The Stevensons said they are excited to be working with Telic International LLC of Boise, Idaho, on the plastic shoe project, and they expect to begin making the shoes in early September.
Okabashi Brands Inc. of Buford, Ga., has been making the shoes for Telic, but Telic was looking for a second supplier.
Rocco Azzarito, CEO of Telic, said he learned of High Country Plastics during an Idaho conference on exporting. Azzarito said he “didn't expect to find a company like [High Country] in Idaho — they are very good at what they do and like us are family operated — we were lucky to find them. I guess it was destiny.”
Azzarito has been involved in the shoe industry for many years. But when he decided to make shoes in the United States, he found it to be a difficult task.
“The problem with manufacturing is that there is not an infrastructure for making shoes in the U.S.,” Azzarito said in a phone interview.
Azzarito wanted to build an ethylene vinyl acetate shoe in the U.S. and started the company to make Telic Footwear — appropriately on July 4, 2012. He credits his grandfather Francisco, who was the son of cobbler in Italy and who came to America to work in the footwear industry, as his inspiration.
The search to find an American company to produce the shoes first led Azzarito to Okabashi Brands. It was able to do the injection molding, but business has been so good that he turned to High Country to be a second manufacturing site, he said.
“I could see a half dozen manufacturing sites across the U.S., but we are committed to not building anywhere other than the U.S,” Azzarito said.
Azzarito said that having worked in the retail shoe industry for many years, he was aware of EVA foam as super lightweight material used as a midsole in many athletic shoes.
“It's got a rebound to it. It is cushioning and very supportive and has what I call ‘energy return,'” he said.
The sandals are marketed as “recovery shoes” for athletes and for people with foot ailments.
The shoes are sold worldwide by about 2,000 independent retailers in 30 countries, he said. Next spring, he added, they will be in Sports Authority Inc. stores.
“The fact that it is made in the U.S. amounted to be more of a draw than we would have thought. We had thought that it would be sold mostly in this country, but when we started exporting there were so many more around the world excited to get it, particularly in Asia market — they were thrilled to buy something made in America,” he said.
To do the molding work at High Country, the Stevensons ordered an eight-station EVA foam molding machine from King Steel Machinery Co. Ltd. of Taichung, Taiwan.
Chance Stevenson said 80 percent of what High Country makes are proprietary products. In addition to rotomolding and injection molding, it also has thermoforming.
The company does not disclose sales figures, but Tony Stevenson said it is one of the largest agriculture rotomolders in the country, and “we control our own growth — we can grow but we are able to set our own pace.”
High Country has about 35 employees and will add 27 this year, including 12 employees from Advanced Molding.