Socks for Souls

After spending a year directing and producing a documentary on homelessness in the LA area,  “Hope For Our Own: An LA Story,” Riley Beres, then 15 years old, began to see a need for a somewhat surprising resource: clean socks for those in need.  Something so insignificant to many of us, yet Riley felt it would make a significant difference for the homeless. So she started an organization whose sole purpose was to raise funds and collect socks.

image by Lee Jeffries

image by Lee Jeffries


Her initial vision was to assist shelters and individuals in the Los Angeles area; and while   Socks for Souls, Inc. is headquartered in LA, it didn’t take long before Beres realized that her organization might serve a greater need.  Several months into the filming of the documentary, Riley filed with the Internal Revenue Service to become a registered 501(c)(3).  She received approval from both the State of California and the IRS as of May, 2014.

It was exactly one-year from the start of her documentary that Riley and her board members worked quietly behind the scenes to prepare mission statements, long-term goals and begin a program process that can be phased in as the organization grows, to ensure long-term, meaningful outreach.

image by Lee Jeffries

image by Lee Jeffries

You can watch a Sockumentary on how something as simple as socks can make a difference in the lives of others.   For information on the Sockumentary and on Hope For Our Own: An LA Story, visit!.

Please join Harriet’s General this February as we take up Riley’s cause to provide socks for those in need. If you bring in 3 pairs of gently used or new socks we will take 15% off your total purchase.

All socks will be donated to the needy and homeless in the City of Richmond, VA.
Help us help needy souls!



Each year as September 11th approaches, I think of my grandfathers: both veterans of WW11, both West Point graduates, and both professional soldiers who rose in rank to become general officers. While they were veterans of the wars in Korea and Vietnam as well, it was WW11 that formed Ben Harrell and George Pickett.

I’ve read Tom Brokaw’s book, The Greatest Generation and what I took away was that men like my grandfathers have created what you might call a ripple effect in our country’s history that’s difficult to articulate; and, if you knew these men, you’d understand why they were remarkable.

George Pickett, an unlikely hero, graduated near the bottom of his class at West Point; a wiry man with black curly hair, an angelic face and a mother who was a manic-depressive. George was complicated, had an oversized ego and a level of paranoia… perhaps, and inherited from his mother, which made his life and those who loved him, a bit difficult. But he was a brilliant military strategist; maybe it was genetic for he was a collateral descendant of his namesake, George Pickett of Gettysburg fame.

George Bibb Pickett West Point 1941

George Bibb Pickett
West Point 1941

In 1945, at the age of 26, my grandfather was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel and, as commander of a battalion of the 16th Armored Division, was GEN Patton’s youngest battalion commander. While serving with Patton’s forces, he received a Bronze Star for Valor and a Silver Star. Throughout his career, there were many medals and accomplishments yet George had a tendency to boast and this trait did not serve him well. While he garnered a certain respect for his intellect, he did not have many friends nor supporters.

After graduating from the National Defense University in Washington, DC, George became the 49th commanding officer of the 2d Regiment of the Dragoons, later designated the 2d Armored Cavalry Regiment, with headquarters in Nuremberg, Germany. He was responsible for surveillance and observation of large segments of the East German and the Czech borders. Having accepted the surrender of many of the same towns and villages in the region in April 1945, he now returned to defend that area. In 1963, he was promoted to brigadier general and appointed Chief of Staff, Combat Developments Command, Ft. Belvoir, VA. Promoted to major general in 1967, he served as Commanding General, 2nd Infantry Division.

It was at Fort Belvoir, my mother, George’s daughter, Barbara met and married my father, Ben Harrell’s son, Charlie. My grandfather, George Pickett was assigned as my grandfather, Ben Harrell’s second in command. It was an arranged marriage, my mother likes to say and it brought together two unlikely families and two unlikely stories.

