Vere-wetsuit

These Vere Sandals are custom-made for Surf & Adventure Co. complete with upcycled wetsuit straps from our retired rental suits and laser-etched logos. Available now!

Foreword & questions by John Streit. Answers by John Eades.

The Vere Sandal story is one that’s intrinsically tied to Surf & Adventure Co. The main pillar of the company can be summed up in their slogan: Made Here, Made Better. The inspiration behind John Eades starting up the surf industry’s only U.S.A-made sandal out of his hometown of Geneva, N.Y. came on a sales trip to Sandbridge while he worked for the global sandal goliath Reef. S&A owner Rob Lindauer began to notice a massive gap in the market for an American-made sandal, and simply told John about this and our customer’s want for such a product. From there, the seed was planted and Vere Sandals was born soon thereafter. The ride has had its ups and downs since the brand’s inception, but we’ve been stoked to see a quantum leap in quality and dedication to the company’s vision. We recently caught up with John for more insight into the Vere story so far. Purchase your Vere Sandals on our webstore by clicking on this link.

S&A: Take us back to that meeting you had with Rob a few years back when you were with Reef. As the wheels turned, what was your first course of action in making USA-made sandals possible?

JE: Oh man, a lot had to happen between then and getting things rolling with Vere. When I was product manager at Reef, I made it my business to travel with the sales reps whenever possible and get in front of as many influential buyers and shop owners as possible. I always asked the same questions, and one of them was, “Forget Reef for a moment — what is NOBODY giving you? What are people asking for that nobody is giving you?” I was in talking to Rob on one of those trips, and he was the very first person to ever say to me that people were starting to ask where their sandals were made. That really struck me, and got me thinking about it more, so I really kept my ears open for it. Over the next couple years, I started hearing it pop up gradually, but Rob was the first one to ever say it.

I started looking into what it would take to make sandals in the U.S., and what kinds of sandals we could make here and be competitive because of the protective tariffs that are in place. When I got laid off from Reef a few years later, I called my friend Mike and he and I started working on a plan to see if we could really do it. It took a lot of of planning, crunching and focus-grouping; but we finally decided that we could make a go of it. We really believed, as Rob did and does, that Made-in-the-U.S.A. means something to people, and that if we offered a well-made sandal that was consciously built here in the U.S., that we could make it work. But to finally answer your question, the first course of action was to prove that. We had to run the numbers, we had to do the focus groups with consumers, and we had to talk to shop owners and buyers and make sure that if we made it, the buyers would bring them into the shops and that the consumers would get them off the racks. All that was before we could even begin to build our factory, but it had to be done.

Vere-Factory

The Vere Sandals factory provides 14 jobs in the small New York town of Geneva.

S&A: I understand the obstacles have been many since you took the leap of faith. Describe some of those challenges and how you drew up the perseverance to keep the Vere dream alive.

JE: Honestly, the biggest issues have to do with having been underfunded from the beginning. While we were raising capital to get Vere going, we were struck by how often we’d hear,“We love what you’re doing. We love your story. We think you can be really successful. But we know nothing about the manufacturing sector, so we’ll have to pass.” It really opened our eyes to how difficult is was and is to produce here anymore. We raised enough capital to get us going, move into an empty space in a former manufacturing building in our hometown, order equipment and materials, and get going. We didn’t raise nearly enough and we’ve been out of money three different times. The starts and stops have been very difficult, but we’ve always managed to find that financing at the 11th hour to keep going (so far). Beyond that, we were struck by the lack of manufacturing infrastructure that remains in this country. As far as where we draw up the perseverance to keep going: this is what we want to do. It means a lot to us. We’re pretty passionate about it, so we keep fighting for it. I definitely can’t say it’s been easy in any way, but it’s been worth it.

Vere-plus

S&A: It seems that things are reaching a state of rhythm and efficiency at the factory. That’s got to feel good! 

JE: (Laughs) I think we’re starting to get there, yes, but I think we’d all tell you we can get much better. We’ve recently expanded to the point where there are 14 of us in the factory making sandals now, and we’ve generally been working with four or five of us up until this point, so we’re still adjusting to our production capacity now. It is a pretty good feeling though. Some days it’s still a pleasant surprise that we’ve gotten that particular order done and packed already, but we’re working to make that the norm — the expectation. There are three guys, Mike Guard, Joe Kennedy, and John Holt, who have gotten really good at what they do. It’s a great feeling that I’m no longer the best sandal maker in the factory now — not by a long shot. All three of them stayed with us a couple times when we had to close down for lack of finances, believing in us and in the mission, and it’s really a testament to them and their abilities how efficient we’re becoming.

S&A: How does it feel to provide good jobs for your hometown at the factory?

JE: That’s one of the most satisfying parts, to be sure. It was always one of the goals, and to be able to do it in our hometown is even better. The city has been so good to us, and so patient with us as we struggled, so it feels good to be able to start to show some return for the community.

Vere-beds

Vere footbeds ready for further production.

S&A: The laser-etched private label logos turned out great for us! How as the response been to this new offering so far?  

JE: That’s a pretty recent addition for us, but it’s been very well received.  It’s been another thing that we can offer a retailer (select retailers, of course) as a point of separation in a pretty crowded sandal market. We’re able to offer the only Made-in-the-U.S.A. offering, which is pretty powerful, but also offer fill-in availability. Now, we’re able to offer the ability for a shop to have their own branding alongside ours and really build some sense of local pride and identification of place when someone buys a sandal. We’re pretty excited about it.

S&A: Tell us more about the repurposed wetsuit sandals! We’re stoked on them.

JE: These are pretty exciting. We came up with the idea one day when we were brainstorming in the factory, and I cut up one of my old leaky wetsuits and thought it would make a pretty comfortable sandal.  It’s the same bottom and footbed that we use for our Louie sandal, but the strap is a double layer of a 3/2 wetsuit. Right away, it was insanely comfortable. I thought it would be a much better project to partner with a shop and used reclaimed wetsuits, either from the shop’s rental stash or have a box where locals can submit their old suits for use, and then we could repurpose them right back to that local community. We love that sense of community, obviously, as I keep mentioning it. As soon as I mentioned it to you guys my last time in, you had some old suits for me before I was done talking about it. We were pretty excited to be able to do it with you guys, and to do it as a shop-branded project as well.

Vere-production

S&A-branded, upcycled wetsuit Vere Sandals ready for the finishing touches. These are available in the shop now!

S&A: What’s in the immediate future for Vere?

JE: Right now most of the focus for us is on dialing in our production and getting ready for spring 2015. We feel like we already have a brand and a line that not many people have seen, so we don’t have a giant urge to make new product. Our intention from the beginning was to make what we like to call staple product – the basic flip-flop, but to make it better than anyone else. We’ll keep doing this one thing, and do it well.

http://veresandals.com

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