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p.w. minor

February 13, 2018 - 1:51pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in p.w. minor, batavia, news, notify.

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Under new ownership, Batavia's oldest company is going to get lean.

That doesn't mean layoffs at P.W. Minor. Far from it. It means implementing a process of production that eliminates waste and increases productivity.

"Lean manufacturing is nothing fancy at all, but it is a set of fundamentals that if you follow them you know your production will go way up," said Hundley Elliotte, the new CEO of P.W. Minor. "It has been proven time and time again. It's not the solution to all problems but when you're in a challenging manufacturing environment and you have price pressures and cost pressures and all those kinds of things, lean is a very good way to root out waste and boost productivity."

Elliotte is a partner with Tidewater + Associates, the investment company that acquired P.W. Minor from Pete Zeliff earlier this month. Zeliff and then-partner Andrew Young saved P.W. Minor from certain closure in 2014. More than 100 jobs that were outsourced to China were returned to Batavia as a result and Zeliff instituted a program of equipment upgrades to the plant, including increasing automation.

Tidewater's acquisition of the company, Elliotte said, is just the next step in a process of growing the company, Elliotte said during an interview with The Batavian this morning.

There's no plan to cut the workforce, move the production out of Batavia, or do anything other than grow, Elliotte said.

"We felt like there was something powerful here in the fact that this company has been here for so long," Elliotte said. "I think you bring bad luck and find yourself in a bad spot when you break up something like that. It's almost like firing a legacy coach. You know when you watch it happen, whether it's Bobby Knight or Bear Bryant, or whomever, when they leave it's always a void. You know it's hard to pick up the momentum again."

The reception to the transition, which took place at the beginning of the month, seems to have been positive among employees, Elliotte said.

"We felt like the response was very positive and I think everyone knows this has been a journey and there's still some journey left," Elliotte said. "There's still choppy waters out there. We have to work hard. We have to get better. We hope to get better every day but I think I think everyone's bought into that.

It's only been a week since the lean manufacturing process was introduced and it hasn't spread yet throughout the entire organization but already there are charts on boards that provide employees with metrics to measure their performance.

Employees are also being trained on processes that will boost productivity.

An example shared by Elliotte was establishing a process for getting a machine ready for production before the next shift so when the shift starts, production can ramp up quickly.

"It's just about getting that discipline of how we operate and making clear who has responsibility for what and making sure that it's done, so that when the machine is supposed to be running you know it's running," Elliotte said.

The process of tracking and measurement helps motivate employees to meet goals, he said.

"Everybody wants to do a good job," he said.

To help keep these jobs in the United States, Empire State Development provided P.W. Minor with an incentive package and the Local Gateway Development Corp. provided the company with a loan. Zeliff said as part of the acquisition deal he is personally paying off the loan.

Tidewater was attracted to P.W. Minor as an acquisition target because it already fits the profile of the kind of companies the investors like in their portfolio -- sustainability and promoting U.S.-based jobs.

The welt constructed by Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company for P.W. Minor boots, for example, means they will last a long time. That's good for the environment, Elliotte said.

He would like to see the Batavia plant eventually become sustainability certified. It's what consumer surveys and buying preferences say a large portion of the market wants, Elliotte said, and financially there is little reason for a company like P.W. Minor not to pursue that course.

"I'm not necessarily a big environmentalist but we all care about the planet," Elliotte said. "There are other things we can do. You know course A is better than course B and you know each of them has the same kind of financial outcome; course A is much more sustainable so do that.

"It's something that people care about," Elliotte said. "It's not that it has to overwhelm the business, but if you can run the business that way, every day make yourself more environmentally sustainable, that's a good thing, right?"

He said Tidewater is also committed to creating and sustaining U.S.-based jobs.

"There's no reason for P.W. Minor to go away and just to make all those boots in China," Elliotte said. "I understand that it makes sense in certain situations where you have you know a lower price point shoes or things like that, but there's no reason not to make boots that retail at $250, $300, or $400 in the United States. That's kind of where we've drawn the line and are trying to do our part to keep those jobs here."

February 12, 2018 - 1:27pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, p.w. minor, GCC, Fashion Business Speaker Series.

Submitted photo and press release:

On March 7 Kristine McCarthy (in photo above) will be part of Genesee Community College's Fashion Business Speaker Series sharing her inspiring story of dedication, hard work and success. McCarthy currently serves as a senior vice president, operations lead at P.W. Minor.

P.W. Minor has been making shoes in America since 1867 and operates the second oldest shoe factory in the country.

McCarthy's presentation will take place in room T102 of GCC's Conable Technology Building at the Batavia Campus from 1 - 2:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public; however seating is limited.

Those wishing to attend can RSVP by calling (585)345-6830 in advance. If you are unable to attend the event, McCarthy's presentation will also be streamed live at www.genesee.edu/home/event-streaming/.

For the past decade McCarthy has led product development teams at Coach Inc. and Ann Inc. working with and managing the development process from design conceptualization to supply chain management and product profitability. McCarthy's learning and experience has taken her to New York City and China, and she now enjoys working in her hometown of Batavia.