Ben Harrell was everything George Pickett was not. He was a gentle and endearing man, loved by everyone who knew him. And while he was not a brilliant military strategist, he was smart enough to help formulate the tactical plans for the Allied Invasion of North Africa in 1942, codenamed Operation Torch. Ben had a magnificent head of hair which I am proud to say, I inherited and a temper that I got as well. When asked by a reporter about the capture of Casablanca, he said: “On paper the plan looked pretty good, but the thing was too damned complicated.” Knowing my grandfather, I imagine there were some expletives that were deleted from that quote. One of my earliest memories of Ben Harrell, was being taught to march and sing the 7th Infantry Division fight song, a bit too colorful for my mother’s taste who put a stop to that event.

Ben Harrell West Point 1933

Ben Harrell
West Point 1933

At the beginning of the Vietnam War, Ben Harrell served as the Commanding General of the prestigious 101st Airborne Division and, in 1967; he became the Commanding General of the 6th Army at the Presidio of San Francisco. In 1968, he was promoted to the rank of general and became NATO Commander, Allied Land Forces SE Europe. His medals would fill the page so I’ll just say he served our country well.

So what’s the point you might ask. The point is this: when the chips are down, aren’t we fortunate to know that our country can produce the likes of a George Pickett even with his many flaws and a Ben Harrell who didn’t see why the impossible was not possible. Not that we are a country of heroes but the potential is there.

Made in Los Angeles


New York City, including Manhattan’s historic Garment District, is commonly known as a fashion capital; but glimmers of new and revived apparel hubs are emerging in other US cities, fueled by a growing appetite for “Made in USA” goods.

Many small companies are opting to make clothing domestically and not just in NYC (although Brooklyn remains a hipster hub of up and coming apparel entrepreneurs). But, it is the Made in America resurgence that is trending in Los Angeles that we’d like to highlight, especially two fashion apparel lines that we have discovered.rtr3xo82

Perhaps the most unique is Good hYOUman, a clothing line of incredibly soft and comfortable t-shirts as well as elegantly simple accessories that according to creator, Brett Novek, are inspired by stories. “Started in 2011, in honor of my Pops,” Novek says “my company and my story are based on my Dad, a good person who treated people well.” Inspiration stories are shared on the product tags and each season a new story is featured. You can share your stories at

Brett Novek of Good hYOUman

Brett Novek of Good hYOUman

Groceries Apparel is another example of the buzz surrounding the LA fashion manufacturing scene. Started in 2010, Groceries Apparel is a pioneering men’s and women’s apparel line that only uses certified organic ingredients and recycled materials. It is also committed to using chemical free and renewably sourced textiles. The company manufactures all its apparel in the city and also supports local up and coming designers. “Consumers are more socially-conscious with their dollars and want to support companies that are forward-thinking and thoughtful about their products,” says Robert Lohman, President of Groceries Apparel.

GROCERY MEN: Matthew Boelk, left, and Robert Lohman at their factory in downtown Los Angeles

GROCERY MEN: Matthew Boelk, left, and Robert Lohman at their factory in downtown Los Angeles

So stop by and check out the real thing for we carry both Good hYOUman and Groceries Apparel lines at HG.

Made AGAIN in the USA

Made AGAIN in the USA

“We thought we could save our local jobs if we moved our manufacturing back to the U.S.” says Michael Araten, CEO of K’Nex, a toy manufacturer known for such iconic products as Tinkertoys and Lincoln Logs.


K’Nex is one of a growing number of companies moving its manufacturing back to the United States after decades of outsourcing production overseas. The process, known as re-sourcing, is gaining momentum.   Even some of the nation’s largest corporations are making a commitment to domestic manufacturing. Recently, Walmart announced that it would purchase an additional $50 billion in American made products over the next decade.

Cost was the main reason companies started outsourcing and now with labor rates and shipping costs increasing in countries like China, cost is a large factor in the new trend of re-sourcing back home. But that is not the only factor for businesses have finally discovered that the Made in the USA label is worth something for there is a surging consumer demand for domestic products.


