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Darn Tough Vermont vs. Timberland
Darn Tough Vermont vs. Timberland
The challenge: How does a third-generation sock-mill owner break into the crowded performance-sock market?

What they did: The Cabot family has been knitting socks in Vermont since 1978, mostly for brands like Brooks Brothers and L.L. Bean. But a decade ago, as more companies began sourcing from overseas, business looked grim. So Ric Cabot took a gamble: In 2005 he began making high-end athletic socks -- think hiking, running -- under a new brand, Darn Tough Vermont. He's taking on Timberland's SmartWool by vowing to make the most durable, best-fitting, and most comfortable socks (the key: merino wool and more stitches per inch than rivals). His socks even carry a lifetime guarantee: Wear a hole in one and get a new pair, no questions asked. While $20 may seem steep for socks, fans swear by them, and Cabot says the brand now accounts for two-thirds of the firm's $12 million in revenues.

By Jessica Shambora, writer-reporter @FortuneMagazine - Last updated February 01 2012: 10:37 AM ET

The Van Winkle family has been in the bourbon business for 100 years. Its secret for the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery? Make prize-winning spirits and keep supply really low.