From the Archives – The first Red Wing Shoe Store

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As the 1950s rolled on, the Red Wing Shoe Company found itself being pulled in different directions by the company’s three main divisions. The Salt Lake City, Utah branch was trying to build a line of shoes for West Coast workers, while the Dallas, Texas branch was focused on expanding the brand for women and children. The Red Wing corporate office in Minnesota continued to market to the working man in the rest of the country. Each branch had its own ideas about the company’s future, image, and marketing strategy. It soon became clear that the different personalities of each branch was becoming a distraction and spreading things too thin.

So, the Red Wing Shoe Co. found itself at a crossroad, unsure of which way the company should go. After much deliberation, it was decided that Red Wing needed to remain firm in its commitment to making high-grade shoes and boots for the working man. A singular product identity was developed that brought the company back together. The return to the company’s roots marked a turning point, as the brand re-committed itself to making a boot that would highlight function, not determine it.

With the reunification of the brand and changing consumer demands, Red Wing shoes and boots were slowly being pushed aside in independent retail stores. At about the same time, the concept of a specialty store was introduced by Salt Lake City branch manager, Harold Packwood. Packwood saw that most costumers were being improperly fit for shoes in independent stores and that many shoe brands did not offer varying widths and sizes. Packwood’s idea for specialty stores would allow customers to be fit correctly for Red Wings, finding the right boot and fit for each individual.

The first Red Wing Shoe store opened in Salt Lake City in 1953, and was owned by Vaughn Johnson. Johnson’s store soon set the standard for future Red Wing shoe stores, and by 1960 there were about twelve Red Wing shoe stores located throughout the United States. At first, it was uncertain whether the stores would be profitable but after a couple years, they began to stabilize and sales increased. Today, there are more than 559 Red Wing Shoe stores and mobile truck stores throughout the United States, as well as international distributers. Each store continues to emphasize the importance of being properly fit for Red Wing shoes in order to find the correct style, size, and to maximize comfort.



  1. Soon after, Black Bear Productions was formed and the groundwork was laid for the first annual Red Wing Roots Music Festival.

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