Shoe manufacturing in Xenia

By Joan Baxter

Not too many years ago, shoe manufacturing was a major industry in Xenia with several different firms manufacturing quality shoes.

Krippendorf-Ditman was one of the better known businesses known as the Xenia Shoe Manufacturing Company. The business was located at the corner of South Detroit and Leaman Streets.

For a short period of time the Buckeye Shoe Manufacturing Company occupied the same building.

Unfortunately the building burned down several years ago.

In addition to those two businesses the Miller-Jones Shoe Company was in business. The Miller-Jones company was headquartered in Columbus. In 1939, The Company determined that an additional plant was needed and so “Plant B” was opened in Xenia. The location was on West Second Street at South Allison. Miller-Jones manufactured “women’s high-grade, popularly-priced footwear”.

After the shoe manufcacures left the building, the site was utilized by the Kroehler Furniture Manufacturing Company. That building was destroyed in the 1974 tornado.

Several years later, the United Shoe Machinery Corporation opened in the old R. A. Kelly Rope Company building on West Market St. This company was not in the shoe manufacturing business. They made the equipment which was used for manufacturing shoes. This was obviously a welcome company for the already busy shoe manufactures.

In 1947, an announcement was made that the Joyce, Inc. Shoe Company would open a factory at 518 W. Market St. also in the R. A. Kelley building. This was quite interesting for the community since the residents were certain that this company would provide even more employment for local workers and bring additional revenue into the community. Joyce Shoes were among the more expensive and desirable shoes on the market at that time.

In October 1950, the newspaper report stated “Xenia interests will finance and erect a new industrial plant in the 1000 block of West Second St. to house the Xenia operations of Joyce, Inc. of Pasadena, Calif.” The new structure was estimated to cost $150,000. Financing would be managed by a group known as Greene County Development, Inc. The group was headed by A. E. Chenoweth with O. J. Burnett, Sol Arnovitz and Harry Elias taking active roles in the new organization. The Joyce Company was to assume a 25-year lease on the property. Ground breaking for the new structure took place on December 21 that same year.

Work proceeded quickly on the building and so by September of the next year the business was in operation with twenty workers manufacturing the shoes. A formal opening was scheduled for November 1, 1951. The venture was listed as “a civic undertaking promoted by a group of Xenia businessmen and is one of the most modern shoe factories in the world”. The company expected to manufacture 1,500 pairs of shoes each day at this location.

Employees seemed to be happy with the benefits offered by the company. In an interview in 1983 one of the former employees, Hazel Muterspaw stated “They would rent big buses and take us all to ball games. We had covered-dish lunches and parties all the time.”

Ms. Muterspaw was an assistant foreman making $1.72 per hour. That wage was considered to be a very good salary at that time. She stated that the company “would keep their employees in shoes, too. If there was even a slight blemish on a shoe, some you might not even notice, instead of destroying the shoes they would sell them to us at a very low rate. And they were good shoes.”

When the employees talked of starting as union, the employer wanted no part of that. The company felt they treated their employees fairly and were very much against unionization.

In spite of the quality of work completed at the site and the excellent relationship between the employees and the firm on April 22, 1954, the following announcement was published,

“Joyce, Xenia, one of four shoe manufacturing plants operated by Joyce, Inc. of Pasadena, Calif. Will be shut down immediately and the operation at 1030 West Second St. is being phased out by departments.”

Apparently the impact of lower-priced, foreign made shoes was one of the factors for closing the plant.

William H. Joyce, founder and president of the firm announced that local employees would be given preference for jobs in the Columbus plant.

This signaled the end of a very prosperous industry in Xenia.

The plant was a one-story sprawling building of glazed tile block construction. The structure remained empty for about a year when in October 1955 Royal Electric Inc. of Dayton, a firm which manufactured rotating electrical equipment moved into the site.

The product was a solenoid which was named “Rotosol.” Several large contracts including one from Whirlpool helped to keeps the business booming. In 1957, Lima Electric Products moved into the plant which necessitated enlargement of the building. A 5,000 square foot addition was added to the northeast corner.

In 1974, the building was sold again to Amanda Industries. J.O. Harner Supply Company moved into the building in the fall of 1974. Today the building is still in use as Carr Plumbing Supply.

Another interesting sidelight about this particular building is that Ervin J. Nutter offered to purchase the building when he was getting his Elano Corporation started. He was told that his credit was not adequate to make the purchase.

By Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter is a long-time historical columnist and local resident.

Joan Baxter is a long-time historical columnist and local resident.