McCarthy said, "Believing that anything is possible and not backing down from any challenge, I have delivered consistent results throughout my career on a global scale and I am proud of the work I do every day."

She graduated from GCC in 2001 with an associate degree in Fashion Merchandising and then transferred to Buffalo State College to earn her Bachelor of Science in Fashion Textile Technology in 2003. After 12 years in NYC, McCarthy currently lives in Batavia with her husband Brian McCarthy (also a 2001 GCC graduate) and their two sons, Jack and Ronan.

February 10, 2018 - 5:28pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, business, notify, p.w. minor.

Batavia-based P.W. Minor -- the nation's second-oldest shoe manufacturer founded here in 1867 -- has been sold to Tidewater+Associates, which has offices in Delaware and California.

P.W. Minor CEO Peter Zeliff will transition to board member and Hundley Elliotte of Tidewater's leadership team will become managing CEO.

"We have made significant progress turning this business around," Zeliff said in a press release about the sale. "I now feel that it is the right time to step away from my day-to-day involvement and I'm extremely confident in Tidewater's ability to guide this business to the next level of success."

That's good to know and no doubt a relief for Zeliff, who saved Genesee County's oldest business from doom when he and then-business partner Andrew Young bought the business in mid-2014. It was set to close due to slumping sales and a frumpy product line, despite having outsourced 100 jobs to China in a bid to keep it going.

Zeliff and Young poured investment into P.W. Minor, located at 3 Treadeasy Ave. in the city, and worked with state and local officials to bring back the  jobs lost to China. Young subsequently left the company; he's a real estate broker, investor and county legislator representing District 4 (towns of Batavia and Stafford).

It was a big task. Production facilities were upgraded and automated. New designers were hired and the product line was revamped. Shoe molds were brought over from Italy, world-renowned for its shoes and leather goods. The price tag to do all this was estimated at $7.5 million.

Empire State Development pledged to provide up to $1.75 million in performance-based tax credits, including a $900,000 state-backed aid package to re-shore the China jobs and add jobs. Though some layoffs were made in the interim.

The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce named P.W. Minor its 2015 Business of the Year.

"We are excited to be a part of the resurrection of this American icon," Zeliff told The Batavian in an interview before the 2016 awards ceremony.

He also admitted there was a sizable learning curve for him; he's been in the landfill-gas-to-energy business. And he expressed frustration with the bureaucratic slowness of state government.

Although the company's reputation was built on its orthopedic shoe line, rebuilding the brand and the business in that market has proven to be difficult. It currently operates three key brands -- P.W. Minor; Abram Boot Company; and the Batavia Boot & Shoe Company. A subsidiary -- Minor Brothers Boot and Shoe Manufacturer -- develops and makes products for several leading brands in the United States.

Tidewater's Elliotte says "We believe there are significant opportunities to scale P.W. Minor's social and environmental benefits through its current core brands and to embark on new developments.

"The organization's legacy of craftsmanship and capabilities to deliver product sustainability can be leveraged to expand and grow the brand base."

Tidewater has a history of more than 80 years of focusing on "small cap brands and businesses," to which it applies a unique loyalty business model and operational expertise to accelerate and scale, according to a statement released by the company.

September 15, 2017 - 10:37am
posted by Howard B. Owens in p.w. minor, batavia, business, news.

P.W. Minor is doing what businesses do periodically, said owner Pete Zeliff this morning -- reorganizing. 

While the company's reputation was built on its orthopedic shoe line, rebuilding the brand and the business in that market is proving difficult, Zeliff said. Meanwhile, the "white label" shoe business is growing and shows promise for more growth.

"White label" means making shoes on the specifications and under the brands of other shoe companies.

Last week, the company laid off eight employees and more cuts are possible, Zeliff said, based on how things go in the coming months.

"We're cutting costs," Zeliff said. "Sales are down. Revenue is down. I can only keep writing checks out of my own pocket for so long. It's ridiculous to keep doing it."

Zeliff said many of P.W. Minor's former customers dropped the shoe line during the company's previous ownership and winning them back has proven tough. Many of those customers have gotten used to buying shoes made in China and seem willing to accept buying a new pair of shoes twice a year instead one pair every two years of a better quality shoe.

And those orders come in two and three shoes at a time, which make them more expensive to produce.

With "white label" contracts, P.W. Minor is able to produce larger runs of particular shoes at higher margins.

It can take 18 months, though, to land a new white label contract. That's how long it took P.W. Minor to go from introduction through samples to production for K-Swiss.

Zeliff said there are more white label deals coming. There's one company P.W. Minor has been working with for 20 months which will likely place an order soon. Another potential contract could mean increasing production by 40,000 to 50,000 pairs of shoes a year.

Before the recent layoffs, the factory was producing 180 pairs of shoes a day, sometimes 200 pairs. Since the layoffs, the factory has hit a production target of 200 pairs a day consistently.

