In-Depth Biz Profile: Vere Sandal Company
After working for footwear companies across the U.S. and traveling to factories in Asia several times a year, two Geneva natives decided the city where they grew up made the most sense to start their own company and production line. YNN's Leah George takes us inside the Vere Sandal Company's Geneva manufacturing facility in this week's in-depth business profile.
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President of Vere Sandal Company, John Eades said, "When we started looking around, Geneva was really aggressive. We included Geneva in the search almost as a courtesy, because we’re both from here and it’s the right thing to do and it’s a good story and we like Geneva, but we never thought in a million years that in New York State, in Geneva we’d be at a competitive advantage."
Vere Sandal Company President John Eades says Geneva offered the most competitive lease at its Enterprise Development Center and even helped secure loans.
It took about a year and a half but this past February Eades and his partner Mike Ferreri hired their first 8 employees.
Eades said, "It’s been Mike and myself, friends and family, anyone lending a hand, you know like most start ups we’re underfunded, so it’s been all hands on deck so I would have nights where we would have pizza and beer and people would come over and help us sew. That’s how it was for most of the first year."
Eades has been in the footwear business for 16 years. After graduating from Geneva High school, and then RIT with an Industrial Design degree, he went to work for New Balance in Boston, then Airwalk in Pennsylvania and Colorado and eventually Reef in California.
Eades said, "I was the product manager at Reef and I would travel to stores and I heard more and more store managers say that people were starting to ask where their sandals came from and their isn’t an option for an American made sandal so that’s kind of where this came from it came from consumer demand first."
Vere Sandal Company delivered its first 10,000 units to independently owned stores in Penn Yan, Geneva, Canandaigua, Irondequoit, New York City and across the country this past March. Next year's goal is 40,000. Eades says there clearly is demand for his quality, American made, and mostly recyclable sandals.
"Our growth is gonna be limited by how many we can produce and how fast we can expand our production it could be more if we could make more. The sales are there. We’ve had to tell our sales reps to tone it down because we can’t I can’t figure out how to make that many,” said Eades.
Eades did not expect manufacturing footwear locally would be easy, be he also didn't realize just how much infrastructure has left America.
Eades added, "Just finding suppliers for foam is near impossible, finding suppliers for the kind of webbing we want to use, that weaving equipment just doesn’t exist here anymore so that was a much bigger challenge than we anticipated it being."
Current import tariff's are critical to Vere Sandals’ business model.
Eades said, "If the tariff were to disappear, we probably wouldn’t be in business. The woven kind that we make, anything with a textile upper is 37.5% tariff to bring it into the country. So if I’m making the same sandal in China it might be a dollar cheaper, but by the time I pay the tariff to get it into the country, we’re talking apples to apples now and that’s how we can compete on price."
Heading into year two Eades is still a bit apprehensive about his American made sandal venture, but optimistic because of the support and market he's seen so far.
Eades said, “Compared to six months ago I feel awesome. But we’re not out of the woods by any stretch there’s a lot of work to be done."
Vere Sandal Company, this week’s in-depth business profile. Leah George YNN.