Brockton, Massachusetts, was once the shoe making capital of America. As Detroit was to cars, Brockton was to shoes. Sadly, it suffered a similar fate of economic decline, as manufacturing moved overseas and factories closed down.
Frank Beneduci spent his early youth in Brockton. His Italian-American grandfather was a tailor there, and his uncle also worked in the industry. Eight years ago Frank was burned out from his career in advertising and looking for a change. Spurred on by childhood memories of Brockton, he embarked on a shoe making journey of his own and enrolled in a shoe making course in Milan. He then apprenticed with an old-school shoemaker in Los Angeles, building on the knowledge he gained in Italy and learning about American techniques and machinery. Determined to help revive the highly skilled craft of hand making shoes in America, in 2014 he opened Beneduci Shoemakers in San Francisco.
Although he also makes custom shoes and leather accessories, Frank’s primary focus is on boot making. “When shoemakers from around the world emigrated to America in the early-to-mid 20th century, their audience was factory workers who needed the best work boots. Highly skilled shoemakers had to shift their focus from making beautiful shoes to work boots, and what we got were some of the most beautiful work boots that have become fashion items still sought after today” he explains.
“In the last few years, we have seen a resurgence in popularity of American brands that are still made in America, and a greater interest in smaller American-made brands like mine.”
“The machines that made those boots became the standard around the world to emulate American boot making. Mass production of boots is gone, but the machines aren’t.” However, locating them has been a challenge. “You really have to hunt for the machines. They’re stored away in basements and old, dusty storage facilities. But when you find them, with a little TLC, they work beautifully and definitely do the job. They’re American made with Pennsylvania steel and parts from Ohio with no plastic and they rarely break down.”
After years of mass-produced, overseas-made, inexpensive and disposable goods being the trend in shoes and apparel, Frank sees a shift back towards long-lasting, high-quality products. “In the last few years, we have seen a resurgence in popularity of American brands that are still made in America, and a greater interest in smaller American-made brands like mine. The boots I produce with a welted sole can be re-soled at least five times before they will need to be replaced. My clients are telling me how excited they are to find something they love and know it won’t need to be replaced in a year.”