"I think it opened some people's eyes," Zeliff said. "I've told them there will probably be more layoffs in the near future. Now all the production picks up. Nobody wants to be the guys getting laid off."

The 150-year-old company was about to close in 2014 when Zeliff and then partner Andrew Young stepped in saved it. Zeliff has been focused on revamping the business since, bringing in top marketers and designers and investing in new equipment.

In 2015, the company ended all production in China, bringing those jobs back to Batavia, with assistance from New York.

The other part of the P.W. Minor showing promise is the Abram Boots line and Batavia Boot & Shoe Company collection, introduced last fall. Both brands are showing sales growth, especially the boots, he said.

"I think we're on a good path," Zeliff said. "Has there been some pain? Yeah, but I've been sticking 200 grand into the business each month to keep it going and I don't know anybody else in this town who would keep on doing that."

December 30, 2016 - 11:58am
posted by Howard B. Owens in p.w. minor, batavia, business, news.

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The p.w. minor factory was open last night for a "friends and family night" with tours, refreshments and a chance to buy a new pair of p.w. minor shoes.

The event was part of p.w. minor's rollout of new product lines, the Abram Boots and Batavia Boots and Shoes.

Above, CEO Pete Zeliff shows off a pair of Patriot boots to Brian Kemp. And below, Ron DiSalvo, the former owner of DiSalvo's Shoes, a retail outlet he operated in Downtown Batavia from 1967 to 2007.

Retail shoe sales are returning to Downtown Batavia through a partnership between p.w. minor and Charles Men's Shop.

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November 23, 2016 - 1:55pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in p.w. minor, batavia, downtown, business, charles men's shop, news.

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Batavia-based p.w. minor held an official kickoff party for its two new lines of shoes on Tuesday night in the future home of its new retail store, the former Chamber of Commerce headquarters on East Main Street.

Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer and Assemblyman Steve Hawley were both in attendance and they tried on some new shoes.

The new shoe lines are Abram Boots, an affordable, steel-toed work boot, and a line of higher end men's fashion shoes, under the brand of the Batavia Boot and Shoe Company.

The store will be a joint venture between p.w. minor and Charles Men's Shop, run by owners Dave Howe and Don Brown.

Next year, p.w. minor will celebrate its 150th anniversary. It recently moved all of its production back to Batavia from China and the new store will stock only American-made products.

Howe said owner Pete Zeilff, his family and the rest of the team at p.w. minor have done something a lot of people talk about but few do: make a real investment and commitment to the local community.

"I will tell you," Howe said, "we need your commitment as a community to support us. We're hoping for a partnership that everyone can be proud of."

Brian Benedict, the new director of sales for p.w. minor who was lured from a good job in Chicago to return to his hometown and work for Zeliff, said he's amazed at how far p.w. minor has come as a company in a short time and that he's excited about the potential of these shoe lines.

"We have 86 people employed at p.w. minor, so when you buy a pair of shoes, a pair from the Batavia Boot and Shoe Company, seven people touched that shoe as it goes through production," Benedict said. "And, 94 percent of our employees live in Genesee County. It’s not buying an American-made shoe. You’re buying a shoe from people who are your neighbors, your friends, people you see in the street, you see at Tops.

"If you buy two pair we can actually hire more people," he added, which got a laugh from the invited guests in the room.

The kickoff party is the first of six such events over the next couple of months, including a factory tour and chance to check out the new shoe lines at the factory in late December. The invited guests for that event will be people who have liked p.w. minor on the company's Facebook page.

Zeliff said he doesn't think he could have better partners for this venture than Howe and Brown.

"I had to learn a new profession (in taking over p.w. minor) and a new way of making a living over the past two years," Zeliff said. "I really didn't think I would do that at my age, but I really didn't want to learn another one doing retail, so Dave and Don are great people to partner with. I'm happy we're able to do this with them."

Howe has been in the retail business for 50 years, and owned Charles Men's Shop for 31 years, a business that has been in Batavia for 70 years.

The new shoe lines were developed by Kristine McCarthy, a graduate of Batavia High School, who returned home after working in New York City, to join the team at p.w. minor.

Zeliff said he's excited to reach this point of growth for p.w. minor. He sees bright days ahead.

"We've finally turned a corner and we've got a new product out," Zeliff said. "We've got a lot of exciting things happening. I think in these next 12 months will really be the turning stone for us to become a proftable company again and grow more."

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November 21, 2016 - 4:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in p.w. minor, batavia, business, charles men's shop, downtown.

It's been years since Downtown Batavia had a nice shoe store and it's a void in the Downtown retail space that Dave Howe has looked at since the day Thomas and Dwyer closed up shop.

He never added a shoe section to his store because of limited space, but two things have come together to make it possible for Howe and partner Don Brown to open up a shoe store just a few doors down from their current East Main Street location.

One, the Chamber of Commerce vacated its space in the City Church (former Mancuso Theater) building, opening up an attractive retail store front with lots of space and great visibility. Two, p.w. minor has two new fashionable shoe lines it wants to sell locally.

