In 1921, the United States was just coming out of World War I and kicking off the Roaring ‘20s. Babe Ruth broke the home run record with the Yankees. Coco Chanel introduced “Chanel No. 5”. John Glenn, a future astronaut, was born. And, in a small town in Oregon, an enterprising young man named J.W. Huberd concocted a leather care product out of beeswax and pine tar. Mr. Huberd traveled to logging camps throughout the Pacific Northwest and promoted his new product. Within a short time the lumbermen and outdoor laborers declared Huberd’s Shoe Grease the only thing they would use to waterproof and preserve their valuable leather boots and equipment.
100 Years and Growing
Huberd’s Shoe Grease Company turned 100 years old in 2021!
Colorado is the perfect modern-day home for Huberd’s with its many outdoor enthusiasts whose need to protect their leather hasn’t changed. Our vintage cans say “McMinnville Oregon” on them, but every can of Huberd’s now says “Bennett, Colorado.” These cans end up all over the USA and the world. What hasn’t changed are the business values and family ownership pride that is celebrated as the company moves into its second century of business growth and success.
Carrying on tradition & Working with SBDC
Now located in Bennett, CO, every can of Huberd’s is still made from the original recipes and poured by hand in small batches using dependable equipment from the 1940’s! Huberd products are packaged in 100% recyclable metal cans like they were 100 years ago contributing to both the nostalgic appeal and the sustainability of the products. Most of the ingredients and materials come from long time suppliers here in the United States.
Michael and Stacey Cranwill now work together full time blending, boxing, and shipping shoe grease and other products across the United States and the world. Stacey’s father works part time as a Sales Manager and their two daughters, Vivi and Adeline, are learning first hand the hard work and dedication it takes to run a small family business. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, the business has continued to thrive and grow.
Since moving to Colorado, Huberd’s Shoe Grease Company has significantly increased sales and inventory. The first order of cans, made possible by the SBDC and a SBA loan, was for 25K cans. The next order was for 50K cans, and the latest order was for 100K cans. This has led to increasing needs for manufacturing space as well. Huberd’s started shipping in Colorado out of a 12×20 Tuff Shed, then moved to a 1500 ft2 quonset shed, and then to a 5000 ft2 shop building. Huberd’s is working with Craig Curl and the Colorado Enterprise Fund again to purchase land and build a new manufacturing facility for continued growth.
By 1929, Huberd’s Shoe Grease Company set up manufacturing in an old cannery building in McMinnville, Oregon.
The company expanded their marketing efforts by attending county fairs, small-town expositions, and trade shows. The company was successfully run in the pacific northwest for the next 70 years. The economic challenges were formidable, but Huberd’s Shoe Grease Company gained a loyal customer base which helped it weather a Depression, another World War, multiple recessions, and finally a global pandemic.
After decades of supplying product to loyal customers, the early 2000’s presented new challenges for Huberd’s Shoe Grease Company. Old established distribution channels shifted direction and retail outlets began to give way to online sales. This required a shift in manufacturing and marketing strategies that eventually led to a change in ownership. After decades as a family business in Oregon, Huberd’s was sold and quietly languished for over a decade. During this time many retailers and customers thought Huberd’s had gone out of business. In 2015, the owner passed away unexpectedly. Through mutual acquaintances, Michael Cranwill was asked to step in to help run Huberd’s and was eventually offered the chance to buy the flagging business.
In 2017, Michael and Stacey Cranwill purchased Huberd’s Shoe Grease Company and relocated it to their home state of Colorado.