By Liisa Andreassen
Handcrafting custom heels and maintaining a solid foothold for more than a century, Montello Heel MFG., Inc. is a third-generation family business that makes stacked leather heels for American-made shoes and boots. Based in Brockton, Massachusetts, and housed in the same building since 1908, the company’s namesake comes from the area of the city it was founded upon and remains to this day.
Standing the test of time
From the early to mid-20th century,
Brockton was affectionately known as the “Shoe Capital of the United States.” At
its peak, it hosted 91 shoe factories. Daniel Waldo Field, an accomplished
merchant, distinguished farmer and prominent shoemaker, once owned the very
building that houses Montello Heel today. In fact, since the 1890s, the building
has been a shoe component manufacturing plant. It has 40,000 square feet and
three floors. Today, it’s the only shoe part manufacturing plant left in the
In the 1940s, John Alden Pearson started working for Montello Heel and 10 years later he became factory superintendent and was able to purchase the business. And so was the beginning of a family legacy. John’s son, Richard, president and Richard’s son, Brian, vice president and owner, continue to run the business and have not let changing times affect who they are and what they do. They still answer every customer phone call and personally visit their customers across the country.
They’ve also made some decisions along the way that have helped them keep in step. For example, they purchased molding equipment from shoe companies that went out of business about 20 years ago. These equipment acquisitions have not only helped production, but have also allowed them to adapt to shifts in the marketplace that include a return to more vintage or retro-style shoes and boots with old-fashioned heel types.
In addition to a strong commitment to clients and manufacturing, they also have a fierce commitment to their employees. They know all of their 25 employees well and consider them family. That could be why 15 percent of their employees have been with the company for more than 20 years, and most of the remaining employees have been there for more than five.
The Montello mission
The motto on every box that leaves the factory is “Heels that fit since 1908,” and they attest that “the World’s Finest Footwear have Montello Heels.” Made from only the finest natural leather or leatherboard only, Montello Heel’s heels are only found on American-made shoes, ice skates, cowboy boots and work boots.
Every heel is custom made for each customer – there are hundreds of styles and sizes from which to choose. The heel is based on the customer’s specifications and on lifts needed to make the heel. Once the customer decides on a style and size, the finest leather bends are picked out and the heel lift is cut and either gauged or wedged.
“How deep the gauge is depends on the cup of the heel, and the wedge determines the difference in height between the front and back of the heel,” Brian says.
The heels are then cemented together, nailed and a toplift is added (if requested). The heels are stamped, packed and sent to the customers to be put on their shoes.
“Any American-made shoe manufacturer that creates shoes with leather heels have Montello heels somewhere in their shoe line,” Brian adds.
Brian explains that running the business has not been without its challenges.
“Some customers source their heel business to countries that have much lower labor costs and regulations,” he says. “We’ve tried to overcome that by promising quality, American-made custom heels at a fair price in a timely fashion. We speak to each and every customer so we know exactly what the customer needs and wants. We know how to serve them best.”
He says that leather heel making is a tried and true process and that they continue to uphold the traditional way of making leather heels. Currently, they provide heels to American footwear companies like Allen Edmonds, Alden of New England and The Frye Company. They have about 35 client accounts, including smaller companies – and they work hard to maintain that base.
A family affair – the legacy continues
Richard has been a full-time employee since 1967, with no signs of slowing down. His wife, Karen, handles accounts payable and has done so since 1989. Brian has been employed there since 1996 and is ready to step up to the plate as needed, along with his wife, Lynn, who has managed the office since 2010.
“We’re very family-oriented,” Brian says. “And we treat our employees like family too, so they want to stay. We’re hoping to make Montello a fourth-generation business within the next decade. We shall see what the younger generation wants to do.”