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  1. #1
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    Default My Trip to Allen Edmonds a.k.a. The CEO Factory Tour

    Gentlemen (and there may be a few ladies here as well so I want to include them): Like many of you, I have a very indulgent spouse. She puts up with my endless discussions of style points and obsessive compulsive nature with regard to my clothing. On some wreckless occasions she even indulges these peculiarities. This year she offhandedly asked me what I would like for Father's Day and my brithday. I said I wanted only one thing - "I want a pair of special order Allen Edmonds Mora's in Merlot with a combination heel." Her response, "Really, is that all?" Now she knows enough about me that 1) nothing else is going to fit the bill and 2) it has to be exact. She agreed--or relented I can't remember how much arm twisting I needed to do.:icon_smile_big:

    Anyway, I called Brenda Depies in Customer Service at Allen Edmonds, and we began working on the order. As we spoke, she gave me her full attention and didn't hurry me. She answered all my questions. I felt like the guy in the credit card commercial, how about this? Yes. How about that? Yes. Finally, "Gerard, you can have your shoes any way we offer shoes. Any soles with any heels any color." Now confusion set in. I was sure about the merlot, but I really like the walnut. CHOICES, ugh. "I will send you both samples," came the response. They came in the mail with the special order form. Brenda and I exchanged e-mails, and then I sent the form in sticking with my original choice. The double monkstrap Mora in Merlot with the combination heel.


    Then, as I am want to do, I got to thinking--some may view this as the point where danger enters the thread--"hey, Paul Grangaard, AE CEO, is an AAAC member and maybe I could get myself a factory tour out of this. Better yet, maybe I could go up and see my shoes being made. So one night, while inbibing a nice red with my wife--Barbera not Merlot--I got my courage up and shot Paul a message. I explained to him that I had just placed the order, and I would really like to see them being made. I quickly got a response back--"Absolutely. We would love to have you"--quite obviously he doesn't know me.:icon_smile:

    After this exchange, Brenda contacted me and arranged the details. Despite being an attorney, most of my professional life has been working for U.S. manfucaturing companies. I love to see the processes and enjoy the making of the product as much as, in this case, the wearing of the product. What follows, and I wll post this over the next few days, is my journey through the 280 - 290 steps of watching my special order shoes being made. To all of the AAAC members here, I hope this is entertaining and --as it was for me--educational. I also hope you stick around because I am going to show you some new shoes that AE has coming out this fall and I believe these are the first pics here of those. Enjoy!

    Tuesday, morning my son (because he always wanted to go watch shoes being made--yeah, right) and we get to Port Washington WI and see our first glimpse of Mecca. :icon_smile_wink:



    After getting through reception, we met the lovely Brenda.

    Allen Edmonds had made up the tops of the shoes prior to our getting there. Brenda had those plus my special order paperwork.


    I can tell you all of the customer service people are very nice and very well versed in their shoes. They don't look like much here--but wait.



    What I didn't know is the shoes actually begin wiht the footbed. Hmm. Also, take a look at the inside of the leather top. It is (I believe the correct word is scived) conditioned for manufacturing and the wearer's comfort.




    I think Brenda was begining to get wary of me--but a woman who knows this much about men's shoes is special. :icon_smile_wink:


    Brenda is saved by the appearance of the CEO, Paul Grangaard.


    The tour begins. Although I don't have a picture of him at the beginig of the tour, Jim Kass, VP of Operations joined us as we moved through his operation. Jim is very knowledegable. He has been with AE for 17 years and he has worked his way through the organization from sales. Jim is as passionate as all of us about shoes and his knowledge is outstanding. Besides all that, he is a great guy who just wants his customers to be happy.

    The tour begins with my son by my side.



    Allend Edmonds rolled out the red carpet. The big screen, which shows the shoes they are making in the different manufacturing cells, flashed the company's core values, and then a special message of welcome.





    Yes. Paul is a very tall guy. He is also a very inteligent and committed businessman. He is passionate about Allen Edmonds manufacturing in the U.S. and making a quality product. He kept saying to me --"Gerard, we are committed to providing the exact same quality as we did when the company was started." Clearly some of the manufacturing methods have changed, but the processes have not. The changes are always aimed at making a more repeatable process, and, therefore, delivering a higher quality product.

    This is all I can do for today. Tomorrow I will really post much more of the manufacturing of my shoes. Two things really stick out: 1) The shoes are "machine made" but the amount of labor, actual hand labor, is very high and the workers are extremely skilled. 2) Paul, Jim and Brenda really gave me their time I was struck by how willing they were to just talk. See you tomorrow.
    Last edited by gman-17; June 27th, 2009 at 08:51.

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  3. #2
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    A wonderful post. Please keep adding!

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    Really very interesting post. I start to think about buying AE shoes ......

  5. #4
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    This is going to be good.

