Products made in Rutland, including a mold of President Donald Trump, will represent Vermont at the White House on Monday at the “Made in America Product Showcase," which features businesses from all 50 states. Ann Clark Cookie Cutters CEO Ben Clark and National Sales Manager John Romano will display some of the manufacturer's cookie cutters in Washington, D.C., at an event expected to be attended by the president, members of Congress and other government officials. “It just blows my mind. I think it blows everybody's mind,” said Ann Clark, president and founder of the company and Ben's mother. “I mean who would've thought?” Ben and Ann Clark said they weren't concerned about the response to appearing at the Trump White House. “Is somebody going to say, 'I can't believe you would go down there and talk to that guy?' I'm not stressed about it. It's the president of the United States. It's the leader of the free world. We have an opportunity to meet him,” Ben Clark said. Ben Clark said the company learned Wednesday afternoon they had been invited to the event. He said he expected it would be similar to a trade show with a 6-foot-long display area. At the table, Clark and Romano will have cookie cutters shaped like Trump, a Republican elephant, a Democratic donkey and other government-inspired pieces. “I think what we're really looking for is 15 seconds with Donald Trump. A hand-shaking photo, and I'm assuming I get one question. Of course, you know what the question's going to be. … Import duties on cookie cutters because our competition is China,” he said. Ann Clark was a crafter when she made her first cookie cutter in 1989. She said she found it hard to convince a maker of kitchen supplies that she could design a cookie cutter that people would want to buy, but once he saw her design, he was convinced Clark had the talent. At her first trade show in Philadelphia, Clark took about $3,500 in orders. “On the way home, (her late husband) John said, 'Why don't you just do this?' It started as a little Vermont thing. I came home and did the cow and the sheep and the horse, and then it's just gone crazy,” she said. The company also has a tremendous personal value to Ann Clark because after her husband died of cancer, cookie cutters gave her something to do and keep her occupied. “It was a life saver for me in that, after my husband died, I had a place to go every day. Because it would be very easy to sit at home and cry, you know, never get out of bed. Having something to keep busy is wonderful,” she said. Ben Clark said the company now has about 2,400 designs in its inventory and about 700 available for sale at any given time. A new cookie cutter can be within about two days and some old designs can be revived easily. For instance, the Trump cookie cutter was from a set that included a Trump design and a Hillary Clinton design. After the 2016 election, interest in the designs dropped but the company's staff produced more Trump cookie cutters when the company was invited to the White House. The company has almost 50 staff members in Rutland and representatives all over the country. The staff members design, make and distribute cookie cutters from their Rutland site. Ann Clark still designs cookie cutters and said she is currently working on a llama. According to Ben Clark, the company grosses a little over $3 million in annual sales, selling products nationally and internationally. He said there are five machines that make cookie cutters and company officials are in the process of adding four more. “We're trying to basically double our production,” he said. The Ann Clark company sells wholesale to kitchen stores and gift stores; online, primarily through Amazon; through several prominent gift stores; individually through its website; and custom pieces. The company has made several custom pieces for large organizations like colleges, banks and other retailers. Ben Clark explained the kind of reasoning that may have gotten the company invited to the White House. According to him, the Ann Clark company is the largest cookie cutter maker in the United States. “I'm like, 'You can do that in the U.S.' When companies say, 'I can't possibly make that in the U.S. competitively,' I'm like, 'OK, are there some products you'll never make here? Sure. Got it. But for the most part, there's a lot of products that could be made. We're doing it with cookie cutters, guys, you can do it,'” he said. patrick.mcardle@rutlandherald.com

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