Origin USA Chief Operating Officer Amanda Roberts said the downtown Farmington storefront is just the beginning for the company’s retail space. Future plans include storefronts in major cities such as Portland and Boston. Andrea Swiedom/Franklin Journal

FARMINGTON — Origin USA, the manufacturer of athletic and work apparel based out of Farmington, opened a storefront at 248 Broadway Street on July 24. The new space showcases the product line that Origin has been expanding upon since its inception in 2011 and will provide the company with valuable feedback for expansion.

“The Factory Outlet in downtown Farmington is a sandbox for us to use as a proof-of-concept,” Chief Operating Officer Amanda Roberts said in an email. “With this factory store, we will learn which products sell best online vs in-store, how we can use lighting and position our products to highlight each feature, and of course, how we can provide the best experience for our customers.”

The storefront also provides a stage for the company to display its dedication to the manufacturing industry in rural Maine. Roberts is currently working on a live stream set up in the store where customers can view products being made in real time. 

“It is a driving force for me daily, to educate our beloved local community of our mission: awakening Maine’s manufacturing heritage,” Roberts said. “There is nothing more rewarding than an ol’ shoe dog coming into the factory – and now the Factory Outlet store – and feeling a sense of nostalgia from their youth, telling stories of how they felt such fulfillment working with their hands, producing quality boots, and recalling how there was such an immense sense of loss watching the jobs go overseas.”

Roberts also plans to bring this vision to major cities such as Portland, Boston, New York and eventually to Europe where future Origin stores will continue to live stream Maine workers.

Origin’s factory is located right around the corner on Church Street where local craftsman can be seen through the tall windows sewing jeans or lately, the company’s final Model #4 face masks set to release this week.

“We’ve seen an uptick in mask sales with the reopening of schools and communities. We are balancing those needs and regular production work with new hires, setting up old machinery, and creating space within the factory,” Roberts said.

The pandemic delayed Origin’s storefront opening date originally set for April 1, but it provided the company with an additional manufacturing opportunity. When Governor Mills released an executive order on March 24, restricting nonessential businesses to cease operations in response to the coronavirus, Origin shifted to producing face masks

Amanda Roberts considers local manufacturing a company mission and plans on incorporating live stream footage of workers crafting Origin products in the downtown storefront. Andrea Swiedom/Franklin Journal

The company has since resumed manufacturing of its usual product-line to the best of its ability. Origin has been grappling with delayed shipments of leather and denim materials due to challenges posed by the pandemic.

“Our mills located in the southern and midwestern states have been hit the hardest by COVID-19,” Roberts said. “Mills have had to completely shut down, creating lengthy delays in denim and leather goods. Mills are struggling with reopening not having their typical workforce returning to work.”

Despite these challenges, Origin is actively hiring as the company expands its nutritional product line with its newest factory in Wilton.

“Since March, we’ve hired 23 new employees. We need an additional 12 immediately to keep up with current growth,” Roberts said.

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