The story of Quoddy is intertwined with the history of handsewn shoemaking in Maine. It started with the native people fashioning moccasins from deer, elk, and moose hides. The two-needle sewing technique they developed was adopted by those that came later when the shoemaking craft was industrialized along the banks of the Androscoggin River in the twin cities of Auburn-Lewiston in the late 19th century.
Jack and Anne Spiegel originally started the company in Maine in 1947. Their unique footwear was all made with moccasin construction to be flexible, durable, and repairable. At one point, Quoddy had a fleet of stores, many along the well-traveled Route 1 where summer visitors stocked up on other home-grown Maine brands like Hathaway, GH Bass, and LL Bean.
Fast forward to 1997, when Kevin and Kirsten Shorey revived the then-dormant Quoddy brand to provide Maine-made footwear for their Route 1 store in Perry, which they purchased from Kevin’s grandfather Colin Morrison (who had been selling Quoddy moccasins since the 1950s). The goal was then, and still is today, to revive the hand-sewn shoemaking tradition of Maine for a new generation that would appreciate the heritage, quality, and versatility of this footwear.
“Moccasin construction is unique in that it’s slow and expensive,” Andreliunas told Stitchtown. “We often say the training for hand sewing has a similar scrub rate to Top Gun school. Not many people survive the program because you have to have a combination of manual skill, artistic skill, hand strength, and patience.”
“We often say the training for hand sewing has a similar scrub rate to Top Gun school. Not many people survive the program because you have to have a combination of manual skill, artistic skill, hand strength, and patience.”
The process is precise, made with passion, and requires a personal connection to the vocation because the only way to increase production is to increase the number of hand sewers. It starts with a few pieces of leather that are cut with steel dies into a pattern, before small steel tacks secure it onto a last. The hand sewer uses two needles to sew the designated pattern together. Andreliunas describes it like a glove for your foot with a flexibility that doesn’t rely on glue adhesives, but leather and stitching. “And then we stitch the sole on with more thread, so again it allows increased flexibility and also allows you to resole it,” he said. “Our ability to resole our shoes is a revelation to most people. I tell them, “You don’t trade in your car when the tires wear down, why throw away a perfectly broken-in pair of shoes?”
Quoddy consumers, much like Filson’s, are more invested in their products because Quoddy guarantees each pair is met with a sense of interpersonal connection and quality. And both brands have made the commitment to repair their products for more years of service, adding to their long-term value.