But re-sourcing is not as easy as it sounds. Even though the demand for American made products continues to rise, domestic production comes at a price. It often requires a significant investment in new infrastructure and equipment but the greatest obstacle is a lack of skilled labor.

So, as domestic manufacturing gains attention in the press, critics question whether the buzz is warranted. The companies that have re-sourced have only been back in the U.S. for a few years, and it’s hard to say whether it’s a success.


While Michael Araten can’t speak for the nationwide impact of resourcing, he believes that bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. has been a success for K’Nex. “We have the advantage of being an entrepreneurial family business that is small enough to be nimble and big enough to make an investment”, he says. “We’re not going to give up; until we make 100 percent of our products in the U.S. our work isn’t done.”


Time for America: 4000 miles from Switzerland a new gold standard in watchmaking is being built by hand in Detroit.


While Made in China plastic watches are available at Walmart and Target for the price of a few packs of gum, the Made in America watch industry has once more taken up the challenge of producing notable timepieces.

In Detroit, the Shinola brand, once famous for shoe polish, has produced a range of wristwatches which complement the 20th century designs of the early American made watch. Think of your great grandfather’s pocket watch and the classic Waltham watch known as the “Traveler”.

Shinola Factory in Detroit

Established in 2011, Shinola watches are designed and assembled in a new state-of-the-art factory located in the old motor industry area of Detroit with Ronda quartz movements and sapphire glasses. They come in a variety of styles such as the “Brakeman” and the “Runwell”.


Recently, the outdoor clothing line, Filson teamed with Shinola, to create its own brand of wristwatches. Assembled by hand in the Shinola factory, these watches are built to withstand a lifetime of use. They also carry the Filson name and that name comes with a history and a pedigree.

Born in 1850, C. C. Filson inherited his father’s pioneer spirit and love of the outdoors. After homesteading in Nebraska and roaming the country as a railroad conductor, he moved to the small city of Seattle, Washington in the 1890s.

Filson’s timing couldn’t have been better. By 1897, the Great Klondike Gold Rush was on, and thousands of fortune hunters were stampeding into Seattle, headed north. Armed with a strong work ethic, a reputation for honesty and several years’ experience operating a small loggers’ outfitting store, C. C. Filson was ready to stake his claim to fame. Here is what he had to say in the 1914 catalog:

“To our customers: if a man is going North, he should come to us for his outfit, because we have obtained our ideas of what is best to wear in that country from the experience of the man from the North — not merely one — but hundreds of them. Our materials are the very best obtainable, for we know that the best is none too good and that quality is of vital importance. You can depend absolutely upon our goods both as to material and workmanship.”


So whether you’re going North or South, East or West do stop by HGs and check out our new line of Filson watches.



Harriet, American Cool

Harriet, the Made in American Movement and American Cool

Harriet was so proud to be an American and, for some reason, I always think of her as Lady Liberty, holding the torch.  As formidable as the Statue that graces the harbor in New York City, she was also (unlike the Statue)  a vocal patriot.  Everyone knew her position on not only her country but also her opinion on lifestyle and one’s obligations. Grandma Waving jpeg9f83a7847dfa07fe643fecb7ac712f9f

As the manager of a small business in her adopted city of Carmel, California, Harriet understood that her town flourished only if the business owners were successful.  Yet, success was not her only goal, she wanted her shop to be a showcase of quality craftsmanship; that’s not to say that she was stogy.  Just the opposite, my grandmother, even into her 90s was “cool”.  She brought that “eye” to everything she did, not just her business.

Harriet in her 90's, she is the one in the navy blue blazer

Harriet in her 90’s, she is the one in the navy blue blazer

American cool, that’s what I’d call Harriet.  So, yes, I think that Harriet would be a strong proponent of the Made in America movement, especially the stylish and cool lines.

And cool seems to be hot these days.  At the American Cool exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington (until  September 7th), you can see examples of “cool” in a photographic display of iconic Americans defined as cool.  A cool person, according to the exhibit, “has the situation under control”; yet, they manage life with a “signature style”.

