Elbert W. Allen, the pioneering founder of Allen-Edmonds Shoe Corporation is remembered as a quiet man born of the hills and valleys of Tennessee. In his early 20's, Allen left the Cumberland River country of his birth to manage a shoe-making program at a state prison in Texas. While there, he envisioned a method of manufacturing a man's shoe that would flex as he walked ~ just as the foot flexes in a heel to ball movement with each step it takes. His friends within the shoe industry believed his ideas were too impractical to succeed. He proved them wrong.
Four years after Elbert Allen moved to Milwaukee to become general manager of the Ogden Shoe Company, he teamed with Ogden shoeman Ralph Spiegel to found the Allen-Spiegel Shoe Company. The two began manufacturing men's fine quality footwear in a three-story, red brick building in the small town of Belgium, Wisconsin. It was in that red brick building that Allen perfected the Oseopath-ik construction he was to patent as the "shoe that needs no breaking in." Allen's method of manufacturing men's shoes with hundreds of handcrafted steps would revolutionize the footwear industry. His commitment to "get the best leather I can buy and the best craftspeople I can find" was at the heart of his success.
Following Elbert Allen's death in 1946, his sons, who had grown up with the business, took over the management of the firm that had become with a new partner, William Edmonds, the Allen-Edmonds Shoe Corporation. In 1980, John Stollenwerk, owner of an import/export company retained by Allen-Edmonds to expand the international market for its footwear, purchased the firm from the Allen family. Stollenwerk, an enthusiastic and energetic marketer, expanded his company's shoe collections to appeal to a younger and growing segment of the population and initiated programs that would lend prestige to the Allen-Edmonds name, not only in the U.S., but throughout the world.
After a disastrous fire in 1984 at the red brick building in Belgium, a new Allen-Edmonds plant and corporate office complex was built in Port Washington, a city six miles to the south. Within the next several years, Allen-Edmonds had expanded its manufacturing and marketing base with the founding of Woodlore, a cedar products company, and the acquisition of U.S. distribution rights to Elefanten, Germany's premier manufacturer of children's footwear. In 1997, Allen-Edmonds opened a satellite factory in the central city of Milwaukee, to secure the skills of craftspeople who resided in the area. One year later, Allen-Edmonds purchased Maine Shoe Company in Lewiston, Maine, and began marketing its line of genuine handsewns for men and women.
The Allen-Edmonds tradition continues. With new collections of footwear. With new companies and manufacturing plants. And, with a commitment to its founding father.