Allen Edmonds is in growth mode.
The iconic American men’s shoe manufacturer is readying plans to expand its manufacturing facility and work force.
At nearly 90, the Port Washington, Wisc.,-based firm has been awarded a $1.5 million Community Block Grant Economic Development loan from the State of Wisconsin to support a three-year expansion initiative that includes the expansion of its warehouse, the introduction of handsewn production and a larger recrafting program.
CEO Paul Grangaard said the company has seen solid growth with year-to-date same-store sales up 25 percent, while its wholesale business is up in the mid-teens.
“We’ve been working hard reconnecting with our core customer,” he said. “We’ve augmented our team in product development. We now know our customer better.” That, on top of customers’ renewed interest in American styling, has helped fuel the expansion.
“We’re able to offer heritage product,” said Grangaard. “The timing and our history are right. There’s a new interest in U.S.-made [product].”
While the company has exclusively produced its classic welted footwear in Wisconsin, it will now add handsewn shoes, with expectations of 50,000 pairs produced annually. Currently, these looks are manufactured on a contract basis at a facility in Lewiston, Maine, with a small offering made in the Dominican Republic.
Stepped-up production requires additional manpower, said Grangaard, noting the company has already added 50 workers of a potential 200, with temporary summer workers now on board full-time.
“There are lots of strong, skilled manufacturing people in Milwaukee,” said Grangaard, adding that 200 people, many with terrific experience, turned up at a recent job fair.
Allen Edmonds is also growing its retail chain. Last month, a new prototype bowed in Minneapolis, and five additional stores are planned to open over the next year.