I’m sure if you frequent my blog (or even take a look at the name of this blog) you will know that I love sentimental things. If its physical item or a feeling or an emotion something sparks, I’m the total SAP in the corner sayin’ AWWWWW with my Costco sized Kleenex box in hand. Today’s post is just that for me. I found out about Zimmerman Shoes on Instagram last year and today I get to share with you my love for the brand, what they stand for, WHO “they” are… And additionally, what product they make that sparks those sentimental thoughts and feelings for me personally.
The Sentimental Mama blog accepted product in exchange for a review.
The following review is my own honest opinion.
My Mom saved my first pair of shoes. I think I got my sentimental side from my Mom and this is one of those things where I get her reasoning behind saving my first pair of shoes. The first time I pulled my shoes out of my keepsake box I have, I thought “aw so sweet… they are so tiny… and they are the typical style for the 1980s.” But when I came across them again after my son was born, they were two different shoes to me this next time around.
When Gentry was born I would look down at his feet and think… “these little soles have never stepped and had an ouchie… never been in the dirt… Never walked a mile…” And yet here they were. I created these little soles. So perfect and both with his own unique footprint. AND lucky me as his Mama, I get to watch these feet grow… (buy lots and lots of shoes too) and most importantly I get to see how his footprints go throughout life. Who he impacts from those steps he will take. I get a front row seat. And when I hold Gentry’s feet, kiss them, wash them, put socks on them, and lace up his shoes, these are the thoughts I have… daily. (Call me crazy)
And now here I am, holding my own little itty bitty baby shoe over 30 years old (yikes). Is this what ran through my Moms mind when she bought these shoes? Each lace did she say a little prayer hoping that each step I make in life is that of grace and love?
I never thought I would find a shoe readily available to me that has a lot of characteristics of my own childhood shoes. Shoes now a days are not made the same as they were back in the “old days.” And if there was ever a shoe that was even handmade, I didn’t know about them… Until I ran into Zimmerman Shoes on Instagram. Vintage… Meet Modern Vintage.
When I received these shoes for the very first time the FIRST thing I said was WOW these are made SO WELL. And the fact that these aren’t made in some sweat shop… or even overseas… No, these are handmade right in the good ol’ US of A. These handmade shoes will last for years to come. I also loved the sizing. Gentry has really wide feet, and upon ordering you will notice that its not just a “size 7” that you have to order, you also have to let them know the width which is think is huge when it comes to buying little kids shoes.
I noticed the leather… The smell of fresh leather… the curve of the soles and the perfectly placed stitching. Perfection that nobody can fake. The stamped size of the shoe imprinted on the inside was a detail that didn’t go overlooked. I just couldn’t wait to get Gentry into these shoes.
I think Gentry was excited for me to put them on him too 🙂
As Gentry skipped, ran, jumped, walked and crawled around in these shoes for the first time, I couldn’t help but think to myself… all those feelings I had when he was first born… And now here he is, in his first pair of shoes and oh how they reminded me a lot of my own first shoes. How special is that?
Here are some recent snapshots of Gentry sporting his Zimmerman Shoes.
These boots are the 1962 Milo Boot in Chocolate.
They come in other colors… such as these, in beige…
After my little run-in with Zimmerman Shoes that led to an inevitable love-story with me and these boots, I was so intrigued to find out more about the brand, about who makes these and more about their business. For those of you that know me quite well, you know that when I believe in a brand, I wear that brand on my sleeve. I want to yell the good news from the hilltops; thankfully this blog is my outlet to do just that. Let me introduce you to these two beautiful sisters.
Their story behind Zimmerman Shoes is everything from nostalgia, family values to straight up solid work ethic. Their “About Us” page of their website goes into their story line of how things began. If you like a little story, feel free to read it here.
Now if that wasn’t enough for you, I virtually sat down with the sisters and had a little Q&A session. These two just might become your new best friends.
Getting to know Audrey & Amelia of Zimmerman Shoes in less than 10 questions.
All of my “commentary” is italicized. And I do have to note, that I read their responses to these questions AFTER my blog post above. RE: Amelia’s response to #9 and my initial reaction to the boots;)
- While growing up, did you always want to be a part of this family business?
- Amelia: I actually did not. I’m an obedient 1st child, and our dad Steve always told us not to go into the shoemaking business. At this point in time, he was weathering the outsourcing storm and watching longstanding manufacturers close their doors left and right. Because of God’s good grace and Steve’s incredible determination, that didn’t happen at our plant. In the meantime, I decided to become an English teacher and landed an amazing job a school for kids in social and financial need. I loved my students and the community there, but after seven years and a few policy changes, I realized my position was more standardized test giver than teacher, so I made the difficult decision to resign. After that, I bought and sold vintage clothing for a few years until Audrey graduated from college, and then we started working on Zimmerman Shoes. So I’m back in the family business anyway. Steve’s happy about it now, though. 🙂
- Audrey: I definitely always wanted in. I’m a 3rd child, so I did what I wanted to do. I loved spending my summers at the factory, and it’s essentially where I grew up. There are still little notes I left for our shoemakers throughout the factory when I was just learning how to write. (AWWWW! INSERT KLEENEX QUE) I got my degree in business last year, and came right to work here.
- How would you define your own personal style?
- Audrey: Oh boy… I can’t define my personal style. I’ll let Amelia do it. (HA! Typical sister!)
