Have you ever heard of SAS Shoes? Do you know what SAS stands for? Did you know they are made in Texas?
I have heard of SAS shoes and, wrongly, just assumed the name was short for sassy. I never really put much thought into it.
Well, SAS stands for San Antonio Shoemakers.
The General Store.
We can get to San Antonio in about an hour. When you live in Texas an hour doesn’t seem that far.
The company was founded in 1976 by Terry Armstrong and Lew Hayden. There is also a much larger factory in Del Rio, Texas.
Unfortunately, no cameras are allowed in the factory. Besides Mark and I there were two other people on our tour. We boarded the bus at the General Store at 9:15. The trip to the factory took about 30 seconds! Our guide, Celia, has worked with the company for over 30 years. She was very nice and knowledgeable. There were a couple of rules we had to follow. Probably the most important was to not talk to the workers. We were told that they get paid by the piece and to not disturb them. Everyone was friendly and we got a lot of smiles. At every station Celia would pick up the finished piece for that station and explain what the employee was doing.
We learned that the leather is cow hide that comes from Mexico, Italy, and the northern US. Even though the tour was only about an hour long, we were able to see the entire production of making a hand-crafted shoe. Of the couple of hundred or so employees, that we saw, there were only a handful of men. Celia wouldn’t tell me how many people were employed here but she did say that most of them were women.
I will say, these shoes are expensive. After seeing how they are made, I can see why. There were no conveyor belts with shoes whizzing by while computers did all the work. Every station had a person either doing all the work or part of the work. We saw employees laying out giant cow hides that would be cut by a computer but we also saw employees hand stamping the leather pieces (just like cutting out cookie dough!). Others were hand laying and gluing the various pieces together - they had to fit perfectly. There are 65 - 100 steps, depending on the style, for every shoe made.
But the sight that will stay in my mind forever - the women hand sewing the shoes! Holes are pre-cut into the leather so that every piece lines up perfectly but it still looked like a lot of work pushing a needle through the leather.
The top of the shoe is hand sewn to the sides!
After the tour we went back to the General Store. I saw some sneakers that I really liked (mostly because they were orange), but I didn’t find my size so no purchases were made.
Lots of shoes for sale in the General Store.
There was a small area inside the store were kids shoes were being made.
Mark holding a tiny shoe.
Industrial size sewing machine.
There was one employee working in this area. She was very friendly and didn’t mind talking to us.
Roughing up the botton of the shoe before the sole is glued on.
The founders of the company were also car collectors and there are many displayed outside the General Store.
It was killing me not to be able to take pictures of this fascinating tour! If you like factory tours, this is worth the trip.