This Copper State-based drinkware company crafts mugs by artisans with 100% American copper.
Arizona was once such a hub of copper production in the United States that it became known as “the Copper State.” Mule trains would transport the mineral from open-pit mines to smelteries, helping to produce the copper wires that brought electricity to the once-Wild West and transformed the state into what we know it to be today. But in the 1950s, the copper industry declined, jobs dried up, and once-booming towns were all but abandoned as the state’s economy shifted away from the metal.
For Casey Barras, the founder of Mesa-based American Mule, this legacy was something to build off of. After visiting a bar in 2016 that used copper mugs — albeit cheap, foreign-made mugs — he found inspiration for a business that could salute Arizona’s legacy as a hub for copper production. Using his grandfather’s workshop and a set of Made in America tools from the ’50s, Barras got to work establishing a company that makes copper drinkware, all Made in the USA. That’s American Mule.
“When you hold the Original American Mule Mug and sip on your favorite refreshing cocktail, you’re imbibing the history of the Southwest,” the company said in a statement. “Almost 100 years after the first copper mine was opened in Arizona, the American Dream is still strong in the Southwest. Many of those old mines are even reopening in the 21st century as new technology embraces this invaluable resource.”
American Mule is supporting the American dream by hiring American workers and providing them a space to showcase their talents. Though it’s a small boutique company of just four workers, its playing its part in supporting a revival of American manufacturing and providing opportunities for those looking to become skilled tradesmen.
“America’s willing workers have incredible talent and abilities when they decide to tap into it,” American Mule stated in regards to its workforce. “It’s important to teach the next generation to get down and dirty to learn skills and trades that will be needed forever.”
Though it’s a small boutique company of just four workers, its playing its part in supporting a revival of American manufacturing and providing opportunities for those looking to become skilled tradesmen.
The company is also careful to source all of its products from America as well, ensuring that just about the whole of their supply chain is made in America. They view this as an extension of their moral commitment to being Made in America, which for American Mule is not only just branding but a promise.
“Work to stand out with your branding and have something firm to stand on with your morals and decide where you draw the line,” the company said. “For example, due to our particular criteria we have a private checklist to find out where materials are coming from to keep consistent with our USA made branding and promise to customers.”
Of course, American Mule has had its challenges, especially around sourcing specific copper inputs for its product line need and in keeping up with large online retailers like Amazon. But it has made adjustments where it can to avoid increasing its retail prices.
And the up-sides of being an American-made company are that American Mule is able to identify as a proud member of a local community and practice good corporate citizenship; It cites sales revenue it has donated to the Disabled American Veterans Charity. Pretty nice!
While still a small company, thanks to its deft American-made craftsmanship and commitment to an excellent product, it’s clear American Mule will continue to scale up and make more of this beautiful drinkware. The copper tradition lives on in Arizona!
To see all of American Mule’s products, visit the website here.