"We love the fact that Pete Zeliff and his family and all the family of p.w. minor decided to bring all of the production back from China to here in our own community," Howe said. "It seems like it's the perfect partnership to put together a hometown."

The move is the start of a business expansion for p.w. minor, said Brian Benedict, director of sales. The more than 150-year-old, Batavia-founded and Batavia-based company is going into shoe lines beyond the orthopedic shoes it's long been known for.

The Abrams Boot line is made up of fashionable work boots and the company will also introduce the Batavia Shoe and Boot line.

Bennett said the Downtown retail store will be the company's one-and-only retail location as it seeks new distribution channels for its new line with shoe retailers across the nation.

Howe said two factors will be hallmarks of the new store: quality and American-made products.

And there will be other products besides shoes, such as American-made workwear, belts, gloves and other accessories.

Howe thinks the shoe store will be a good complement to Charles Men's Shop.

The new store won't open until sometime in January, but people looking for shoes for themselves or as Christmas presents can stop into Charles Men's Shop to see the lines of shoes and be fitted for some of the first pairs to come out of the Batavia factory.

September 14, 2016 - 3:01pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in p.w. minor, business.

A couple of weeks ago, we reported on the donation by p.w. minor of 27 pallets of shoes to the flood victims in Louisiana. The program that accepted the donation of the shoes, Sole2Souls, produced this video about the distribution. 

August 29, 2016 - 8:14pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in p.w. minor, business, batavia, news.

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About 3,900 pairs of shoes are rolling down a highway tonight in the back of a semi-trailer bound for Louisiana.

The shoes are being donated to flood victims in the Baton Rouge area by p.w. minor.

CEO Pete Zeliff said he decided to make the donation just as a way to give back.

"Nothing more than that," he said.

"We partnered with a program called Soles for Souls through the National Shoe Retailers Association," Zeliff said. "They paid to send the truck and pay the freight and we specified that they go to Louisiana."

Most of the shoes on the 27 pallets loaded onto the truck this afternoon were manufactured in China and were being sold as closeouts, but Zeliff said he decided it would be better to donate them to flood victims.

Over the past several months, p.w. minor has moved production out of China with the goal of making all of the company's shoes in Batavia.

"We'll be making 500 pair a day by the end of this year and 1,000 pair a day by next August," Zeliff said.

Much of the ramp-up in production is made possible by a bevy of new machines that automate much of the shoe production process.

Zeliff said with a robot and another automated machine in place, the plant is already 20-percent automated. Nine more machines arrived within the past week and are being put into service.

The jobs of one of the machines in production can perform is to rough up the leather on the shoe so the glue binds better when the sole is attached.

"We went from five minutes to rough a pair of shoes to last week to Denise did a six-pair rack in 40 seconds," Zeliff said.

It's been his goal to move all of the company's shoe production back to Batavia since he and a partner rescued the business just before it was shut down, but the process has taken longer than expected.

"It will take three years from the time we invested in the assets of this company," Zeliff said. "It’s not as quick as I would have liked it to have been, but it’s still a pretty good accomplishment, I feel."

Below, photo provided by Pete Zeliff of his granddaughter, Nicole, with a country star Keith Urban and his band new pair of p.w. minor shoes. Zeliff took his family to see Urban at his show in Camden, N.J.

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March 4, 2016 - 5:32pm
posted by Billie Owens in p.w. minor, Chamber Awards, news, business.

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The oldest business in Genesee County was set to shut down on July 31, 2014, nearly done in by lackluster sales and a frumpish product line, despite having outsourced 100 jobs to China in an effort to keep costs down and stay afloat.

But thanks to two local guys who stepped up and came to its rescue, creating the New p.w. minor company, the 150-year-old shoemaker and orthodics producer is still standing, striving to thrive.

Fifty jobs were retained by keeping the business, located at 3 Treadeasy Ave. in the City, in operation. Then the hard part of rebuilding began.

Peter Zeliff and Andrew Young, although the latter is no longer with the firm, invested in the business, worked with local and state officials to work on bringing back those jobs from China, hired new designers and are revamping the product line. Things are turning around. This is why the New p.w. minor was named the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce's 2015 Business of the Year.

"I honored to be named Business of the Year," Zeliff said. "I don't know that we deserve it yet. But we're moving in the right direction. It's taking longer that I had planned on, but we're going to get there."

Zeliff and Young didn't need to take the risk, but they valued a mainstay business of the local economy and did not want to see it close. Zeliff is now CEO of p.w. minor and sits on the board of Oakfield-based EIF Renewable Energy Holdings, LLC, where he once was an executive. Young is a real estate broker and investor.

"Our goal is to bring manufacturing back to Batavia and expand it," Zeliff said in August of 2014. "We are excited to be a part of the resurrection of this American icon."

The company was founded in 1867 by two brothers shortly after they returned from fighting in the Civil War. But despite its historic roots and rich tradition of making high-quality leather footwear, like many small and mid-size businesses, worldwide economic trends and the withering of manufacturing in the Northeast took its toll.

