J&A Shoe Company of Gardena, California produces over 50,000 pairs of wedges, heels and other shoes every month. While most Americans step out in foreign made shoes, this domestic shoemaker continues to battle the foreign competition who can make shoes for just pennies a pair.
“Being a domestic manufacturer, one of the biggest challenges is competing with people who don’t have the same regulations that we have here,” President Leah Kats Bizoumis said. “They don’t have a minimum wage and restrictions that we have. . . . In America, you work your eight hours a day and go home. In China, that’s not necessarily true.”
This family owned business with 150 employees has survived for almost three decades – due in large part to its customer service and relationships with loyal long term customers. Bizoumis’ Greek grandfather owned a made to order shoe store in Athens until the 1950s, and her father, the founder of J&A Shoe Co., would bring home designs to teach her about the business.
The whir of sewing machines and clatter of tools fills the air in J&A’s 50,000 square foot factory while employees hand braid shoe straps and sew rhinestones on pieces of leather. Workers also wear prototypes of shoes home to look for potential flaws so the designs may be adjusted before they are produced.
The company benefits from only producing the designs and number of shoes that the customer asks for, instead of mass producing a few designs. J&A provides its shoes to boutiques as well as large retailers and they project this years revenue to be $15 million.