Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Kaufman Rubber - Sorel Boots





 This coming winter I will be heading out in these monsters. They are older Sorel Glacier boots. Guaranteed to keep your feet warm in -76*C, and made in Canada by the Kaufman Footwear Co. Sorel Boots and a couple other slipper and work boot brands were all umbrella-ed under the Kaufman Footwear/rubber Company. Founded by Jacob Kaufman in 1907, after being a part in the two original rubber factory in Kitchener and having a falling out from both. Jacob was persuaded by his son Alvin Kaufman, who had worked at one of the Rubber plants, to organize another rubber company. This new Kaufman plant opened in 1908 on the corner of King and Victoria Streets, the plant was about 4 acres large and employed 350 people.



Jacob passed in 1920, and his son A.R. Became president until 1964. Kaufman Rubber made rubber clothing for the natural resources industry, and also firefighting and the food industry. They also made footwear and gas masks for the Canadian Forces in both World Wars. During the 50's as imported rubber goods started to hit the mainstream markets, Kaufman dabbled in Synthetic footwear, leather work boots, and pioneered slush molding waterproof footwear in PVC. Eventually in 1959 the Sorel line was released and would become Kaufman's most popular line. During this time and right up until their bankruptcy they created the boots we all love and are making a come back today, like "Caribou", "Manitou, "The Crusader", "Glacier" among other intimidating names. In 1964, the company changed its name to Kaufman Footwear Limited, perhaps to reflect its diversity of products as the company was not entirely a rubber manufacturer any more. That year, A.R. Kaufman’s son William H. Kaufman became company president.  After A.R. Kaufman’s death in 1979 Kaufman Footwear became Kaufman Footwear, division of William H. Kaufman Inc. In 1997 Tom Kaufman, son of William H. Kaufman, was named president, and business was "as usual". A couple years, and a couple of warm winters later sales had dropped dramatically for this iconic brand.  In April 2000, the Red Wing Shoe Co., signed a letter of intent to purchase Kaufman Footwear. No purchase price or agreement details were given. On July 20, 2000, Kaufman Footwear of Kitchener, Ontario, went into financial receivership after having been in business for over 93 years of rubber and boot making service. Then in September 2000 the Sorel name became a division of Columbia Sportswear Company in Portland, Oregon which still markets the boot.  Although they have unfortunately moved all production Overseas to China, While they still make many of there "Heritage" boots, sadly they lack the true heritage of being still made in Canada. 

I found my boots on Kijiji, worn once. Any of the boots that were made in Canada are not hard to pick among the lots, As they all were marked numerous places to present that they were made here. Also Even though the Glaciers are the same design, you will notice that the "Sorel" label on the side of the boots now does not have Kaufman on it.  There are still plenty Canadian made Sorels around, and well worth seeking out. They made some of the best winter boots in the world.  And still hold up even if you can get them used.  Also FYI "Kamik", also a Canadian Pac boot brand still makes quite a few of the boots in Canada, and even have a Glacier replica.

5 comments:

  1. Being a Kitchener Native this post holds close to my heart. I have grown up studying the history and supporting the Kaufman brand. I remember as a kid going to their factory warehouse to pick out my new boots each winter. Today I wish that Kaufman could have held on for just a few more years until suddenly it was popular to wear the Sorels again. It saddens me that most of the people wearing the current day Sorels have no idea what a great thing the company use to be. Standing on the corner of king and Victoria in Kitchener is one of the places I would go if I could go back in time. Within a few blocks you have the Rumpel Felt Co. which produced the wool and liners for Kaufman, they stopped operation in 2007. You have the Lang Tannery building which up until a few years ago was basically untouched since 74 and now has been turned into trendy condos and business spaces, similar to the Kaufman building. I could go on forever about The city of Kitchener and its industrial heritage but I won't. It really upsets me that most of Kitchener's original heritage as far as industry has vanished but I am glad I grew up being able to see a lot of them in business and their factories in the original state in which they were constructed. I thought I should also mention that in 2014 Kitchener will be loosing yet another one its most iconic brands. With history dating back to 1890, The Schneiders plant on Courtland ave will be closing its doors.........

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  2. Brian,Thanks for the insight man! We grew up In Rockwood on a 15 acre farm, and Sorel's were the mainstay of my entire family for many a cold winters there. It really is a shitty thing that they missed out on their Re-Popularity. They are a top notch boot (back in the day). I did not know about Schneider's though, are they moving or just closing?

    But Brian, we need more trendy overpriced "Studio" apartments, I need a $300,000 tiny room with fancy knick nacks in it..manufacturing and jobs..Who needs that!!!!???!?

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  3. Sorel boots were great back in the day! I noticed a white pair off to the side, I have a big ass pair of white ones that I think my dad bought back when I was maybe 5 and a few other bean style ones kicking around that remind me of what use to be. It's funny because Nicole's sister lives in the Kaufman lofts. They have a lot of great photos in there of the old place but it pisses me off. As for Schneiders, the plant is just closing as they are moving the operation to Hamilton. Kitchener dropped the ball on not allowing the company to expand in the city. I guess 1200 jobs means fuck all to them... At least they won't be removing the big ole neon (Weiner Beacon) on the 401!

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  4. Yea the white ones are my Wifes Glacier, Found those at a Value Village last year for $12. She doesn't get cold feet while hiking mid winter anymore!! Wow I did not know that about Schneider, I knew teh plant was kind of "stuck" so to speak in the middle of the city. Again really crappy, but good the sign will still be there! As its my marker for Half way there! Ha!

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  5. RIP Kaufman Footware. Columbia may have bought the name but they do not manufacture the quality. I had a pair of Kaufman Sorel Caribous that I wore every day for 15 years in NW Colorado winters. When they finally gave out I bought a pair of the "new" Sorels. Lasted 2 years. I found a great pair of Kaufman Sorels on Ebay that will likely last me until I die. that was Kaufman's only problem. Their product did not wear out.

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