A minor adjustment
Local shoes step into high fashion
High fashion is not typically what upstate locals associate with Genesee County. The region west of Rochester, and its county seat of Batavia, conjure images of farming communities, blue-collar labor, and small towns. But there’s a standout exception quietly preparing to take the fashion world by storm, turning out exceptionally beautiful men’s shoes sure to pique the interests of locals and Wall Street execs alike.
P.W. Minor Shoe Company, the second-oldest continually operating shoe manufacturer in the nation and the oldest company in Genesee County, just launched their Batavia Boot and Shoe Company brand. The line features handcrafted dress shoes and boots and is meant to showcase the company’s history, pride, and enterprising spirit.
Founded in 1867 by two Civil War veteran brothers, the company came back from the brink of extinction thanks to new owners coming on board in 2014, a number of economic development grants, and loyal employees who average twenty-four years with the company. The high-fashion line is a new endeavor for a company best known for producing orthopedic and comfort wear.
With the launch of the new line in February, P.W. Minor tapped into two cultural trends—the maker movement and the shop local movement—to seek customers and fans aligned with their values of craftsmanship and loyalty.
“There’s been a call to action to join the American manufacturing movement, to buy hometown products. People are paying more attention to where their products come from: food, clothes, cars, et cetera. We want to help push that movement forward as well,” says marketing director Brian Benedict. “Buy a beautiful pair of our shoes that, with a little care, will last you thirty years. People are starting to understand that and appreciate that. The shoes are going to be comfortable, they’re going to look great, and you are supporting an American…company.”
P.W. Minor recently made a bold move and brought all of their manufacturing back from China, decreasing supply chain costs. The new owners also incorporated some automation to the production floor, where a team of nearly 100 workers guides each shoe through the process. Benedict says that the new system has added jobs and reduced costs, all while respecting the time-honored craft of shoemaking as it was when the factory first opened more than 150 years ago.
“If you were to drop P.W. Minor [himself] into our factory, he would understand what is going on. The processes have not changed that much, especially with the high-end dress shoes and boots. It’s no different than what he and his brother were doing when they opened the factory,” says Benedict.
The lookbook for the new line thumbs through like a spread from a fashion magazine: chic, bold, and fresh. Fashion-industry veterans from brands including Coach and Ann Taylor came on board to help develop this new line, and it shows. Oxfords and boots, camel colored lace-ups, and slick black leathers shine in photographs that incorporate local men and local scenes.
With each pair averaging around $350 and looking sharp and business-ready, the shoes certainly won’t fit everyone’s budget or style. But with this line, P.W. Minor is seeking what Benedict calls the “Mad Men percentage”—men who want to dress better and who understand the quality and craftsmanship that go into each of their products.
The Batavia Boot and Shoe Company brand is available, for now, mostly online. P.W. Minor recently expanded into a retail store on Main Street in Batavia and plans to form partnerships with other retailers in Buffalo and Rochester in the future. In the meantime, the shoes shine for themselves on the company’s social media accounts and within the Internet buzz created by beautiful shoes made right here at home.
Katie DeTar is the host and producer of the television travel series “Fringe Benefits,” airing now on public television stations. Learn more at katiedetar.com.