Bronzing is back and business is booming for American Bronzing Company, one of the nation’s oldest shoe preservationists.
Since 1934, the company has preserved baby shoes in copper for more than 13 million sentimental parents, but the recent decline in print media stalled growth until it adapted a digital strategy, American Bronzing Company owner Bob Kaynes tells Footwear News.
“We’ve been out of the public eye because marketing has become a challenge,” Kaynes says. “It used to be, in the old days, one or two parenting magazines and if you wanted to reach all of those mothers you ran a few ads. Now it’s all over the place — people don’t read parenting magazines as much and there are a number of parenting websites.”
Thanks to social media, he says, awareness of the shoe-bronzing tradition has been driving interest from the iPhone generation and their grandparents. Kaynes says advertising on Facebook and social-driven campaigns have helped tap into a sense of nostalgia.
“We’re targeting grandparents on Facebook to give gift certificates to their children to have their shoes bronzed,” he explains. “What’s interesting is whenever we do these we get all kinds of comments from people who say they had it done as a child and the shoes still look great.”
Kaynes estimates that the digital marketing has led to “about 30 to 40 percent increase” in sales.
“It’s a neat tradition,” he says, adding that millennials appear to be particularly interested in bronzing running shoes styled after “baby Reeboks and baby Jordans.”
“About over half the shoes we do is for running shoes,” he says.
Preserving footwear is also sentimental for the sports community, Kaynes says: “One of the things we’re seeing, all of the kids in youth-organized sports — they are getting their soccer shoes bronzed.”
And sports industry heavy hitters are adapting to the trend, too. Among the boldface names, the company has bronzed Derek Jeter’s baseball cap, cleats for the NFL, Jack Nicklaus’ golf shoes and LeBron James’ children’s shoes, Kaynes says.
American Bronzing Company is a third generation business that operates with a 30-person staff in Columbus, Ohio. Kaynes says he believes it’s the longest-running bronzing shoe business today, founded as Baby Shoe Bronzing by his grandmother Violet Shinbach more than eight decades ago.