After generations of manufacturers in New York and across the United States folded because they were unable to compete with imports, Watermark, with its only factory in the East New York section of Brooklyn, has managed to crack the code. Instead of trying to make Watermark’s products cheaper, Mr. Abel has prospered by first making them more expensive — offering custom-made fixtures unique to each building — and then figuring out how to do that at lower cost. The company has supplied thousands of fixtures to six new luxury hotels and condominiums being built in Shanghai, Macau and Hong Kong.
“The days of mass producing in New York City are gone,” Mr. Abel said. “If you were producing nuts and bolts by the tens of thousands 50 years ago, you’re not going to do it today. But creativity, or uniqueness or design is definitely something that can flourish in New York.”