The tradition of the hand-sewn shoe is thriving at Lewiston’s Rancourt & Company on Bridge Street. A small factory located behind Central Maine Medical Center is making genuine hand-sewn moccasins, loafers, dress shoes, boots and wingtips in traditional and contemporary designs and colors. Highly skilled workers employing centuries old techniques work in teams rather than a “factory line” to shape leather on a last to form the highest domestic quality footwear for purchase in the United States and abroad. Using Lewiston produced waxed thread, craftsmen align awl driven holes and hand stitch the shoe together to create footwear with or without soles. The leather found in most of the shoes is produced by Horween from Chicago and S.B. Foot Tanning Company from Red Wing.
At one time the Lewiston area had 10,000 sewers, primarily French Canadian emigrees. Companies such as Goulet Mocassin, Marchand, Downeast, Quoddy, Koss Shoe, Billen Shoe, Belmont Shoe, Maine Shoe, Cole Haan, Lown Shoe, Jean’s Shoe, Commonwealth Shoe and Allen-Edmonds employed and provided for entire families. People worked in factories and at home hand-sewing. By the late 1980’s many of the factories had been sold, merged, relocated off-shore or simply closed due to the economy, the influx of cheap imports and issues such as workers’ compensation payouts.
In 2009, after selling a business to Allen-Edmunds, Mike Rancourt with his son Kyle resurrected the family trade of hand-sewn shoes in their hometown of Lewiston. Employing a little over fifty employees and paying above Maine’s living wage requirements, the Rancourts are creating real jobs in Lewiston.
Mike and Kyle are producing ready to wear and custom made shoes under the Rancourt name for both men and women. Additionally, many of Rancourt products can be found under the label of Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, Red Wing, Eastland and Club Monaco.