Friday, October 14, 2011

Arc of Yates & Vere Sandals

Things are shaping up at Vere! Production is running smoothly and sandals are going out the door. This, my friends, is no small cause for celebration.

I got to know the team at Vere a few months back when they contacted me about working with Arc of Yates' program that allows individuals to work in the community--with the aid of a job coach--until they are ready to do so independently. This program offers those with developmental disabilities a chance to experience the working world as the rest of us do. This partnership not only provides the individuals at Arc with invaluable experience but also gives Vere a steady and reliable workforce, allowing for quick turnaround from the factory to the local stores. It is a win-win situation.

Each visit, I’d bring 2-5 individuals to the Vere factory in Geneva, NY. We contrubuted to production at all stages including: gluing, pressing, reinforcing, and sewing. The sense of self worth that working in a real-world, industrial setting provides is staggering. The goal of Arc of Yates is to provide the individuals it serves with the skills needed to become independent and accomplished in their surrounding community.. This is mainly done through training designed and carried out by the agency’s own workshop. Rarely does an opportunity like this arise where individuals can train with the aid of staff in a completely genuine setting before they are advanced into supported work. This gives Arc the unique opportunity to see how its training really measures up against what the working community has to offer-- making adjustments where necessary. Plus,, who wouldn’t want to jam out to the Stones all day and make flip flops?

A big part of what we loved about working at Vere was the atmosphere. Let’s face it, mass producing things is tedious, but not here. However, our time at the factory (four hours a day, five days a week) flew by. It’s the first place I’ve been where the effort to leave is not worth the benefit of being away from work, and that’s saying quite a lot. No dress code. No boring factory hum. No scheduled break times. The floor is prime for skateboarding, you can see the sun in the sky, and you can even burn a logo in your toast should you choose to have some in the morning. I mean, really, what more could you ask for? An indoor slide? Maybe, but let’s not get carried away.

On an equipment note, the shaper is in and running, which allows for the higher-end sandals with rubber soles to be finished and sent out. In our time at the factory so far, we have only been able to work on the sandals with EVA outsoles, so, it will be exciting to see some leather flops being made. However, it’s exciting to see flip flops being made in general. The mysteries that unfold here are amazing, like, recognizing your mom’s handwriting on a package from Santa type thing. I highly advise you stop by and check it out if you’re in the area, and feel free to lend a hand.

Orders have gone out to a local store, Super Casuals, which is located in downtown Geneva, and the public response seems to be positive. For now, they’re selling black and brown Don’s and Betty's until we finish the other styles. Things are moving quickly so hopefully you won’t have to wait too long. Trust me, these guys are trying! They are here making sandals by moonlight more often than is probably healthy.

That’s it for business news, though, and sadly, that’s it for me. My time at the factory has come to an end but I couldn’t be happier to have been a part of this and to have made the small contribution that I have. Fortunately, the individuals from Arc of Yates will stay, and they are the ones doing big things. So, this is generally where I say something witty, give my two cents, and sign off. Here goes:

I am young, but I remember the stories of my grandparents from a time when things were made here, in the U.S.A, and were made better, and were made by a community of men and women who worked at and stood behind their local businesses. Vere is bringing this back. Geneva has done its part, and Vere is doing its part in giving back at every available opportunity. This is a company that has what it takes to succeed and that we should be proud to stand behind, or on, rather. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Now, “go outside.”

Elijah McCarthy
Job Coach
Arc of Yates

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Too tired to make up titles

One of the most fun parts of this whole process has taking our theories and putting them to practice. We've spent almost 24 months planning and doing this now, so we've had plenty of time to think about it, but there's still that excited nervousness when you put it to test for the first time. Combine it with the fact that we're operating on a startup budget and not working with the gleaming new equipment that we all dream about having, and you have that extra set of butterflies in the stomach before each step.

The Black/Blue Louie laid in the jig, ready to be pressed

Today we finally got to test the bond on our footbeds. We worked with Worthen Industries and UPACO Adhesives in Nashua, NH on our materials and the best methods for ensuring a solid, permanent bond, so we had a good start. They tested sample materials for us back in October and recommended the adhesives, and we had them on hand and ready to go long before we got our EVA and rubber last week. We spent last week, almost all of last week, unpacking the EVA and checking it into inventory. This week, we got to run the heat tunnel and finally work the footbed presses.