Reversing the gloomy course of p.w. minor took money, business acumen, vision and commitment, according to the leaders who embraced Zeliff and Young's plans, including Gov. Cuomo, Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, Steve Hyde, president and CEO of Genesee County Economic Development Center, Assemblyman Steve Hawley, Howard Zemsky, president and CEO of Empire State Development, County Legislature Chairman Ray Cianfrini, et al.

Last year, p.w. minor outlined long-term plans to upgrade and automate its production facilities, putting the total price tag at $7.5 million. Empire State Development pledged to provide up to $1.75 million in performance-based tax credits, including a $900,000 state-backed aid package to re-shore the China jobs and add jobs.

Since the acquisition in 2014, Zeliff said 30 jobs have been added, but five of those were temporarily cut today (not the 10 as rumored).

"We expect to bring those jobs back in four to 12 weeks," Zeliff said this afternoon.

He explained that later this year -- late summer, early fall -- newly purchased production equipment should be in place in Batavia-- to help do the jobs that were being done in China. So far, Zeliff said $1.3 million has been invested in new equipment to upgrade and automate facilities here; and another $500,000 will be spent this year on shoemaking equipment, including molds, from Italy, known worldwide for shoes and leather goods.

New shoe designs were rolled out, or are being developed, that offer not just the fit and comfort p.w. is renowned for, but style, too.

There's been a big learning curve, and sometimes it's been frustrating. Zeliff said it's sometimes s-l-o-w going when it comes to dealing with state bureacracy. And developing new molds and products, likewise, has taken more time to achieve than he initially anticipated.

"I was a landfill gas-to-energy person," Zeliff said. "I may have underestimated what it takes to do this, but we'll get there."

November 13, 2015 - 11:13am
posted by Howard B. Owens in p.w. minor, batavia, business.

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Now you can design your own Batavia-made boots.

p.w. minor announced today the launch of their new product line and brand, the Abram Boot Company.

The new boots are the same p.w. minor quality, and made right here in Batavia, but you, the customer, design your own boots at abrambootcompany.com.

You can also visit p.w.'s local outlet store at Main and Jackson to try on boots and sit at an in-store computer to design your custom boots.

Customers can choose leather, sole, eyelets, speed hooks, toe type and laces to fashion the look they find most appealing.

Local customers are invited to use the promo code "Batavia Made" when ordering their boots online for $200 off the purchase price.

The new line is named after Abram Vorhees Minor, the younger brother of Peter Wycoff Minor. The brothers founded p.w. minor in Batavia 149 years ago.

More than a year ago, Pete Zeliff and Andrew Young purchased the company, which was about to be shut down, and saved it, investing substantially to expand production, modernize the plant and bring jobs back to Batava that had been transferred to China.

Top photo: Lisa Paul-Khan.

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Full press release after the jump:

October 6, 2015 - 10:58am
posted by Howard B. Owens in p.w. minor, batavia, downtown, business.

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The product is Batavia made, so it should be Batavia sold, the way Andrew Young and Pete Zeliff see it, so they've opened up a downtown retail store for p.w. minor's shoes.

Not just seconds, but the full product line.

"That is something totally different from what the store was known for before," said Zeliff, speaking of p.w. minor's outlet at the factory on Treadeasy Avenue. "The store was always known for seconds and it was a discount store. We still have the factory seconds and all that, but we also offer everything we sell. All of our number one product is here in the store."

Young and Zeliff have been aggressive about growing the 148-year-old Batavia-founded business since acquiring it in August, 2014. They're moving manufacturing jobs from China back to Batavia and have hired top-tier professional product development specialists and designers.

As some of those new products are brought to market, they will be introduced in the Batavia store, Young said.

"It's neighbors making the product you're buying," Young said. "It couldn't be any neater."

The company has rented the retail space at 97 Main St. only through January. Young and Zeliff want to see how it goes before making a longer-term commitment. The store will be open Tuesdays through Saturdays, starting today.

While they are continually asked by people in the community where they can go to buy p.w. minor shoes, they aren't often making it over to 3 Treadeasy Ave. The owners hope the new location is easier to find and more top of mind.

"I've lived here for 60 years and I didn't know where 3 Treadeasy Ave. was," Zeliff said. "So we'll try being here on Main Street, being in front of people and reminding people as they walk by that p.w. minor is here, it's hometown, it's hometown jobs."

For previous p.w. minor coverage, click here.

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July 16, 2015 - 3:46pm
posted by Traci Turner in batavia, p.w. minor, business.

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There are big changes afoot at p.w. minor.

Owners Andrew Young and Pete Zeliff are working to quickly transform and grow the once nearly moribund Batavia-based shoemaker they rescued last year

As a part of the transformation,Young and Zeliff came up with a new visionary statement to "dream big, get shit done and know how to have fun." They believe the three goals capture their approach to business and what they need to achieve to be successful. 

Before Young and Zeliff purchased p.w. minor, the company's main goal was to stay open. Now the goals are growth and expansion. 

"We came in with a positive attitude, bold ideas and a huge vision," Young said. "It's a different way of doing things and employees really like it."

