Founded in 1922, Port Washington (Wis.) shoemaker Allen Edmonds stumbled during the Great Recession, with revenue dropping to $72 million in 2009, from $94 million in 2007. It regained its footing through a turnaround, and now the private equity firm that owns the iconic brand is ready to sell it.
 
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Photograph by Philip Scott Andrews for Bloomberg Businessweek

Founded in 1922, Port Washington (Wis.) shoemaker Allen Edmonds stumbled during the Great Recession, with revenue dropping to $72 million in 2009, from $94 million in 2007. It regained its footing through a turnaround, and now the private equity firm that owns the iconic brand is ready to sell it.
 
Read the story

Photograph by Philip Scott Andrews for Bloomberg Businessweek

From Wisconsin to Shanghai: How Allen Edmonds Bounced Back

Founded in 1922, Port Washington (Wis.) shoemaker Allen Edmonds stumbled during the Great Recession, with revenue dropping to $72 million in 2009, from $94 million in 2007. It regained its footing through a turnaround, and now the private equity firm that owns the iconic brand is ready to sell it.
 
Read the story

Photograph by Philip Scott Andrews for Bloomberg Businessweek

Even though its chief executive officer, Paul Grangaard, estimates that Edmonds’s labor costs are roughly three times what they would be in China, the company chose to keep most manufacturing in the U.S. to ensure quality and highlight its patriotism.

Photograph by Philip Scott Andrews for Bloomberg Businessweek

During the turnaround, Grangaard cut expenses, focused on domestic craftsmanship, revamped the company’s website, and boosted the number of its branded shops to reduce reliance on department stores.

Photograph by Philip Scott Andrews for Bloomberg Businessweek

In early 2009 the company reintroduced four top sellers and began launching casual styles for after work, tripling its offerings. This photo shows a few of the more than 50,000 lasts* that Edmonds uses to form its shoes.

*shoe last: a mechanical form, produced in pairs, that resembles the human foot

Photograph by Philip Scott Andrews for Bloomberg Businessweek

Except for a handful of styles it imports from Italy and casual lines it makes in its factory in the Dominican Republic, the bulk of Edmonds’s production happens at its two plants on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Photograph by Philip Scott Andrews for Bloomberg Businessweek

Edmonds’s calfskin dress shoes retail from $250 to $450, and it urges customers to pay it to do repairs and refinishing. Here, a worker stretches leather over a last to shape it.

Photograph by Philip Scott Andrews for Bloomberg Businessweek

Billing itself as the world’s largest cobbler, Edmonds fixes more than 60,000 pairs annually.

Photograph by Philip Scott Andrews for Bloomberg Businessweek

Edmonds’s most ambitious recent move: selling its lines in branded stores in China through a licensing partnership with Shanghai-based Talent Creations.

Photograph by Daniele Mattioli for Bloomberg Businessweek

Edmonds is part of a trend of American apparel brands and shoemakers trumpeting their made-in-USA heritage to spur sales abroad.

Photograph by Philip Scott Andrews for Bloomberg Businessweek

Less than 2 percent of the $41 billion in shoes sold stateside annually are manufactured domestically, according to Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at NPD Group. Here, shoes await final touches in the finishing room.

Photograph by Philip Scott Andrews for Bloomberg Businessweek

Within 10  years, Edmonds’s market “can be as big in China as it is in the United States,” Grangaard says. Rather than import on freighters from China, “we’re turning the boats around.”

Photograph by Daniele Mattioli for Bloomberg Businessweek