- Amelia: Okay, Audrey has a great French girl / minimal / classic / kind of tomboy thing going on. Funny story, when she was little, she didn’t like the clothes on the girls’ side of Gap Kids, so she would pick all of her outfits off of the boys’ side. And when I think back on it, it was all really classic, timeless stuff. Nothing trendy, pink, sparkly, or girly. She was like, 8 years old walking around in breton stripes and Chucks, and that’s still her style today. (LOVE THIS!) I lean toward vintage styles with an emphasis on natural materials. I love the shapes of the 50s and 70s, but with being in the factory so much, everything has to be practical and hard-wearing. I try to keep my wardrobe capsule-ish and small, and pretty much everything is vintage or second-hand. If I’m going to splurge on something new, it’ll be something American-made that I can wear all the time.
- If someone were to message you on social media, who would respond?
- Audrey: We both share the responsibilities of social media. I’m mainly on Instagram and Facebook, and Amelia takes care of email and Pinterest.
- Amelia: We’re really collaborative and run pretty much everything by one another.
- Do you have any children of your own or in your family/friends circles that allow you to dress up kids in your adorable shoes?
- Amelia: Neither of us have kids yet. Even though I’m ten years older, I think Audrey might have kids before me. She’s bonkers for babies! We have a nephew Milo that we love, love, love and spoil like crazy. We give him all the snacks, teach him all the dance moves, and are definitely those crazy aunts who are totally overstimulating but fun. He’ll be two in November, and it’s so much fun to watch him learn words, names, and colors.
- Audrey: He’s the first son / nephew / grandchild in our family, so he’s like, the biggest deal ever, and he knows it! 🙂 He’s actually named after our great-grandfather who purchased the shoe company in the 60s. (SO sweet!) He comes to visit us at the factory most days and sits in my office chair and pretends to type. He always needs a snack from the vending machine and wants to go say hello to all the ladies in the fitting room. We should start posting videos on Insta… a “Milo Visits the Factory” series! (OMG love this! YESSSS!!! Do it girls!)
- What do you want to tell someone who is starting a business out on their own? Any tips, advice or just good ol plain support?
- Audrey: Don’t ever give up. I know it’s cliche, but it’s true. It isn’t easy to run a business, and things never go as planned, but just keep going.
- Amelia: Yep, even if it’s a slow build. You have to really know deep in your marrow what your brand stands for, make that your compass, and just keep going.
- Do you have any projects coming up? If so, what are each of you doing within this project?
- Amelia: Our Holiday line is set, and we have some exciting shoots lined up for that. Audrey is an amazing photographer, so she handles all of our in-house shoots. In fact, Milo is in most of them.
- Audrey: Our SS16 line is also set, and we did a really fun beach shoot for that back in June. That line will be available for select retail, so we’re excited about that as well. (Retail! So happy for you ladies!!!)
- Where do you see Zimmerman Shoes going in the next 5 years?
- Amelia: Our goal is to grow our online store while establishing relationships with handpicked retailers across the country. We want to work with people who appreciate our story and who are excited about American-made products.
- Audrey: We love our online community of moms and their little ones, so it’s exciting to see it keep growing. We’ve met so many amazing people in such a short amount of time. We want to keep building that up, and have our social media spaces just be really happy vibrant places.
- What are some personal things that you have put to the wayside in order to start and continue to run a business at Zimmerman shoes? How hard has it been for you on a personal level, if at all…
- Audrey: Because this is a family business and because our family is very close, it’s easy for us to talk about work all the time, and just make our lives all about Zimmerman Shoes. But we’re sisters first, and sometimes we need to just be sisters and not business partners. Sometimes we need to eat popcorn and watch a cheesy movie and just be sisters.
- Amelia: Yes, we’ve had to make a concerted effort to have work-free moments. That’s been the biggest thing. Initially, I thought I’d be able to work on Zimmerman Shoes on the side and continue to buy and sell vintage online. Looking back on that thought now, it’s laughable. Things got so busy so quickly with the shoe line that I’ve had to put vintage on the back burner, but that’s okay. I learned so much from it, and so much of it carries over to what we’re doing now.
- What does the word “sentimental” mean to you?
- Audrey: To me, someone who is sentimental appreciates the past. When our customers see our shoes, we want them to be reminded of the shoes they used to wear when they were little. We still use the same patterns that our grandfather and great-grandfather created, so they really have a vintage appeal.
- Amelia: Yeah, there’s definitely a lot of nostalgia to our shoes. It’s in the patterns, but it’s also in the smell and feel of the leather. That nostalgia and sentimentality is there in all the handcrafted details. And it’s there in the fact that our shoes have four generations of our family’s hands on them. It’s our great-grandfather tracing patterns, and it’s our grandfather manning the office, and it’s our dad fixing a sewing machine, and it’s our aunt cutting each piece of leather. Each little pair of shoes is our family’s collective labor of love over the last fifty years.
If you would like to learn more, purchase or even just make friends with Zimmerman Shoes here are the links to do just that!
I hope you enjoyed a little blast from the past. I hope I sparked a little something inside of you to whip out those keepsake shoes or even hang on to those your little one wears now.
Thank you Zimmerman Shoes for providing my son with such amazing workmanship, beautifully made, long-lasting kicks. I hope one day he will be able to pass these little Milo Boots onto his own child……..now where did I put my kleenex box………… 🙂