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"The Allen Associates team has cultivated working relationships with some of the top business minds in the United States. The firm's An American Story, leads us to brilliant little nuggets of creative capitalism and culture.."

- Benjamin Stephens, Top 10 Creative Blogs You May Have Missed 

An American Story


— Authentic American Inspiration —


Rufus Shirts

April Singer Straten launched Rufus Shirts in Spring 2004, and began with the development of a classic dress shirt. By taking the traditional elements of Savile Row and stitching them together with contemporary American style, they created a unique look for the "updated traditionalist".

Ms. Singer's Q&A with Michael Allen

You launched in 2004. What fueled your decision? 

I started Rufus when I returned to NYC after living in London for five years. After visiting many men’s stores I realized that there lacked a happy medium in men’s contemporary shirting. It was either the classically boxy shapes of decades past or the very slim European cut which overlooked the more casual approach of American style. Prompted by the encouragement of my boyfriend at the time (now husband) I set out to create a brand that spoke directly to this underserved category.

What's the origin of the name Rufus? 

When I was living in London I met Brett Theodore Rufus Straten who would eventually become my husband.  Rufus means red in Latin and Brett was actually called Rufus when he was a child because of his red hair.  I admired his sense of style that reflected an eclectic mixing of current and classic pieces.

Tell us about the brand's value proposition.  

Rufus shirts are classic yet eclectic. Manufactured in the United States of exceptional quality European fabric, Rufus was born from the desire to have a quality fashionable shirt that will travel beyond this year’s trend.

Where are the shirts currently produced? 

The shirts are produced in Fall River, Mass.

Who's your target customer?  

We found our target customer to be men 30 – 50yrs old. Our guy is optimistic, self-possessed and embracing of color. The details are for the personal consumption of the man who wears a Rufus shirt.

Our shirts will never shout across a room, but at a conversational distance, a Rufus shirt will confidently exhibit all the assurance and style of the man wearing it.

Walk us through your distinctive design details, and of course those signature red cufflinks. 

The color red is used subtly through detailing. Red stitching on the shirt cuff buttonholes and signature red cufflinks come with all French cuff shirts. All shirts have contrast fabric on the inside of the cuff.

Our fit is classic American with generous shoulders and a fitted body. Darts down the back take out the excess fabric on the main line and the sides are shaped with out the darting on the casual line. We use a traditional cut away collar with a high neck stand and thick collar stays so it can be worn open and casual but also looks great with a tie.

Last but not least our stacked shatter resistant buttons add an element of fashion and distinction.

Assuming we had the power to confidentially grant you a do-over regarding the Rufus launch, what would it be? 

Honestly I don’t know. The stars all seemed to be aligned at the launch and the business has flowed since day one.

Are there any product line extensions on the horizon? 

We are beginning development of a jacket line to launch with Fall 2011. Expect clean lines and impactful Rufus details.

How do you envision Rufus brand evolving in the coming years? 

As we've become known as a preeminent shirting resource, a natural evolution for us would be to introduce new shirt fits and models. In addition to the shirts our plan is to design other categories to create a total Rufus line for our customer.

Having lived abroad and worked in the international markets for several years prior to launching Rufus, I look forward to launching the line internationally.

You can learn more about Rufus at


Fine Paints of Europe 

Don’t be fooled by the name. Fine Paints Of Europe is an American company that parralels many of us; nephews of Uncle Sam, with European roots.

It began with founder John Lahey’s frustration. Seeking high quality paint to use on his family’s eighteenth-century home, he was reminded of the depth of the colors and the gorgeous finishes he witnessed overseas. In search of European quality, he found no answers in stateside products. He discovered a culture within the industry that promoted price over quality-and he would have none of it. His quest took him to the mecca of paint, Holland, and their 300 years of mastery in the genre inspired him to start a company that catered to discerning American homeowners like him.

That vision has served Fine Paints Of Europe well. Since 1987 the company has forged an indellible bond with the American public that is both in our faces and unheralded. We’ll brag for them. The elite paints of Fine Paints Of Europe are a humongous source of pride, covering such important landmarks as the Mount Vernon Estate, the President Lincoln and Soldier’s Home Monument, and Dodona Manor. And while the Vermont based company initially serviced historical restorations, as witnessed above, the privately held brand has branched out into commercial and residential applications. Which means that now, even our three bedroom cottages and fixer-uppers can be treated to the same fanfare of a national treasure. And the aesthetic brilliance is worth every penny.

As they like to say, “There is nothing more expensive than cheap paint.”


Silver Tear Campers 

Call it homage to greatness.

