Today, I had the opportunity to tour the now closed Brown Shoe warehouse and old factory building. A closed place of business is a sad affair, especially one that had been such a vital part of this community’s economic livelihood for so many years. One could not help but remember how it looked in its heyday. The number of people who worked there, provided for their families, made house payments, car payments, and sent their children to college with the jobs that had been provided. The factory closed in the early nineties, a victim of cheaper imported shoes.
Brown Shoe holds an even deeper meaning for me. My father, Neil Page, worked for Brown Shoe for more than 30 years until his retirement. He started work for them in a warehouse in Trenton, Tennessee (also now closed) and had the opportunity to take a promotion and move to St. Louis to work at their headquarters in 1969. I also worked during the summers in my college years in a Brown Shoe warehouse in St. Louis and learned the value of a dollar. Little did I know at the time that Brown Shoe would lead me to Fredericktown and the creation of a small little headwear company called Cap America in 1985. It was my father’s contacts with the Fredericktown community through Brown Shoe and his financial and moral support that lead us to start our business here. Many of Cap America’s first 1950’s vintage metal desks came from Brown Shoe’s surplus equipment when they were replaced in their St. Louis office. We still use two old cutting machines that were purchased from their machinery storage facility called Y-2, now the refurbished home of Madison County Farm Supply.
Brown Shoe no longer has a presence in Fredericktown, although the company is still very much alive and well in its other locations. The company was kind enough to donate the remaining buildings here to the City. There are early plans by the City to try and find another use for the facility.
But for now, I just want to say good-bye to Brown Shoe, it was sure good to know ya.
Cap America, Inc.