Photo from The American Cool Exhibit

Photo from The American Cool Exhibit

So, in closing, let me say that here at HG’s we hope to follow the example set by my grandmother, we hope to keep things cool.





An American Odyssey

An American Odyssey

Calling all photography and American history aficionados!  Listen up, for you might be interested in a new book just published by Taschen. We would love to carry it at HG’s but, alas, it is not published in the U.S. which is unfortunate since it contains the very first color photographs taken of the United States.  The postcard images, produced by the Detroit Photography Company from 1888-1924, gave Americans, especially those who were not travelers, a chance to see…. many for the first time….. the vivid colors of their native landscape. An-American-Odyssey-Es-ist-wichtig-dass-27-From the rich ochre and golden browns of the Grand Canyon to the sparkling dazzle of turn-of-the century Atlantic City; from the last of the great plains cowboys to the vibrant immigrant settlements of New York City, these images offered the viewer an opportunity to relish in the guts and the glory of the United States.


Still as remarkable as they must have been 120 years ago, the original postcards from the private collection of the photographer and collector, Marc Walter are now available in the 600 page book, An American Odyssey ,complete with historical anecdotes by Sabine Arque and fold-out spreads. article-2606164-1D25A45000000578-549_964x644

Check out some of the images on

Baer’s Agricultural Almanac

    The Lore – and Lure – of an All-American Almanac
         “Baer’s 2014 Agricultural Almanac & Gardener’s Guide,” published in Lancaster, Pa., may credibly be called the most authentic almanac of its kind, being a locally written product since its beginnings in Lancaster County in 1828.
          The difference between this handsome 96-page booklet and others with a similar bent on the market lies mainly in its no-advertising policy, since others, too, rely on practical advice as well as humor, odd bits of history, and information on a wide variety of subjects. “That’s one of the things people like best about it,” says current publisher Linda Lestz Weidman, a Lancaster native. As a result, she suggest, the ‘old style’ format, remains uncluttered and appears completely traditional in approach.
         Almanacs aren’t entirely an American invention but they played a vital part in our nation’s history. Poor Richard’s Almanack started by Benjamin Franklin is one of the best-known, beginning in 1732 and continuing until 1758, when the population of the colonies was largely agrarian in nature. The earliest American almanac, in fact, was begun in Rhode Island in 1728 by James Franklin, Benjamin’s brother.
         As part of its tradition, Baer’s focuses on calendar events, such as national weather predictions by the month culled from what the publisher likes to call “secret” astronomical and astrological tables.’ An eclectic mix of recipes, biography and botanical information changes with each year’s edition. There is a convenient page listing comparative weights and measures and another explaining how to use the almanac and understand it. The latter is a lot about signs and symbols and their meaning – easy to skip if you prefer learning the history of the sunflower (first domesticated by the American Indian) and finding out that Hawaii is the only state in the country to grow coffee.
         Another difference: Baer’s lore reflects its Pennsylvania-Dutch heritage. Readers will find, and perhaps puzzle over, such names as “Amos Appleschnitz’ – titular author of a page giving ideal planting times for crops. ‘Abner Americanus’ offers jokes and sayings good for dropping into your next speech.
John Baer

John Baer

         John Baer, who was born in Lancaster County in 1797, had built up a large and prosperous publishing operation before acquiring an earlier version of the present day pamphlet. He is probably better known as publisher of the first large folio Bible published in America, points out Mrs. Weidman, daughter of the almanac’s  rescuer, Gerald Lestz. The late Mr. Lestz, a Lancaster newspaperman who was enthralled by local people and history, took the almanac over from a local family in 1948. It now boasts a circulation of 10,000 copies annually – the same as what ‘Poor Richard’ (pseudonym for Benjamin himself) claimed in his day.
         The almanac will soon be available at Harriets’ General.
 —- Ann Geracimos (Pennsylvania native now living in Washington, D.C.) See her blog at

An American Icon

Perhaps you’ve noticed it’s been a while since we posted a blog.  “No excuses”, as my grandmother Harriet would say.  But I will say, “it’s January, a bit slow here at HG and there’s been time to catch up on that pile of reading material left unattended for quite some time.

