Batavia shoe manufacturer to lay off 45, will keep facility open

Batavia shoe manufacturer to lay off 45, will keep facility open

Batavia's P.W. Minor manufactures orthopedic and diabetic athletic, dress and casual shoes.
Batavia’s P.W. Minor manufactures orthopedic and diabetic athletic, dress and casual shoes.

A 150-year-old Batavia shoe manufacturer plans to idle one of its product lines, resulting in 45 layoffs.

P.W. Minor LLC on Sept. 24 filed a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification with the state Department of Labor noting a possible plant layoff or closing that would affect 42 to 82 of its staffers. On Friday, the footwear manufacturer confirmed it would shutter its Goodyear welt manufacturing line as part of a business operation restructuring that will focus on the company’s core market.

A Goodyear welt is a strip of leather, rubber or plastic that runs along the perimeter of a shoe outsole.

“Our focus through this entire process has been on our employees’ well-being. We want to thank them for their dedication, loyalty and hard work,” CEO Hundley Elliotte said. “We would also like to thank the New York State Department of Labor, the Genesee County Workforce Development Board and the local business community for their responsiveness and offers to help get our affected employees back to work as soon as possible. When the time is appropriate in our business cycle, we will re-engage our Goodyear Welt manufacturing capabilities.”

The decision to idle the line will allow the manufacturer to focus its attention on its existing American made orthopedic and diabetic product lines, as the market for that type of footwear is growing globally. The orthopedic and diabetic lines will continue to be manufactured in Batavia, officials said Friday.

The company will retain 40 employees, said Brian Benedict, P.W. Minor vice president of sales.

P.W. Minor was acquired in February by Tidewater + Associates, an investment firm with offices in Delaware and California. P.W. Minor CEO Peter Zeliff transitioned to the board, while Elliotte, a member of Tidewater’s leadership team, stepped in as managing CEO.

“As an organization, Tidewater + Associates charter is to ‘Grow Good’,” Elliotte said when the acquisition was finalized. “We believe there are significant opportunities to scale P.W. Minor’s social and environmental benefits through its current core brands and to embark on new brand developments. The organization’s legacy of craftsmanship and capabilities to deliver product sustainably can be leveraged to expand and grow the brand base. There is extraordinary potential to create comfortable and protective product while also being a champion for sustainability in the footwear world.”

Genesee County Economic Development Council President and CEO Steve Hyde said that like others across the community, GCEDC was concerned by reports early this week that the manufacturer was considering the closing of its Batavia operations.

“The announcement made by the company today gives the entire community a mission to assist those who have lost their jobs, and the GCEDC is supportive of the Genesee County Workforce Development Board as it works to help those workers,” Hyde said. “P.W. Minor and generations of workers have created a legacy with each pair of high-quality footwear produced in Genesee County. The GCEDC is prepared to assist in any way we can to help the company sustain its operations here.”

P.W. Minor was founded in 1867 by brothers Peter and Abram Minor, who had returned from the Civil War with the knowledge of how important well-made shoes were. Minor Brothers Boots and Shoes was located in Interlaken, Seneca County, and moved to Springville, Erie County, prior to the turn of the century.

A second location in Batavia was opened during the 1890s. During the decades that followed, P.W. Minor continued to expand its shoe lines and product offerings. By the 2000s, P.W. Minor had expanded its production to Asia.

The shoe company, which had been led through the years by five generations of Minor family members, was shaken by the 2008 recession and production fell. Zeliff purchased the company out of bankruptcy in 2014.

In an attempt to turn the company around, Zeliff brought back all off-shore manufacturing to Batavia, and the company in 2016 rebranded and began selling its first new shoe in several years, the Airloft Collection.

“We have made significant progress turning this business around. I now feel that it is the right time to step away from my day to day involvement and I’m extremely confident in Tidewater’s ability to guide this business to the next level of success,” Zeliff said in February when it was announced he had sold the company.

P.W. Minor is the second oldest footwear manufacturer in the U.S. and the maker of orthopedic and diabetic athletic, dress and casual shoes.

“We do anticipate bringing the line back at some point, but that time line has not been established,” Benedict said. “We’re still working through the details of the restructure at this point.”

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