Chaco brings shoemaking to the mitten

If there’s one thing that is a sure-sign summer has found it’s way to Michigan, it’s when the boots get put away and the sandals come out.

For me, those sandals are my myriad pair of Chacos. High in the arch, completely customizable to my feet and up for anything from taking our new puppy for a walk through the neighborhood to hiking in Manistee National Forest, there’s a ton of reasons these are my go-to summer footwear.

One of the reasons that I tend to forget about as my feet glory in the Chaco-goodness is that Chaco may have their roots in Colorado, but they’re making (and re-making) sandals right here in Michigan.

Below is a story about just this from Footwear Plus Magazine. It helped remind me that when I buy another pair of Chaco’s (because there’s bound to be a new design I just have to have), I’m supporting a company creating jobs right here in Michigan.

Enjoy! And come see us at Gazelle Sports to get your own pair!

Chaco Story

IF YOU LIKE beer, perhaps you’ve heard of Grand Rapids, MI, a.k.a. “Beer City, USA.” With multiple breweries dotting the charming town, the local community is awash in the fermented favorite. But Grand Rapids is home to more than just tasty brews—a mere 10 miles away in the suburb of Rockford lies the headquarters of Wolverine Worldwide and its Chaco sandals and accessories factory.

Chaco, born in Colorado in 1989, began by making sandals stateside before transferring production overseas in 2008. When Wolverine purchased the brand in 2009, it brought part of its manufacturing back to the U.S., beginning in 2012 with the introduction of MyChacos (customized) and the continuation of ReChaco (repaired) sandals along with capsule collections and accessories. Since the inception of the MyChacos designyour- own program (with over a trillion combinations to choose from!), tens of thousands of custom sandals have been made in Michigan. In addition, many thousands more have been repaired with the ReChaco renewal program, which launched more than 10 years ago.

“We wanted to give consumers a choice in where their products were produced,” says Colin Butts, director of marketing. “Having a local factory opens up a lot of interesting opportunities for the brand, from rapid prototyping to personalization to accessory creation to limited-edition products.” Logistically speaking, producing in Michigan allows for shorter lead times, local material sourcing and lightening the carbon footprint related to manufacturing and shipping. And, let’s not forget the U.S. job-generating aspect.

Currently, the Chaco factory employs 25 full-time workers and 20 temps, all performing skills ranging from sewing to buffing to trimming to lacing. And customers, despite paying a 25 percent premium, are responding positively to the made-in-the-U.S.A. goods. In fact, the Rockford factory is set to expand for the second time in March. “The Michigan-based team has picked up the torch and run the brand further than ever before into accessories for pets and people and into customizable products,” Butts says. He hints at additional customization opportunities to come in the future, too.

Butts attributes the success of the MyChacos and ReChaco programs, in large part, to their Rockford workforce. He cites the Midwestern labor traits of being dedicated and hard-working as special. “It’s the people here that make the difference,” he says, noting such attributes are worth funding long-term. “The brand will keep investing in ways to make domestic production possible and exciting for our community,” he adds.