To fulfill their vision, Young and Zeliff plan on bringing back production from China and creating more jobs. In April, the company received a $900,000 state-backed aid package to help move jobs from China back to Batavia with the goal of creating at least 100 jobs locally. They have already expanded the local staff by 25 new employees.

Two recent hires bring big-time experience to the rejuvenated company. One is a Batavia native who was eager to return home but continue her career in fashion product development; the other has made the West Coast to East Coast migration because she's excited by the opportunity and fresh energy at the new p.w. minor. Both fit into the shift of culture Young and Zeliff are trying to inoculate into the 148-year-old shoe company.

Kristine McCarthy, a 1999 graduate of Batavia High School, arrived at p.w. minor last month with 12 years experience in accessories with two top name fashion companies in New York City.

McCarthy moved to NYC after graduating from the fashion program at Buffalo State College in 2003; she landed a job with a catalog company. In addition to working for the catalog company, McCarthy has worked in the accessories department for Ann Taylor in material sourcing and Coach in product development. McCarthy and her husband, Brian, who also grew up Batavia, enjoyed living in the city but decided to return to their hometown to raise their son, Jack, and be closer to family.

She began searching for jobs in Batavia last winter and came across all the media coverage about the changes at p.w. minor. She reached out to Zeliff and Young via e-mail and expressed her interest in working for the company. Young, intrigued by her career experience and local background, offered her a position. Hiring a product developer was also a big hole they needed to fill.

During her first month on the job, McCarthy has started working with the purchasing team to source new materials and the design team to execute product samples. She is currently overseeing the production of eight new shoe designs for next Spring. Her goal is to make the products both comfortable and fashionable.

One of the aspects of her job at p.w. minor that is different from her other jobs is the ability to watch the shoe designs come to life at the factory.

"It's different being at the factory," McCarthy said. "This job is a lot more hands-on and I'm gaining more knowledge because of it. I want to learn as much as I can about the manufacturing of a shoe and every detail that goes into it."

She is eager to learn from Young and Zeliff and be a part of the company's growth.

"It's such an exciting thing to be a part of," McCarthy said. "They are both intelligent and there is so much I can learn from them. They are great leaders and have great energy."

Erika Williamson, a pattern maker for a Nike development center in Beaverton, Ore., decided to accept a job at p.w. minor and relocate to Batavia to obtain experience working in a factory. 

"If I wanted to work in a factory for Nike, I would have needed to relocate to China or Sri Lanka," Williamson said. "To me p.w. minor was a great opportunity to not have to relocate overseas."

Williamson never heard of p.w. minor until she randomly received a call from a recruiter a month and a half ago about an opening for a pattern engineer. After learning more about the company and having three phone interviews, she was flown out to Batavia and offered a job on the spot.

She has been designing shoes since she was 12 years old and has 10 years worth of professional experience in fashion. She earned a degree in Arts and Apparel Sciences from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. After college, she worked on the fashion segment for KUSI news in San Diego and then moved back to Oregon to do various contract jobs in the apparel industry. 

At Nike she worked on the production floor. She spent two years sewing shoes in production and three years in footwear development. Although she liked designing sports performance shoes at Nike, her passion lies within fashion and developing more high-end style shoes.

Williamson has already started working at p.w. minor drawing and drafting patterns for new shoe designs. One of her goals is to design a comfortable high heel for women who are always on the go. She plans to design a 2- to 3-inch leather heel that is dressy but doesn't leave behind painful blisters after a long day at work.

"I really like working in a factory," Williamson said. "Coming from working on the production floor at Nike, I have found people are more down to earth here. I enjoy working on the equipment and interacting with people. It's a very hands-on job which I love."

Williamson also plans to use her skill in commercialization and full product testing she gained at Nike to get the factory running efficiently after all the production is brought back from China. When she first started working at the development center at Nike, the business unit was small and only three employees worked there. However, in three years the unit grew and became the most sought after group in the company, which led to the creation of 30 jobs. From her experience, she predicts p.w. minor will significantly expand in the next few years.

"With what p.w. minor wants to accomplish and the resources they have, I think within the next three to five years we are going to be seeing a huge growth within the company," Williamson said.

In the near future, Young will be hiring more new employees. 

"We also have some heavy growth plans that will require more hiring," Young said.

pwminorjuly2015-3-2.jpg

April 16, 2015 - 1:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, p.w. minor.

The first of the necessary paper is being pushed to move jobs from China to the p.w. minor shoe factory in Batavia with the Ways and Means Committee approval yesterday of a resolution to accept a $750,000 grant from the state to assist the company's local expansion.

The county must accept the grant, which passes through the Genesee Gateway Local Development Corp. (a branch of Genesee County Economic Development Center), which will become part of a grant and deferred loan program for p.w. minor.

The grant was approved by Empire Development Corps after the agency encouraged p.w. minor to apply for the grant.

The application pledges 80 new local jobs added over a two-year period, but p.w. minor is planning to transfer a total of 100 jobs over time from China to Batavia.

