Maine | A Continuous Lean. - Page 2

Escape to Maine.

Jul 10th, 2012 | Categories: Escape to, Maine, Uncategorized | by Michael Williams

Last week Maine. This week I’m in NYC. Maine was better.

Lobster. Saltboxes. Becky’s. Springers in the sea. Dark & Stormys. Mabel’s Lobster Claw. Nice folks. Ice cream. Portland. Canoe trips. Harbor views. Wine. Good books. Salt water. Plank chairs. Baxter beers. Goose Rocks beach. Petite Jacqueline. The Tides. Lighthouses. Escape to Maine.





So Good it Hurts | Rancourt & Co. Handsewns

May 4th, 2012 | Categories: Footwear, Made in the USA, Maine | by Michael Williams

It’s amazing how you feel once you take the leap from “commodity shoes” that are basically made from plastic which is designed to look like leather (at least that’s what it seems like), to the real stuff that Rancourt & Co. makes from Horween leathers. My affinity for Rancourt started last year with a pair of ranger mocs that quickly became my go-to shoe. After buying those shoes I was hooked. Over the past year I have also come to know Mike and Kyle Rancourt personally and even spent some time up at their factory in Maine witnessing first hand how they do business.

Wearing the shoes, knowing the people and seeing the process all leads me to confirm that Rancourt makes one of the best, if not the best handsewn shoes in the world. It’s a bold statement, but one I genuinely believe to be true. It was with this appreciation that, a few weeks ago, I ordered some new Rancourt shoes — a pair of ranger mocs with Vibram cristy soles and a Horween shell cordovan (#8) beefroll penny loafer. As you can see from these pictures, they turned out as perfect as expected.





Custom New Balance 993s

Mar 7th, 2012 | Categories: Footwear, Made in the USA, Maine | by Michael Williams

Back in April, the people at New Balance gave me an opportunity to test out the company’s new custom 574 program. I’ve done custom shoes from other makers previously, but never anything that was made in America, and never anything processed so quickly (about a week total). I loved how those 574s turned out, in fact I liked the customized program so much I couldn’t wait for the service to include the 993s, my sneaker of choice. Well, that time has now come, 993 lovers can rejoice and order their very own special pair — made right in Maine.





Crafted | Oak Street Bootmakers

Feb 28th, 2012 | Categories: Footwear, Made in the USA, Maine | by Michael Williams

Watching people hand sew shoes almost always seems to mesmerize me. To say shoes are “handsewn” doesn’t often elicit much of a response from people, but when you actually see the process of making these shoes one stitch at a time, handsewn shoes earn a whole different level of appreciation. If you attended one of the last few Pop Up Fleas you may have met Oak Street Bootmakers founder George Vlagos, who was on hand fitting people for shoes and answering questions about his handsome collection of shoes. Over the past several years the brand has garnered a lot of attention online, but for many the Pop Up Flea was the first time actually seeing the Oak Street shoes in person.

With the making of this video, Oak Street goes where many have gone before (into the factory), to better explain what goes into making its shoes. It is really the first look behind the scenes of a company that has developed a pretty remarkable following.  While this sort of approach is certainly nothing new (from either an ACL coverage or brand marketing perspective), it is still something I want to see. All brands that are making products in a traditional way, making shoes in a place that is cost prohibitive (read: onshore), should be telling this story. Frankly, it all wouldn’t really matter at all if Oak Street didn’t make such good looking boots. But they do, so just happily accept it as a win-win.





Meet Your Maker | Rancourt & Co.

Aug 4th, 2011 | Categories: Footwear, Made in the USA, Maine | by Michael Williams

Three generations of the Rancourt family have been making shoes in Maine since the mid-1960s. Over the years the company has made shoes for a variety of big American shoe companies, passing the hand-sewing skills down from generation to generation. Recently the company has moved into a new facility in Lewiston, Maine where, in addition to making shoes for a host of well respected brands, the Rancourts recently begun to more widely offer the shoes it makes under its own label, Rancourt & Co. To this end Rancourt just launched it’s own online shop where you can purchase the company’s fine handsewn shoes — everything from Horween shell cordovan beefroll penny loafers to traditional moccasin style leather shoes — direct from the makers in Maine.





Computerized 574s

Apr 6th, 2011 | Categories: Footwear, Made in the USA, Maine | by Michael Williams

Yesterday the folks at New Balance launched the company’s new custom 574 program which allows you to take to the internet and create your own specially designed sneakers. Last week we tested out the system at the launch event here in New York and it worked like a snap. In fact it shockingly only took five days for the special 574s (which were sent compliments of New Balance) to show up straight from the New Balance plant in Norridgewock, Maine. In anticipation of the launch of the custom 574 program, New Balance even dispatched a guy named Jake Davis and some other guy named Sean Sullivan to Maine to document the custom make up process at the factory. You can basically design the entire shoe all the way down to the color of the big N and the custom embroidery on the back of each sneaker. The possibilities are endless. [New Balance Custom 574]





Maine Made Moccasins from Wassookeag

Feb 24th, 2011 | Categories: Footwear, Made in the USA, Maine | by Michael Williams

Honest handsewn shoes for an honest price, that’s the way it is done at Wassookeag. The tiny company sells a selection of moccasins that are made by hand — one at a time — by proprietor Mark Wintle in the central Maine town of Dexter. “I have only officially been handsewing my own moccasins for about six months now,” he said. “However, I have been under the direct tutelage of my father who has been handsewing shoes for over 40 years and has been making moccasins for about 25 years.”

With the growing popularity of hand sewn American-made shoes, it seems like now is as good as time as ever to get into the shoe making business. “I recently quit my high tech career, moved back to Maine — where I grew up — to start my own business, making moccasins,” says Wintle. “I thoroughly enjoy working for myself and working beside my father every day.”