The test table after our first (failed) round of material bond testing

We had some tense moments, as when we ran the individual footbed parts through the heat tunnel, we discovered that the volume and direction of the air was way too much, and it was blowing the parts all around the oven. The parts managed to work their way through the heat tunnel wind storm and we assembled the first set we ran through plus two more sets using slightly different settings to see what worked best. After a few hours of waiting to make sure everything was set, we did our pull tests. No bueno.

In the pull test, the idea is to pull on the separate parts until they come apart. Ideally, when it breaks, it's the material itself that breaks, which shows that the adhesive bond between materials is stronger than the material itself. When that happens there are no delimitation issues, and that's what we're looking for. Unfortunately, we got consistent clean peeling right along the adhesive, so it was time to find the issue, and fix it.

After some tinkering inside the heat tunnel which led to the creation of something we dubbed the "Tunnel of Love," and some adjustments to the timing of the press, we got a more consistent drying and activating on the adhesives. This led to a cleaner press between the parts, and we got the kind of material tear we were looking for.

EVA tear from our last material bond test. Material tears are good.

It's just another step in the process, but one we've been waiting a long time to get to.

Today we also got our leather skivving machine working properly, and we're able to move forward with the leather uppers. They are almost all cut, and tomorrow we'll start sewing the lining webbing inside the leather straps on all those Josie's and Al's.

Almost all the uppers are done, and we're ready to crank through those bottom units and get the finished product out the door before too much longer. It's been a frustrating series of setbacks and delays, but we're on track again and excited to finally be making the kind of progress we've been expecting to make all along. Plus, it feels good when it works the way it's supposed to.

Thanks for hanging along with us on the ride. We think it'll be worth the wait.

The first 10 pair of the Louie Black/Blue midsoles - pressed, cut, and ready for the next step...
The Next Step: the Vere logo laser etched into the heel of each sandal

Friday, June 17, 2011

Production Begins

It's been a busy and slightly crazy two months but we're thrilled to tell you that production is finally underway. Delayed shipment of our raw materials, along with an assortment of minor setbacks, stalled production by a few months. But, we are fully operational now on Genesse St. in Geneva, NY, in a space that was completely empty just nine months ago. Below are some shots of what we've been up to these past few weeks. Excited to get these sandals out into the market and on your feet and thrilled to be putting "made here. made better." into action.

Our first leather footbed cut

Mike on the embroidery machine, and John on the leather cutting press

Leather footbeds as a good representation of our size curve--most of you guys are a size 10 or 11. Our full compliment of cutting dies in the background.

It's definitely a family affair here at Vere. We put John's mom's (Lorraine) skills to the test embroidering some toe posts.

woven "V" straps - one of the first steps in building the sandals.

toe posts with our Vere logo

footbeds for our "Al" leather sandals

John, unloading the cutting dies

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Earth Day 2011

You may have heard us profess on occasion (OK, on several occasions): "Made Here. Made Better." Why? Because we believe we need to keep production local to reduce carbon footprint, make our products using methods and materials that are friendlier to the environment, and reduce and reuse waste. That's what we've set out to do in the sandal industry.

So, in celebration of Mother Earth, we've created a small (but vital) guide of recycling programs and tidbits in our neighborhood, as well as yours, and oh yeah--what we're doing to help.

Our Neighborhood:

Just next door to our global headquarters, 2trg, a technology recycling group (how about that!), is hosting a community collection for unwanted electronics.

The Deets:
Friday, April 22nd
122 E. Genesee Street
Outside Building B
10:00 AM- 6:00 PM

Your Neighborhood:

Visit Earth911 to find a recycling center near you.
Check out your state guidelines for recycling specific products.

Nothing to dispose of but want to get involved? Pledge an act of green with the Earth Day Network on their website or via Facebook. (We're told all the cool kids are doing it.)

Want to hang with us?
We'll be cleaning up the beaches of Seneca Lake in conjunction with the Seneca 7 race we sponsor
next weekend, April 30th, in Geneva, NY. Meet us at 2PM at Lakefront Park. Bring yourself and some gloves. We'll supply the trash bags.

OK, that's our spiel for the day. Now go outside.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Great Minds

When we began to outline our initial plans for our packaging, we always knew that point of purchase displays were going to be a big component of our overall message--showing our commitment to the environment on all production fronts. When we sat down with the design team back in 2009, we presented them with our goal: recycled display racks made of either corrugate or wood. Impossible? No. Uncommon? Yes.

However, just last week Coca-Cola announced it's solution to trashed floor displays: recycled corrugate.

As they say, great minds...