COSTA MESA — In the eyes of Kim Farthing, a penny spent locally is a penny earned in the pocket of a friend or neighbor.
For this reason, Farthing has adopted a mission to learn how to buy as much as possible — from food to bedding to underwear — from Orange County and American manufacturers. She hopes that spending on things made here will, in a small way, help lift the sagging American economy.
"I have to accept the fact that I may pay more," said Farthing, 55, of Costa Mesa. "But, it's really the right thing to do for the country. By being willing to pay more, we're creating jobs here."
However, the task is easier said than done, Farthing said.
After about a year of scouring both small markets and major shopping centers, Farthing's list of retailers that specialize in American-made goods remains relatively short.
Among the retailers she found include Tustin-based leather goods B.B. Simon, Three Dogs Bakery in Newport Beach, and Debra's Cottage, Dacor Kitchen Appliances and the Seed People's Market — all of which are in Costa Mesa.
"The Seed People's Market is all about encouraging products with a purpose," said store owner Linda Sadeghi. "Retail is going though a change — it's growing up."
People are more likely to spend money on items that they know will last a long time, are hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind or support the local business community, Sadeghi said.
Sadeghi and her husband, Shaheen Sadeghi, own two alternative shopping centers: The Lab, which opened 20 years ago, and The Camp, which houses the Seed Peoples Market, a decade ago.
Both centers focus on a "community approach to retail," Sadeghi said.
There are also, of course, lines of American-made cars for sale along Harbor Boulevard.
But less visible items, such as clothing and sometime even food, are harder to come by.
In Farthing's search for American-made goods, she also found that many store managers and staff were not aware if they sold any such products.
"I'm hopeful that this will increase their awareness, and it will get back to the store buyers, who have the ability to buy products locally or not," Farthing said.
Other American-made products Farthing has identified have all been found by a mixture of hard work and luck. She's seen U.S.-manufactured plates at 99¢ Only Stores, California Baby products at Mother's Market, an iPad case from J.Crew and some tools at Ace Hardware stores.
"I want people to be able to walk into a store and be able to ask, 'Do you have any products made in America?'" Farthing said. "I just want people to start thinking differently and be willing to ask those questions."
Farthing is working on compiling a list of retailers which offer American-made products and eventually making that list available to the public through a website or blog. She accepts community suggestions via email at Kim@FarthingDevelopment.com.