When you think about buying local, I bet that you don’t think about purchasing locally made boots and shoes, right? Well, that’s all about to change thanks to visionary entrepreneur Andrew Svisco, owner of Parkhurst Brand LLC.
When I first learned that a young guy in Buffalo was making boots, I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the idea. Isn’t that an impossible industry to get into? How does one simply go about manufacturing boots in a city that is not known for that sort of thing? Where does one start, when embarking upon a boot manufacturing business? Those were just a few questions that were buzzing around in my head.
To get to the bottom of all of this, I decided to meet up with Andrew, at Ashker’s Café in Black Rock, to discuss the ins and outs of boot making. When Andrew arrived, he was wearing Parkhurst boots, of course. Before we began discussing the business, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the boots. So he slipped one off his foot and handed it to me. It was beautiful. I’m a shoe guy. Typically Johnny Fluevog is my go-to when it comes to shoes and boots – I own a bunch of pairs of each. In order to get my hands on them I go to Toronto. So when I examined the Parkhurst boot, I felt confident that I was handling a darn good product.
Once Andrew had his boot back on his foot, the questions began to fly? Of course, the first question to come to mind was, “How the heck did you decide to start a boot and shoe company?” The answer? Andrew told me that in his previous life (how old was this guy?), when he was in finance, he would take a look to see what the other financial analysts were wearing on their feet. He noticed that they weren’t great looking and they didn’t appear to be well made. That’s when he decided that he was going to start making artisan boots right here in Buffalo.
The first thing that Andrew did, was to get a hold of some of the best name brand boots on the market, including Gucci and Ferragamo. Then, he destroyed them. He ripped them apart, examining every material, every layer, every stitch, until there was nothing left but a pile of garbage. For the most part, they were all made overseas, and they were poorly constructed, using bogus materials. Opportunity knocks? Yes, it was at that point that Andrew knew that he could bring back the American-made shoe and boot, which is almost impossible to find these days.
Parkhurst officially launched a couple of months ago, after Andrew sporadically worked on the concept for two years. Today he is marketing and selling men’s boots, created virtually by hand, in a process that involves over 200 steps. Not only are these sharp-looking boots, they are also made with leathers that are sourced responsibly. The boots are made with South African antelope that have been overpopulated – the government does controlled hunting, and the meat is provided to villagers,” Andrew told me. “I pride myself in knowing that the entire animal is used, for meat and skins. We also source cows from cruelty free, free range farms in the US. I want to make a change – I want to have a clean conscience. I’m not going to purchase cheap leather and dye the hell out of it, while sanding out the imperfections. I love the imperfections! I want to be a responsible manufacturer, with as little waste as possible. I have reduced the leather cutting rate between 1 and 5 percent, and use discarded leather cuttings to make the prototypes.”
Just like the old days, Parkhurst hand-crafts high quality boots that are made to last.
According to Andrew, the shoe industry has “left the building.” There are only two or three companies that make boots in the US. The industry has gone unchecked. That’s why he’s determined to dot he right thing. He sources his leathers and supplies from small mom ‘n pop shops along with other American companies, because he wants to keep them in business.
When it comes to quality, Andrew goes beyond expectations. He says that he uses the oldest shoe making process known to man – the Goodyear Welt construction. He also doesn’t use any fossil fuels or hardly glues – it’s all stitched. This is not only a business for Andrew, it’s a passion play. From the 150 year old heal machine to the leather lined interior and the running shoe insole (with cork platform), these boots have almost zero break-in period. Then there’s the studded rubber outsole that helps dirt and debris to clear the sole for better traction.
“It’s all in the details,” Andrew explained. “I recently filled a backpack with boots and headed to Men’s Fashion Week. I took the boots around to the vendors and got a great response. I’m in talks with larger retailers at the moment. I currently have four styles, and I want to introduce shoes and women’s styles in 2019. Corporate JCrew saw the boots on my website, and we held a couple events at the local store. We have the capacity for larger orders, which is great because I want to get young people to learn the trade and craft – it’s all about building business the right way. I feel responsible for keeping workers employed that have pride in what they are making. The boots currently range from $348 to $450 (visit shop), which I feel is a decent price for footwear that will last forever.”
From laces to soles, every raw material purchase supports an American job.
The Parkhurst story began because Andrew felt that no amazing shoe or boot should be stuck under a desk all day. He told me that he wanted to create footwear that would start a movement. “Look at a beautiful pair of boots, and there’s a story there,” he said proudly. “I could have gone into the t-shirt making business, and sourced my lines overseas, and made a buck. But I decided that I wanted to do the right thing, and make Buffalo proud. I would love to have a retail outlet in Downtown Buffalo – I’m actually looking into spaces currently. In the end, I feel that if I do something cool, that is good for people, then good things will happen.”
Get connected: Parkhurst Brand LLC online