The LDC will package the $750,000 with $125,000 loan from LDC funds to assist p.w. minor in buying shoe-making machinery.

Mark Masse, VP of business development for GCEDC, laid out the terms of the resolution for members of the Ways and Means Committee, who recommended approval of the resolution to the full County Legislature.

Andrew Young, one of the co-owners the New p.w. minor, is also a member of the Legislature, and while he attended Wednesday's meeting, he was not present during the discussion of the resolution.

Young and local entrepreneur Peter Zeliff, purchased p.w. minor after the previous owners announced plans to close the plant, thereby saving dozens of local jobs at Batavia's oldest, continuously running business.

April 6, 2015 - 9:49pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, p.w. minor.

Press release:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that PW Minor, a manufacturer and international distributor of leather footwear and orthopedic products, will bring previously outsourced production work from China back to New York State. The move will create 100 additional jobs at the company’s Batavia facility. This news comes on the heels of the Governor’s announcement in August 2014 that PW Minor, which was scheduled to close on July 31, 2014, will remain open under new local ownership and management, retaining more than 50 manufacturing jobs.

“I am pleased that these jobs are being brought back to New York State, where they belong,” Governor Cuomo said. “Our priority is not only to attract new businesses to New York, but also to ensure that the ones already here continue to grow. PW Minor’s decision to bring jobs back to Western New York will add to the region’s growing reputation as a great place for businesses to thrive and I look forward to their continued success.”

The owner of PW Minor, which was founded by two brothers in 1867 shortly after they returned from fighting in the Civil War, is Batavia Shoes LLC, headed by Andrew Young and Peter H. Zeliff. PW Minor is one of a few remaining shoe manufacturers in the United States and the oldest company in Genesee County.

Andrew Young said, “What an awesome opportunity for us to positively impact our community. The people of PW Minor have stepped it up and my money is on them that they will again. We look forward to growing production in Batavia and adding to the PW Minor family.”

Peter H. Zeliff said, “Bringing our production back to New York is our priority. There will come a day when again we can proudly stamp “Made in America” on each and every pair of shoes with the PW Minor brand name.” We are excited to be a part of the resurrection of this American icon.

PW Minor’s $7.35 million project will automate its processes, allowing the company to close the gap between Batavia and China and thereby granting the company the ability to shutdown overseas operations and bring 100 new jobs to Batavia. Empire State Development (ESD) will provide up to $1.75 million in performance-based Excelsior Jobs Program tax credits in return for job creation commitments. This is in addition to the previously awarded $449,505 in 2014. If ESD did not incentivize this project, the company would not be able to close production in China and continue to grow in Batavia.

Howard Zemsky, President, CEO & Commissioner of Empire State Development, said, “PW Minor’s decision to bring jobs back from overseas is a testament to the quality of the region’s workforce and New York State’s welcoming environment for growing a business. It’s great news that more than one hundred employees of this iconic and valued business will continue to make hand-crafted quality shoes in Batavia for years to come.”

President and Chief Executive Officer of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) Steve Hyde said, “The Governor and his economic development team at Empire State Development have once again made a significant commitment to Genesee County to bring new jobs and investment to our region. It’s also a belief in the vision and business acumen of Pete Zeliff and Andrew Young in their efforts to restore the rich tradition of PW Minor in our community.”

Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer said, “PW Minor’s decision to continue doing business in the City of Batavia and bring jobs back from China is proof positive that Genesee County is a good place to operate a business. With the partnership between Governor Cuomo, Empire State Development and this historic business, the opportunities for Genesee County residents continue to grow.”

Assemblyman Stephen Hawley said “As a small-business owner, I know the struggles and successes that New York’s small-business owners face on a daily basis. Locally-owned businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and I am proud to see my business advocacy in Albany materialize. I am thankful to Pete Zeliff and Andrew Young for re-energizing the new PW Minor as an historic mainstay of our Western New York economy.”

Genesee County Chairman Raymond F. Cianfrini said, “Today is a great day for PW Minor and its employees and a great day for Genesee County. Our thanks go out to Peter Zeliff and Andrew Young for saving this historic business when it was on the brink of closure and now, with New York State’s assistance, bringing additional jobs back from overseas. We in Genesee County are fortunate to have these two individuals, as well as the support of Empire State Development, who are committed to economic development and keeping our county vibrant.”

City of Batavia Council President Brooks Hawley said, “P.W. Minor has been a company deep routed in Batavia for well over 100 years and I am thrilled to see their continued growth in our community. Thanks to Empire State Development for the State’s incentives and to the commitment of new, local owners, Andrew Young and Peter Zeliff, PW Minor has a bright future in Batavia.”

February 14, 2015 - 2:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, p.w. minor.

When Pete Zeliff and Andrew Young first walked onto the factory floor of the p.w. minor building on Treadeasy Avenue, they knew nothing about the shoe industry.

"We could tie our own shoes," Young said with a wry smile Friday morning following a tour of the production line with Assemblyman Steve Hawley.