    Thanks for documenting the place and procedure!
    "For those seeking anonymity in their clothing, or wishing to hide an ungainly figure, this may be an acceptable style. But for anyone else, the sack-style suit is woefully inappropriate." ~Flusser

  6. #5
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    Wow, what a great start... I can't wait to read the updates. I have a few A-E shoes, but all bought RTW. I actually didn't know about their customization program, being so wrapped-up in going after bespoke shoes and such; I definitely have to look into it.

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    The AE Holtons I'm wearing have just clicked their heels in delight with all this. Thanks, Gerard.

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    Very Cool GMan!

    Even though I can't be there to watch my new shell cordovan "Sheltons" come off the line now I can imagine the process.

    I'm looking forward to more pictures.

    Thank you.
    "Horses don't bet on people and neither do I."

  9. #8
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    Lightbulb

    I know this may or may not relate to your shoes from them,
    because I don't know if you are having calfskin or cordovan
    made for your AE shoes, but this video is still about shoes
    made at AE. It starts at Horween and then it goes on to AE.



    It has been posted before, but I thought this a good place to post it, too.
    Lawrence A. Connor

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    Interesting that AE spell 'shoe centre' the English way.

    It seems a modern factory compared to Northampton's Victorian buildings.

    The double monk is one of their better-looking shoes along with cordovan longwing and blucher.

    It is good to support your home factories if you can. AE and Alden do not have much of a presence in the UK market.

  11. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lawrence Connor View Post
    I know this may or may not relate to your shoes from them,
    because I don't know if you are having calfskin or cordovan
    made for your AE shoes, but this video is still about shoes
    made at AE. It starts at Horween and then it goes on to AE.



    It has been posted before, but I thought this a good place to post it, too.
    Excellent video. No my shoes are not Cordovan, they are calf. The video shows much of the process the shoes go through. It also shoes you why cordovan cost so much more--the yield is very poor per animal. I will post more the pics tomorrow. You will see those (my son thought they looked like turtles, so we began calling them turtles) turtles turn into real shoes. By the way the guy in the video is Jim Kass and he really is very passionate about his shoes. More tomorrow.

    Edit: Thanks for the kind comments everyone. I had a great time at the factory and I believe Paul and Jim have a great deal of respect for the views of the people here at AAAC. From begining to end the experience was great, Brenda, Jim and Paul treated me as if I was the only customer they had.
    Last edited by gman-17; June 27th, 2009 at 11:09.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kingstonian View Post
    Interesting that AE spell 'shoe centre' the English way.
    The USA goes through these odd periods of "Britification". We, some dominant segment of the country, seems to want a return to or affectation of British English. When I was in early grade school (70's), they were teaching us to spell words in the British manner: colour, etc. In the mid-70's there was also a push to the old colonial/British affectations for our bicentennial. The 80's had some er/re reworkings on businesses, presumably to give class or style.

    I have no idea when or why AE did that spelling, but it isn't completely uncommon in America.
    "For those seeking anonymity in their clothing, or wishing to hide an ungainly figure, this may be an acceptable style. But for anyone else, the sack-style suit is woefully inappropriate." ~Flusser

  14. #12
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    I am giddy!!! Thanks G-Man for taking us along for the ride.

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    Excellent thread. Excellent!
    I look forward to Part II.
    The video is excellent as well.
    "I'm reminded of a piece of advice my father gave me regarding shoes: it has stood me in good stead whenever my own finances were low. He said, it's better to buy one good pair of shoes than four cheap ones. One pair made of fine leather could outlast four inferior pairs and, if well cared for, would continue to proclaim your good judgement and taste no matter how old they become." - from Cary Grant's Biography, by Marc Eliot

  16. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kingstonian View Post
    Interesting that AE spell 'shoe centre' the English way.

    It seems a modern factory compared to Northampton's Victorian buildings.

    The double monk is one of their better-looking shoes along with cordovan longwing and blucher.

    It is good to support your home factories if you can. AE and Alden do not have much of a presence in the UK market.
    Sadly for us Americans the British have more of their shoes industry left than we have of ours. Allen Edmonds and to much smaller degree, (in terms of output) Alden are all we really have left. Oh there's Weinbrenner, (sp?) and a few other small factories but it's just these two in the U.S.

    It's a good thing that narrow shoes are scarce in the British market or I'd have already have been on a shoe buying junket to Northhampton.


    Looking forward to updates Gman.
    "Horses don't bet on people and neither do I."

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    WOW!!

    Excellent report! THANK YOU gman-17! You really know how to utilize your contacts and Ask Andy is proud to have you and Paul as members of our little group.

    I especially enjoyed the Welcome sign! I'm so impressed with both of you that I put a link and photo on the Home Page!!

    And my deepest and most appreciative compliments to your wife! You have one of a kind there - take very good care of her!
    Andy
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    AskAndyAboutClothes strongly encourages all members to enhance our reviews by posting their individual experiences with reviewed products.

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    That last (108) looks great! It sent me scrambling to the AE website, but it's nowhere to be found. Is it only available with a custom order?

