4 Businesses That Are Still Making Things the Old-Fashioned Way

PBS, Youtube
PBS, Youtube / PBS, Youtube

In a world where products are increasingly mass produced, a few businesses are still making things the old-fashioned way. From lovingly handcrafted globes to the last traditional seltzer makers, these short films highlight small businesses that pride themselves on upholding tradition—and producing high-quality goods in the process.


Peter Bellerby - The Globemaker from Cabnine on Vimeo

Globe-making might be a dying art form. Peter Bellerby, founder of Bellerby and Co. Globemakers only knows of one other person in the world still making globes by hand. The artisan globemaker has only been working for a few years: he’d wanted to purchase a globe for his father’s 80th birthday, and when he was unable to find one that met his standards, he decided to make one himself. After that, things just went “crazy out of control,” he says. Bellerby now has a full team of employees working with him to build incredibly detailed globes that can be up to 50 inches in diameter. According to Bellerby in the short film The Globemaker, the globes have been commissioned by an array of interesting characters, including Martin Scorcese, who had four globes made for his film “Hugo.”


Freed of London has been making ballet shoes by hand since 1929. Shoes are made to the specifications of individual dancers, and employees often make shoes for one customer repeatedly, getting to know them over the years through their orders. In What's in a Ballet Shoe, one Freed employee, who has been with the company for eleven years, describes the process of mastering the art of the pointe shoe, and the way he puts his own individual stamp on all of his work.


Gentlemen of Letters - A Dublin Sign Painting Film from Colin Brady on Vimeo

The Freeney family's distinctive block lettering—both minimalist and eyecatching—has adorned Dublin's public spaces for decades. Though handpainted signs are beginning to disappear, the family is still part of a group of dedicated sign painters working in the city. Gentlemen of Letters follows a few of these artists as they perch on ladders or crouch in doorways, bringing their painstakingly-painted characters to the people of Dublin.


Back in the 1950s, there were hundreds, possibly thousands, of seltzer makers in New York City. Now, there’s only one. Kenny Gomberg is a third-generation seltzer bottler and seltzer purist: he thinks great seltzer always comes from a glass bottle with a spigot to keep in the pressure. Back in the day, the Gombergs had a delivery truck, and would bring seltzer straight to your door. Now, as their customers dwindle (many have retired and moved to Florida), the company is just a bottling plant. But they’re still providing the best old school New York seltzer to their loyal, if now modest, clientele.