White’s Boots, one of Spokane’s best known “made in America” manufacturing companies, has been sold to a Portland company with plans to expand production.
The purchase price has not been disclosed by LaCrosse Footwear Inc., which sells footwear under the Danner Boots brand. LaCrosse is a subsidiary of Japanese company ABC-Mart Inc.
White’s Boots opened its Spokane operations 99 years ago, earning customer loyalty and testimonials from celebrities and hardworking laborers. Its boots are pricey. But they are regarded as among the best outdoor footwear available, a classic example of undiluted craftsmanship.
The Spokane operation will not lose any of its 110 workers, said Kirk Layton, the chief financial officer for LaCrosse. The goal is to increase the Spokane plant’s production and sales.
The acquisition includes the White’s Boots factory at 4002 E. Ferry Ave., near the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center, and its 8,900-square-foot retail store.
Gary March, the president and chief executive of White’s Boots, could not be reached for an interview. Layton said March will continue to manage the White’s operation.
For decades White’s made the boot preferred by loggers, miners, railroaders and smokejumpers.
Spokane mountaineer John Roskelley said he always meant to buy a White’s pair but hasn’t gotten around to it.
“I always wanted them, especially when I was a volunteer firefighter. A lot of the (other firefighter) guys swore by them,” Roskelley said. The company’s most popular firefighter boot is called the Smoke Jumper.
White’s history goes back to the mid-19th century when it was started in Virginia. In 1902, Otto White, the son of one of the founders, moved the business to St. Maries, Idaho, to make caulk boots for loggers.
The company relocated to Spokane in 1915.
Photographs showing famed customers hang inside the White’s Boots store. They include Bing Crosby, country performer Charlie Daniels and heavy metal band Metallica.
A major appeal for LaCrosse was the “made in America” legacy and the company’s reputation for solid craftsmanship, Layton said.
LaCrosse Footwear, until mid-2012, was a publicly traded company with a strong customer following.
In 2012 it was purchased by ABC-Mart, a Tokyo-based retailer. ABC-Mart has roughly 800 retail stores in Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, and has said sales of U.S.-made boots are increasing in Japan.
LaCrosse executives began discussing the purchase more than a year ago, Layton said.
He said ABC-Mart has kept a light hand in managing the affairs of LaCrosse.