Mike on America

China, but not From There

H.F. Coors China

Here's a business conundrum. When a bigger guy -- say the Chinese -- are effectively trying to put you out of business, what do you do?

How about get smaller, quicker and smarter. That's what  Dirck Schou and Dave Sounart did at H.F. Coors China company in Tucson, Arizona.

And it's something more U.S. companies should do. Enough with the 'panties in a bunch' already, crying about 'unfair competition.'

At one time H.F. Coors was making four million coffee mugs a year. Some going to Starbucks, others to decorators. The Chinese came in, cut prices, and then cut them again. Goodbye Starbucks and the decorators. But say hello to a whole new market 'niche.'

'We emphasize custom work, satisfying your needs, being able to deliver when you want it. It's a very carefully crafted out and fallen-into niche that allows us to compete', says Schou, the company President.

Concentrating on a demanding wholesale restaurant trade, H.F. Coors (by the way, yes, it's that 'Coors' family -- Dad went into brewing, one of the sons went into plates) delivers a durable china product that fits nicely into restaurants across the country. Ever been to the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park? That mug, or plate, or bowl you bought with its signature design was made in Tucson at H.F. Coors.

Ever been on a Navy ship? Those ubiquitous, white, government-issue coffee mugs were also made here. This combination of quick to market, Coors can get you anything you want in a few days, and custom chef's design their own plates at times to best show off their food pallet, is what makes this company one of just a handful still making china domestically.

Servicing national and regional restaurant and hotel chains, as well as specialty retailers like direct sales giant Longenberger, H.F. Coors also represents something else -- a homecoming.
Schou was raised here. And when he decided to sell his china operation in England, where better to set up shop again? At home, in the U.S. making china the way the Chinese can't.
So next time you're in a restaurant sneak a peek at the underside of your dinner plate. If you see an 800 number it's likely H.F.Coors. They're slowly getting into retail sales and have baked a little advertising right in.

Back to road, headed for Detroit. We'll be Dream Crusin' this weekend. See you on Woodward Avenue.

Questions?  Comments?  mikeonamerica@nbcuni.com