In the six months since Zeliff and Young rescued the 150-year-old shoe factory from closure, the two local businessmen have not only proven quick studies of the shoe business, they've pulled the firm from the brink of an abyss and placed it on the precipice of success.

After his walking tour, Hawley was impressed with what he saw and heard.

"With Pete and Andrew's investment here, and their hard work, the possibility of success in their eyes, their demeanor, and the people I've seen here working today with their smiles, you can see it," Hawley said. "It's great for the local economy, it's great for Western New York, to see people take a chance and that's what these two gentlemen have done. The State of New York ought to use them and p.w. minor as an example of how to be successful."

As neophytes in the shoe business, when Zeliff and Young first sat in their new offices, they wondered, why do shoes that feel good on your feet need to look dowdy and unimaginative?

The p.w. minor speciality are shoes designed and constructed for people with orthopedic needs, but why should orthopedic shoes be frumpy?

"We've been able to, with some stitching and some designs and some beautiful leathers that we're using, to upgrade those shoes," Young said. "The same lasts (forms used to make shoes), same fit, same feel, but it looks way more 'today,' I guess would be the word."

p.w. minor has long had some great-looking shoes in its line -- one shoe was bought as a prop for the former HBO series "Boardwalk Empire," after all -- and there are high-end brands that turn to p.w. minor to shod voguish-minded Wall Street bankers and urban hipsters.

But the persistent image of p.w. minor is for shoes that favor comfort over fad, In recent years, much of the shoe line had the look of something a doctor might prescribe to dowagers or retired postmen.

"When we got here, we were wondering why people who had to wear shoes that they needed for their feet, but they couldn't also look good," Young said.

One of the first of their new hires was a shoe designer out of Michigan who had experience with shoe company turnarounds.

Every shoe the company sells is getting a makeover. The first samples of the new line will make their industry debut at a trade show in Las Vegas.

"This is a company that designed about three shoes in the previous decade and we're going to a show next week where we're going to introduce three dozen shoes," Young said.

Of course, nobody is going to buy shoes if there are no feet on the street selling the revamped shoe lines to retailers and distributors.

The old p.w. minor got rid of the last of its sales staff years ago, Young said. He and Zeliff have hired five new sales reps so far and plan to hire as many as five more.

"That's already paying dividends," Young said. "We need to get our name out there. I think most of the marketplace thought we were basically dead, and there was good reason for that because we sort of were. I think they're starting to see, and they will really see it at this show next week, that we're definitely back."

The total new hires for Zeliff and Young is 16 so far, and Young says there's more to come. Part of the reason to let the media tag along on Friday's tour was to get the word out locally that p.w. minor is truly a new company. It's a place people should want to work, Young said, and Young wants to attract the best local employees.

p.w. minor was also a company that needed to do a better job of meeting the needs of existing customers. To that end, back orders have been cut tremendously. The company has gone from making 80 pair of shoes a day to 160. It used to take 25 to 26 days for a pair of shoes to wind through the production line. On Wednesday, the crew completed a line of shoes in 4.8 days.

That's a lot of change not just for the marketplace to absorb, but it's even been an adjustment for p.w. minor's employees.

There have certainly been some bumps along the way, Young indicated.

"I always say if I had a nickel for every time somebody says that's not the way we used to do things, I wouldn't need to sell any shoes," Young said. "This company was on a trajectory down, steeply down, and we want it to be on a trajectory steeply up. The change is sometimes hard for us to get through and hard to understand and accept. We're making great progress in that regard, but I like to say it's a big ship to turn. It's turning, but it takes some time."

Top photo: From a fit and feel perspective, the two shoes are essentially the same. They're made with the same fasts, but the one of the left uses more attractive leather and an updated design.

Hawley, Zeliff and Young in the leather room at p.w. minor.

Hawley holds another example of a p.w. minor shoe transformed by design and the material used to make it.

A pair of newly designed fashion boots near the end of production.

Soles waiting to become shoes.

A worker making a shoe.

Hawley with Young and Zeliff.

Glue on shoes.

Cork spread on the bottom of a shoe before the sole is attached. The cork helps ensure the comfort of the shoe's wearer.

This all-weather sole is on a shoe made for another company that sells it under its own brand name. Young said he and Zeliff love the sole, but it's only made in England, and p.w. minor's own shoes will be 100-percent made-in-America.

Nearly finished boots on the factory floor.

Zeliff, Hawley and Young with an employee near the end of the production line.

The slide show below is of pictures sent over by Young of some of the shoes that will be making their industry debut in Las Vegas next week.

September 22, 2014 - 9:58am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, history, hlom, p.w. minor.

Jane Read and Anne Marie Starowitz were at Holland Land Office Museum on Saturday morning setting up a new exhibition about the history of local shoemaker p.w. minor. 

The grand opening of the display is Oct. 2.

Employees and retirees of p.w. minor are invited to a preview at 3 p.m. The public is invited to a ribbon cutting at 6:30 p.m.

Many of the items in the display were provided on loan from The new p.w. minor.

 

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