Canadian Fashion Connection – Greb Industries

In 1910, the Berlin Shoe Manufacturing Co. was incorporated. Two years later, Charles E. Greb and his son Erwin acquired the company. In 1916, when the city of Berlin, Ontario was renamed Kitchener, the factory was renamed the Greb Shoe Company Ltd. In 1918, Erwin bought the controlling interest in the company from his father.

In 1938 it acquired Valentine and Martin Ltd., a Waterloo manufacturer of work boots, shoes, and dress shoes, but continued to operate them as a separate business until 1951 when it was merged with Greb at a plant on Breithaupt Street in Kitchener. Erwin died in 1954 and the company was taken over by his son Harry Greb, his other sons, Arthye was in management, and Charles was a plant manager who eventually became executive vice-president between 1969 and 1976.

In 1959 the company purchased Canada West Shoe Manufacturing Co. in Winnipeg, including its Kodiak brand of boots. The company is also now listed in the Canadian Shoe manufacturer’s annual as Greb Industries Kitchener Ltd., producing men’s & boy’s goodyear welt & stitchdowns and safety footwear. In 1963 a Winnipeg plant producing Men’s & boy’s Goodyear welts, vulcanized cements, & hand?sewn moccasins.

The company expanded in the 1960s acquiring: Bauer Canadian Skate; Tebbutt Shoe and Leather Company of Trois-Riviers, Collins Safety Shoes of Peterborough, Ontario, and a boot and skate factory in Bangor, Maine. Most significantly, Greb acquired the Hush Puppies brand of casual shoes for the Canadian market from Wolverine World Wide of Rockford, Michigan. In 1966 Greb Industries Ltd. became a publicly traded company and by the early 1970s the company had grown to become Canada’s largest footwear manufacturer, employing 2300 people in Kitchener, Winnipeg, Trois-Rivieres, and Bangor.

Hush Puppies by Greb,c. 1963

In 1974 Greb was acquired by Warrington Products Ltd. of Mississauga. In 1987 Warrington sold the Greb division, which consisted mainly of Hush Puppies and Kodiak boots, to Taurus Footwear of Montreal. Production of Hush Puppies ended in 1989 when the licence was surrendered to Wolverine. Bauer skate, operating as Canstar Sports in Cambridge, was sold to Nike around the same time. The last Greb plant in Kitchener making Kodiak boots closed in 1991. In 1992 the Royal bank took control of Taurus footwear and formed Greb International to market Kodiak boots domestically and internationally. In 2000 this company became Kodiak Group Holdings Inc. In 2005, it purchased Terra Footwear in Newfoundland and now has factories in Markdale, Ontario, Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, and Asia.

Some of the labels made by Greb over the years and the approximate date of their introduction include: Acme Cowboy (1963), Cat Treads (1959),  Greb Arch Director (1938), Greb Camp Shoe (1938), The Greb Shoe (1924),  Heavyduty Arch (1938), Honest All Thru (1938), Hush Puppies (1961), Kodiak (1959), Patrolman (1938), Ramblers (1959), Soo-Shoes (1959), Tyroleans (1959), Valentine (1938)

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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3 Responses to Canadian Fashion Connection – Greb Industries

  1. John Buckberrough says:

    They were, I believe, also advocates of the “family planning” movement, producing condoms as a sideline to their core business.

    • Jonathan says:

      That was Kaufman and it was a big messy story too. Family planning sounds modern and sensible, except Kaufman was doing it for the wrong reasons at the wrong time. It was the 1930s, and he wanted to reduce the numbers of the working class who bred too much… yup, it was pure Nazi ideology.

  2. John Buckberrough says:

    My error, you are correct.

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