Updated 12:01 p.m., Oct. 2–
By Thomas J. Sullivan– Citrus Heights-based Bearpaw Boots has reopened their retail store at Sylvan Corners after “hibernating” for the summer and is gearing up for its fall sales season.
Bearpaw CEO Tom Romeo and Aaron M. Brown, vice president for product design, sat down for a recent interview with The Sentinel to discuss Bearpaw’s fall product line, top celebrity endorsements of the brand, and what the company is doing to expand its corporate and charitable footprint.
“Overall, we listen closely to what our customers want,” said Brown, describing Bearpaw’s various footwear offerings. As a Wisconsin native and veteran of many Midwestern winters, he worked at the retailer Nordstrom, overseeing the marketing of its overall fall and winter boot line.
That practicality and durability is evident in Bearpaw’s seasonal designs which employ HiberTech, featuring 200-gram foil back insulation that leave feet warm and dry no matter what the weather. It’s also evident in other popular styles treated with NeverWet, which repel stains from saltwater, mud, cola and more.
Brown is a frequent flyer for the company and oversees creative design teams working in multiple factories in China and in Spain, which produce Bearpaw products to Romeo’s strict specifications. As its worldwide sales continue to increase, the company says it is also looking to increase its production capacity in India, Mexico and Vietnam.
Bearpaw’s customer mix is approximately 80 percent female, 15 percent male and 5 percent of the young children’s market.
Bearpaw Classics remains the “heart and sole” of where the company began. Women’s models Alyssa, Elle Tall and Elle Short in the Classic line continue to be its strongest sellers, Romeo said. The company is also seeking to grow its men’s market share with slipper and boot options.
“We have approximately 10 percent of the overall market against UGGS, our leading competitor,” Brown said.
“We’re like Avis, facing off against the giant Hertz Car Rental. We’re number two, but we honestly try harder,” Romeo added.
Several of Bearpaw’s most popular styles are now vegan, approved by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). According to Brown, the material used is entirely vegan, “from the micro-suede, down to the glue.”
Bearpaw’s exotics collection also invite their female customers to channel their inner glamour girl to create a flashy look, perfect to stand out in any crowd. One such boot drew the attention of one of Bearpaw’s best-known celebrity clients.
“Snooki,” aka Nicole Elizabeth LaValle, a Chilean-American reality television personality, television host, author, professional wrestler, and dancer, wore a pair of Bearpaw’s Boetis boots while she was a cast member on the MTV reality show Jersey Shore.
“Snooki went through quite a few pairs of our Boetis boot,” said Romeo. The 11-inch tall boot which features a sustainable curly lamb shaft soon became a Snooki trademark during the series. A new bright-red version of the Boetis boot debuts this season in Bearpaw’s exotics collection.
“She wore our boots throughout the MTV series. She called us constantly whenever she needed a new pair,” Romeo said.”‘Hey Tom, It’s me, Snooki!’, I’d hear on the phone.” He said actress Gwyneth Paltrow is another regular Bearpaw customer.
Bearpaw has also made a comprehensive entry into the online footwear market in the second half of the decade, partnering with major online retailers like Shoes.com to sell their products worldwide.
The company continues to build its brand through its online store and the targeted mailing of half a million catalogs this fall season.
This fall, Bearpaw’s fourth annual “Boot for Boot” program will continue to help foster kids in need. The company partners with Ticket to Dream Foundation, donating shoes to foster kids throughout North America. For every boot purchase made on bearpaw.com, starting Thanksgiving Day, the company will match and donate a pair of boots to a foster child in need.
“We’re proud to be a part of the Citrus Heights community and to help those in need,” Romeo said. “It’s an extension of our philosophy as a company.”
Bearpaw’s corporate footprint in Citrus Heights will also be expanding in spring 2020. A new Flip Flop Shop will make its debut featuring sandals with straps made from pineapple leaf fibers. “Our new employees will be graduates of “Flip Flop U,” Romeo said.
The Bearpaw Summit Store is located at 7034 Sylvan Road, in Citrus Heights. The store is open Friday-Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.