Local boot manufacturer celebrates 50 years in Victoria
VICTORIA -- For more than 50 years, Viberg Boots has been making hand-crafted, rugged boots a stitch and a nail at a time.
The Viberg legacy for hand-crafted footwear had humble beginnings in a small building in Victoria’s Chinatown in 1970.
“When we started here in Victoria, I think we only had my dad, my grandpa, my grandma and may be two other people,” said Viberg Boot Manufacturing president Brett Viberg. “We would get a delivery of leather on the sidewalk and have to carry it to the back by hand.”
That “hands-on” attitude is what has carried the business to a spacious factory and retail shop in Saanich’s Uptown neighbourhood. Over the last five decades, the company has grown to be one of the leading manufacturers of work boots in the world.
“The U.S. is the biggest market, then Europe and Japan,” said Brett Viberg.
The company was founded by Edwin Viberg in a small leather goods shop in Shellbrook Saskatchewan in 1931. Following a desire to make boots for the men working in the logging industry, the elder Viberg moved the business to a number of B.C., finally settling in Victoria.
The company’s current president represents three generations of boot manufacturing in Greater Victoria.
“Over the past 10 years, I’ve been working on bringing back things my grandpa did and incorporate it in our product,” said Brett Viberg. “There are different techniques and machines that make it a pure, less processed, less mass produced product.”
Operating at full capacity, the 38 craftspeople can make 40 pairs of the rugged and durable boots per day.
“We get it done with our hands,” said Viberg production manager Luis Norberto. “Our customers appreciate it and they are so happy with the work we do.”
The industrial line of boots consists of five basic styles, but with a host of different colours and types of soles, the company can offer a total of 35 options for its customers. The company’s “lifestyle” line of footwear has 16 basic styles, but there are more than 100 choices available for the shoes in the Viberg catalogue.
For the craftspeople who hand-craft each of the 13,500 pairs of boots made each year, it is the pride that goes into every boot that is a mark if its quality.
“When you look at what we have made, it is something impressive,” said Viberg Boot production coordinator Micheal McCarthy. “It’s quality and long lasting craftsmanship that stand out.”