Handcrafted American teardrop campers were all the rage in the burgeoning days of the automobile’s transition as a mainstay and necessity to life. A hitch, a buck or two in gas and a fishing rod were the basic requirements to an outdoors excursion. Silver Tears Campers, based in Roanoke, Virginia, has resurrected the classic road-to-nature accessory. A Silver Tears camper is a throwback (’32 Ford fender, ’39 Ford teardrop LED tail lights) with modern world amenities (stainless steel ice box, hot water shower system, propane stovetops). The interior of the campers are a lesson in mahogany styled refinement; the exterior an eternal teardrop outline, a myriad of customized choices, from the sleek Black Dog to the iconic Woodie. Essentially, a Silver Tears camper is a tagalong to a man’s oneness with nature-with all of the refined accoutrements of future world refuge, should it be required.

As the folks at Silver Tears Campers say best; you'll travel light, but smart, with everything you need and nothing you don't.


"America Runs On Dunkin"

There are many paths in which to become an American icon. A business might find its acclaim through savvy branding that grows into its own legend. Perhaps a company might earn its esteem through providing innovative vantages on a timeless national tradition. In some instances, an organization might reach its elite status by looking beyond existing industries and creating its own.

Dunkin’ Donuts took each of these paths, beginning in 1950 when Bill Rosenberg opened the first Dunkin' Donuts shop in Quincy, Massachusetts.

“Time to make the donuts”, the endearing catchphrase spoken by sleepy-eyed, groundbreaking spokesman Fred the Baker, has become a treasured addition to the national lexicon (as well as a standard template of brand building). These days, it continues; you’d be hard pressed to find someone unable to finish the phrase “America runs on ______”.

Coffee and donuts, once a one- trick pony, were essentially re-introduced by Dunkin’. Looking beyond a few sprinkles and a strong cup o’ joe, the company revolutionized both, stretching imagination and turning a few basic ingredients into what would become a dizzying array of variety and options. In 1950, terms such as “Jazz Brew” and “Munchkin” were anything but native to the genre. In 2013, they are synonymous with Dunkin’ and irresistible edibles.

While many concepts focus solely on coffee or baked goods (DD has acknowledged its brand as a beverage company first, leading the industry charge in the massive coffee field), Dunkin’ Donuts was among the first to incorporate a hybrid approach to QSR operations. And in doing so, they have created dual followings-Americans who crave gourmet coffee, in-store or home brewed, think of Dunkin’; ditto for those with an insatiable sweet tooth.

It appears the old “Road not taken” saying does not apply to the Canton, Massachusetts, QSR standard bearer, as they have traveled them all en route to the industry standing it enjoys today. The leading global coffee/bakery chain, Dunkin' Donuts serves more than 5 million customers per day, offering a staggering array of donuts, bagels, baked goods and over a dozen irresistible coffee beverages. In addition to forever changing the way we eat breakfast (seriously, who has time to cook anymore when the DD around the corner has a piping hot cup of java and a scrumptious Wake Up Wrap waiting?), Dunkin’ Donuts has changed the way we view traditional “beginning of day” foods like bagels, coffee and donuts (honestly, who doesn’t enjoy a double glazed with an iced latte any time of the day? And it’s hard to imagine a better dinner at the moment than a Texas Toast Grilled Cheese and a Vanilla Bean Coolatta).

Dunkin' Donuts Store Circa 1950

Every hour of the day, somewhere in the world, it’s time to make the donuts. And espresso. And English muffins. And the tea, sweetened or unsweetened. And the rest of the vast, delicious Dunkin’ Donuts menu.

Fred the Baker better drink some Dunkin’ Donuts’ French Roast-it’s gonna be a busy day.

Story, JMA


Restoration Hardware 

In 1979, Stephen Gordon was in the process of restoring his Queen Anne styled house when he discovered that finding authentic, timeless period hardware was about as difficult as building a time machine to zip back to the era when such craftsmanship was dominant. Disappointment turned into opportunity, and within a year Gordon’s home became the site of the first Restoration Hardware.

These days the company has no real estate dilemmas. Typically the anchor store in upscale commerce centers, Restoration Hardware is a purveyor of modern throwbacks, a provider of the accoutrements to an existence that is driven by a refined and classic style. The products inside of a store, from door knobs and hinges to furniture and lighting (and much more), share the rustic aesthetic of 20th century New York. It is a curated tour through the annals of design, a historical journey that breeds inspiration into the capability of our homes. And as classic as the décor they offer, Restoration Hardware focuses on the American tradition of pride and durability in their wares. It is an old but true adage, and simplicity fosters brilliance.

Restoration Hardware operates 87 domestic retail stores while somehow retaining the essence of a neighborhood niche boutique. And in doing so, they help bring our homes to achievement. Unlike cookie-cutter factory styled competitors, a Restoration Hardware home is unique to the owner, the DNA imprint nudged by history’s interior design victors. No fleeting trends or passing fads smuggle their way into a store and as a result, our homes endure as the genuine article.

Remember the days of shag carpeting and aluminum siding? This is life throwing us a commerce mulligan. Restoring the home, restoring the soul. These are the nuts and bolts of what they do at Restoration Hardware.

Story JMA