Oldest company in Genesee County -- P.W. Minor -- bought by Delaware-based firm
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.