A piece on the York, PA factory of Harley-Davidson torn from the February 2nd NY Times magazine caught my eye this morning, maybe because I’d just seen on Facebook a photo of my three year old cousin, Barrett Beale, sitting on a pint-sized motorcycle. The article made me think about “all things American”, and about change.

Barrett 2014

Barrett 2014

Currently, all Harley’s are made in the US, and almost all Harley’s made in the US are sold in the US… making the domestic market central to the company’s operations.  But, with stiffer competition from competitors like Polaris Industries and a decline in the core customer base of middle-aged Caucasian men (or “fat white guys” as defined by the Times article), Harley-Davidson has been forced to change its manufacturing model in order to maintain its lead in the heavyweight motorcycle marketplace.

Arthur Davidson and William S. Harley, founders of the Harley Davidson motor company. Pine Lake 1924.

Arthur Davidson and William S. Harley, founders of the Harley Davidson motor company. Pine Lake 1924.

The new manufacturing model is on view at the new plant in York, PA where there are surprisingly no robots on the main assembly line. Hundreds of highly skilled (and well paid) workers operate in teams of 5-6 and manually build each motorcycle. This may seem like an expensive way to do business but skilled workers, unlike robots, can adjust almost instantly to new challenges. And each second counts.  With 800 motorcycles built each day, an extra 1.2 seconds lost per bike adds up to 2,200 bikes annually.


Four basic Harley styles are made in the York plant and each style has lots of customized options. There are as many as 1,200 different configurations and a new bike enters the production line every 80 seconds. Since each bike is unique, workers must adjust almost instantaneously to a new model with its unpredictable set of options coming down the assembly line and the more experienced and skilled the worker, the better the outcome.

In 2009, Harley’s very existence was in question with the production cost per bike on the rise and the stock price going down. Today, thanks to the new manufacturing model, the reverse is true: production costs are down and the stock price is up again. Surprisingly, all this has to do with finding value in an experienced and highly skilled workforce. The average tenure of a line worker at the York plant is 18 years and those workers are extremely devoted to the company.  “Where else might you find factory workers with the company logo tattooed on their arms.”


By the way, Acie turns 50 next year and his early birthday present is, you guessed it, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Acie on his Harley

Acie on his Harley






HG and Airstreams

Who would have guessed that an aluminum sausage shaped trailer would become an American icon.  Like a celebrity, the Airstream has a fan club, the Airstreamers, and, for the true believers who own an Airstream, you can join the Wally Byam Caravan Club.  It was Wally who introduced the first Airstream called the “Clipper” in 1936. It cost $1200.  Until recently, the Airstream was available only for purchase and the 2013 “Classic” starts at $75,000.   556a8eaf373fd6a3

Here’s the good news: Beginning this summer, the travel company Airstream2Go will rent the latest models as well as a GMC Yukon to pull your Airstream for trips of at least five days.   Or, if you’re more of a dreamer than a driver, a new book by the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Philip Caputo, takes you on a journey from Key West to the Arctic Ocean in a vintage Airstream. airstream0008

In the beginning of his book, The Longest Road, Caputo says:  “America is too big, too complicated a mosaic of races and nationalities and walks of life to have a single pulse or even two or three…..but I thought I’d ask people, when possible, the question I put to myself: What holds us together?”  Is the answer, the Airstream?airstream-LIFE-2At HG, we have added to our wall display the back door of a Airstream International, courtesy of Yesterday Reclaimed that we call the “Acie.”  Maybe someday, we’ll hit the road in our own silver sausage but, for now, stop by and have your picture taken with a fixture of the American road trip.

Harriet's General-5