacob Bromwell canteen.
Kathy: It’s interesting. How do you guys find out that they’re using them? Unless they just buy them you never know. Do you know when they’re going to do this or are you just surprised?
Sean: Most of the time we’re just surprised. Sometimes we get a customer that emails us to say you were featured or we get someone directly involved in the movie. Most of the time we just come across it.
Kathy: Did water canteen did sales go through the roof after ‘The Revenant?’
Sean: I would like to say yes but, in that case, really I don’t think so. It’s one of those things where there was no mention of Jacob Bromwell anywhere. I don’t think anybody connected the dots on that one and said, “Oh, that’s a Jacob Bromwell product.” It’s just interesting to see our items used throughout a variety of films. It’s pretty neat.
Even a cameo appearance on Shark Tank
Kathy: That is really cool. Now, that we’re on the subject of film I want to come back to something you mentioned earlier. You were talking about how there are those who would say you should take your business offshore and blah, blah, blah. I also noticed a mention somewhere on your blog that somehow or another you guys were on ‘Shark Tank?’
Sean: Yeah. We weren’t on ‘Shark Tank’ to raise money but one of the Bromwell graters was used as a prop for one of the companies.
Kathy: I am a huge ‘Shark Tank’ fan. I love it. That’s neat. I’ll have to go and find that.
(NOTE: It was actually a flour sifter that was shown. The company that was using the Bromwell flour sifter in that clip on Shark Tank was the Chapul cricket protein product company.)
Sean: You’d have Robert or Mark saying, “No. Stay here, keep it made here.”
Kathy: That’s a great show. Having Lori demonstrate the grater saying, “This thing is wonderful. You can use it for everything.” Get the grater on whatever that show is that she sells on QVC or whatever.
We were talking about ‘The Revenant’ which is, of course, a movie that takes place a long time ago. Have you ever noticed folks purchasing items for historical reenactment purposes?
Perfect for Re-enactors
Sean: Absolutely. That’s a pretty sizable market for us actually, for some of our products. Like the tin cups. They call them Civil War settlers, the re-enactors, so they purchase those tin cups. Our tin cups were actually made by the Bromwell company and supplied to Confederate and Union soldiers during the Civil War.
Kathy: Awesome. I knew it!
Sean: It’s the exact same cup, the same design, made on the same machines, made by the same company. It’s 100% historically accurate and authentic.
Kathy: What you got new in the works? Anything new in the works?
Sean: I would say every year we, probably, launch maybe a dozen new items. We put a lot of care and thought into those products. We don’t just randomly make things to make them. They have to have meaning, and purpose, and have to tie in nicely to our current assortment.
Jacob Bromwell Limited Editions
Kathy: I’ve seen a couple of limited editions that you’ve had in the past and I wonder about that a little.
Sean: Exactly yeah. That being said, I was going to say, the limited edition flasks are something that we’ve had some success with and we’re going to be rolling out some new designs this year. Pretty exciting!
Kathy: I know we’ve taken a lot of your time but before we close, any meaningful fun anecdotes? Any best thing a customer’s ever shared or one of the more unusual things that you’ve seen in your time there?
Sean: I want to say this was back in 2013, a few years ago, we had a customer call in and say that he was out stranded in the middle of the desert in the summer. I think, he was out in Arizona. He had no food with him, he was lost, he had no compass, he had nothing with him, he was alone, and the only thing he had with him was his flask. It was filled with water and he said that that flask saved his life. That was pretty neat.
Kathy: That is so cool! I thought you were going to say that he found the 800 number carved in the flask and he called for help. Anything else you want to share or anything you’re looking forward to especially with regards to what’s upcoming for the future of the company?
Sean: We’re excited every year to see our mission catching on, and more people joining our movement, more customers purchasing American-made, and coming around to that idea of spending a little bit more money but getting a better quality product that’s going to last a lifetime. Our sales are reflecting that and our growth is there. We’re just excited to keep on going.
Kathy: I’m excited too. I want to just remind my readers and my listeners, who might be listening in on this after we’re done and I get this up on YouTube or what not, that here at our website, at MyFavDeals.org we are putting up as much as our time can get us putting every one of these items up there for you to see.
If you happen to be on our site going through this Jacob Bromwell review, make sure you visit the Jacob Bromwell site, it’s a wonderful site.
Jacob Bromwell – Awarded the MyFavDeals Stamp of Approval
I don’t think I have ever seen such an in-depth site, Sean. With that, I want to also mention to you that we will be bestowing the very original, the very one and only MyFavDeals stamp of approval. We only give this to companies that really have got it all together when it comes to customer service, when it comes to quality products, how you treat your employees. There is nothing that we love more than to just be able to shout a vendor or a merchant from our rooftops and that’s what we’re doing with you guys. It’s a wonderful company.
Sean: Very much appreciated!
Kathy: I’ll be sending you a link that shows you the stamp of approval once we get that up on the site and once we get this piece in the article section which will take me a little time because, of course, there’s a lot to be covered today. Is there anything else that you have to say or anything you would like our listeners and readers to know, Sean? Just go ahead.
Sean: No. I appreciate all your time. For anyone out there that’s interested in purchasing from us we hope to earn your business and hope to have you as a customer.
Kathy: That’s fabulous. We’ve been speaking with Sean Bandawat who’s the president of the Bromwell Company which is the Jacob Bromwell Company, been around for almost 200 years now. We thank all of you for joining us and thank Sean for taking time out of his busy day. We’ll see you all at our website and our respective sites again soon. Thank you listeners and thank you readers. Check back with us again soon.
Sean: Thank you!
The video is right here if you’d enjoy listening in! Thank you for reading!