A Sacramento “Cordwainer” Finds a Perfect Fit Creating Quality Casual Shoes
Benjamins Shoe Corp. brings a local touch to a time-honored tradition.
- CategoryMakers + Entrepreneurs
- Written byDarren Elms
It started with an itch. No, not the kind you get in your gym shoes after a heavy workout. More like an idea that needs scratching. Benjamin Schwartz had a desire to learn shoemaking, so he educated himself on the craft with only a textbook while working a full-time desk job. “Seven years later, in 2014, we launched Benjamin’s online,” says the young entrepreneur and shoemaker. “I later left my job and opened our brick and mortar space in May of 2015.”
He opened that store in his hometown of Sacramento, shying away from larger, style-conscious metros like Los Angeles and San Francisco. So, why the Capitol?
“Although I did leave in 2005 for a couple of years to study film in Southern California, I returned to find a city that was rapidly growing and full of opportunity,” shares Benjamin. “Sacramento has a love for small business and we have certainly felt the love from our hometown. Also with the constant innovation in technology, it is becoming easier and easier for us to reach customers in far corners of the globe.
Unlike a “cobbler” who only does shoe repairs, a “cordwainer” is the traditional English word for a shoemaker. “We constantly hear from our customers that we are ‘keeping the craft alive,’ and we take this to heart,” he says. “We have created a unique concept that brings our manufacturing process front and center, right within our retail space. Our customers are directly connected with the products we make and not only see how their shoes are being made, but are able to have a conversation with the very person making them.”
Benjamin and his team utilize new technology and innovation to create their products, but clearly show a respect for the traditions of old world craftsmanship in their work. “In an age when brands are becoming more and more separated from the products they sell, we strive to bring as much of the manufacturing process under our roof as possible,” he adds.
Benjamins Shoe Corp. specializes in high-end casual shoes, something that men and women can wear every day, a rarity with made-to-order shoes. They also emphasize technical and luxury fabrics in addition to high-quality leathers.
“Our very first release in 2014 was made from Storm System Cashmere milled for us by Loro Piana in Italy. It’s 100% cashmere that is also water- and stain-repellent,” Benjamin relays. “Since then we have done limited releases in outdoor cloths from Ralph Lauren and Sunbrella, luxury wools from Fox Brothers in England (the mill responsible for inventing flannel wool back in the 1700s), and famous Horween leathers from their 4th generation tannery in Chicago. Our styles reflect traditional silhouettes with updated design features that set our customers apart and turn heads in the best possible way.”
As a modern California craftsman, we asked Benjamin if he procures any inspiration from the amazing state that hosts both his business and lifestyle. “California is a great place to be designing from,” he says. “There is a romantic storyline of beautiful landscapes to draw inspiration, and this constantly pushes us to encourage our customers to look outside of the flip-flop box to something more unique. California stands out from other places in the world, and we think your shoes should stand out from the crowd as well.”
You can see a short film of Benjamin and his enterprise in action here: