Greb Industries Limited

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Greb Industries Limited

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Greb Industries Limited was a shoe and boot manufacturing company based in Kitchener, Ontario. Charles E. Greb, who had moved to Berlin (now Kitchener) from Zurich, Ontario, in 1909, became the secretary-treasurer of the Berlin Shoe Manufacturing Company when it was incorporated in 1910. His son Erwin Greb joined the company as book-keeper. In 1912, Charles and Erwin acquired the company, and in 1916 it received a new charter of incorporation under the name Greb Shoe Company Limited, with Charles as president and Erwin as secretary-treasurer. In 1918, Erwin bought the controlling interest in the company from his father, who remained involved with the business in an advisory capacity.
The Greb Shoe Company, which had plants on Queen Street and at the corner of Mansion and Chestnut Streets in Kitchener, was again reorganized and received a new charter in 1930. In 1938, it acquired Valentine and Martin Limited, a Waterloo manufacturer of work boots, shoes, and dress shoes, which continued to operate as a separate business until it was merged with the Greb Shoe Company in 1951. Operations by that time were consolidated at a plant on Breithaupt Street in Kitchener. When Erwin Greb died in 1954, his son Harry D. Greb took over as company president. Erwin’s other sons were also involved in the company as directors; Arthur was in senior management and Charles was a plant manager and eventually became executive vice-president (1969-1976).
In 1959, the company purchased the Canada West Shoe Manufacturing Company of Winnipeg, including its popular Kodiak brand boots. The expansion into Western Canada began a period of tremendous growth for the company. Manufacturing facilities were expanded, and the company made several other acquisitions, including Bauer Canadian Skate; Tebbutt Shoe and Leather Company of Trois-Rivieres, Quebec; and Collins Safety Shoes of Peterborough. A skate and boot plant was eventually opened in Bangor, Maine. The most significant factor in the company’s growth through the 1960s was the popularity of Hush Puppies brand of casual shoes, which Greb began manufacturing under license from Wolverine World Wide of Rockford, Michigan, in the early 1960s. The mascot for this line of footwear, a basset hound named Velvet, was a popular symbol for the brand. In 1966, Greb Industries Limited became a publicly-traded company, and by the early 1970s it had grown to become Canada’s largest footwear manufacturer, employing 1200 people in Kitchener and another 1100 in Winnipeg, Trois-Rivieres, and Bangor. In 1974, the company was purchased by Warrington Products Limited of Mississauga.
Greb Industries Limited continued to manufacture footwear under the new owners, with several changes in operations, including the closure of several plants and a move for the head office from its Ardelt Avenue location in Kitchener to Mississauga. In 1987, Warrington sold the Greb division, which consisted mainly of Hush Puppies and Kodiak shoes and boots, to Taurus Footwear of Montreal. Production of Hush Puppies ended in 1989 when the licence was surrendered to Wolverine. The Bauer skate division, operating as Canstar Sports, had been relocated to Cambridge and sold to Nike. The last Greb plant in Kitchener, a Kodiak boot plant on Hayward Avenue, closed in 1991. In 1992, the Royal Bank took control of Taurus Footwear and formed Greb International to market the Kodiak brand domestically and internationally. In 2000 this company became Kodiak Group Holdings Inc., and in 2005, it purchased Terra Footwear in Newfoundland and has factories in Markdale, Ontario; Harbour Grace, Newfoundland; and in Asia.
(Source: content of the fonds, and Briggs, T. and Greb, C.E., The Greb Story, Kitchener: Grebco Holdings Ltd., 2008)

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