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    Quote Originally Posted by DRIB View Post
    I am giddy!!! Thanks G-Man for taking us along for the ride.

    +1 !!! hehehee


    I just thought this would make a great episode for "how its made" on the science/discovery channel and I am just the pest to call them up and nag them to visit AE and then I find that they are doing an episode July 13th that covers leather shoes (which they never covered before) and I dont know what company they are highlighting but I do know that they wont bother to repeat a manufactured item so its too damn late evidently...dang ! That would have been some good exposure for AE. I wonder if their marketing folks tried getting on that show?

  20. #18
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    Good choice in shoes. I have the Moras in dark brown. I heard from Adam at Brookfield, that this fall more timeless classics are coming and that means more burgandy shoes.
    "Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts."

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    Quote Originally Posted by deanayer View Post
    +1 !!! hehehee


    I just thought this would make a great episode for "how its made" on the science/discovery channel and I am just the pest to call them up and nag them to visit AE and then I find that they are doing an episode July 13th that covers leather shoes (which they never covered before) and I dont know what company they are highlighting but I do know that they wont bother to repeat a manufactured item so its too damn late evidently...dang ! That would have been some good exposure for AE. I wonder if their marketing folks tried getting on that show?
    I believe they were already featured on a Made in America show with that guy from Cheers. This would have been a couple of years ago. My son wanted to watch the Caterpillar tractors being made and AE was on the same episode.

  22. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andy View Post
    WOW!!

    Excellent report! THANK YOU gman-17! You really know how to utilize your contacts and Ask Andy is proud to have you and Paul as members of our little group.

    I especially enjoyed the Welcome sign! I'm so impressed with both of you that I put a link and photo on the Home Page!!

    And my deepest and most appreciative compliments to your wife! You have one of a kind there - take very good care of her!
    My wife just told me the world needs more indulgent wives--yes, she's a keeper.

    Andy, I speak for many here, thanks for hosting us. To paraphrase Richard Gere in an Officer and A Gentlemen--we got nowhere else to go. We are all indebted to you.

    The visit with Paul and team was more than I thought it would be. He is a gracious host and the legendary customer service obviously starts at the top.

    Again, thanks for hosting us.

  23. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by brokencycle View Post
    Good choice in shoes. I have the Moras in dark brown. I heard from Adam at Brookfield, that this fall more timeless classics are coming and that means more burgandy shoes.
    Adam is a top notch guy. I will post some "new" pics in my final installment on Monday which I think will get quite a few folks here very excited. Let me just hang this little curveball out there -- Allen Edmonds with a European flair but they are completely recraftable. Hmm. Yes. I am enjoying this.

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    ^^
    Indeed, your pictorial chronology of the "birth" of your Mora's has the potential to become one of those classic threads, to which so many of us find ourselves drawn to, repeatedly! Thanks.

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    Great story and especially the customer service! I am stuck on AE shoes myself,

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    Default Sorry that I hadn't commented before, but . . .

    . . . it's been a great posting, and I can't wait to see the finished product, gman. Moras in merlot are a great idea.

    You certainly got the VIP tour with this!
    So many suits, so little time . . .

  27. #25
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    Guys,

    Thanks again for all the positive responses. I was concerned people might find the thread self-indulgent, but I really wanted to share my experience. Everyone here is slightly OCD about some aspect--or maybe their entire--wardrobe. Not everyone has endless sums of money, but I believe we are all united by the bond of wanting to look our best within our means. One thing is really clear, Paul understands his job is to maintain the relevance of AE in a changing world. Paul has set out to challenge the Allen Edmonds staff as well, and you will see he is getting them to do new things while sustaining their committment to customer service and quality. I believe guys like Jim, who are smart, dynamic and full of passion for his job, have been set free under his leadership. I am glad that I can help tell this story.

    When we last left our dynamic duo of Paul and Jim we were about to walk the factory and watch my shoes being made. I am going to try and write as little as possible and let the pictures do the talking. Paul--I am sure you will see this as some point-- please don't hesitate to correct me if I make a miscue while going through the process. My only notes are the pictures I took.



    The shoes start with the footbed and the last--or the bones as they are called.

    They come out to the workers on mechanically operated bins--like inventory carousels--and you need a left and a right, of course.


    Yes, my son and I did get to pick them. :icon_smile_big:

    Footbed and last attached.

    By the way, Jim told me the secret to shoe making and its real simple: Pressure, Water, Heat and Time. I don't know why everyone can't do it.

    Then you start forming the top part of the shoe--remember heat, pressure and water.



    Heel crimp.


    Forming the front part of the shoes. My son and I got to push the buttons and make the machines work--not sure who is the twelve year old here.

    Ouch oooch that's hot.

    Hot glue--before the shoe and foot bed are sewn together they are glued so they stay in their correct places.



    Next I am going to take a bit of a break from my shoes to show you a bit of the manufacture of their new Presidio.

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