Greb Industries

Footwear production, ca. 1950s

Footwear production, ca. 1950s

Greb Industries Limited was a shoe and boot manufacturing company based in Kitchener, Ontario.  At its peak in the early 1970s it was Canada’s largest footwear manufacturer, employing  about 1200 people in Kitchener and another 1100 in Winnipeg, Trois-Rivieres, and Bangor (Maine).

Footwear production, ca. 1917

Footwear production, ca. 1917

Charles E. Greb, who had moved to Berlin from Zurich, Ontario, in 1909, became the secretary-treasurer of the Berlin Shoe Manufacturing Company, and his son Erwin Greb joined the company as book-keeper. In 1912, Charles and Erwin acquired the company, and in 1916 was incorporated as the Greb Shoe Company Limited. The company had plants at 47-49 Queen Street South (Queen and Charles) and at the corner of Mansion and Chestnut Streets in Kitchener.

Greb Shoe Company, 1956

Greb Shoe Company, 1956

In 1938, the company acquired Valentine and Martin Limited, a Waterloo manufacturer of work boots, shoes, and dress shoes, originally located at Bridgeport and Regina Streets. This company continued to operate as a separate business until it was merged with the Greb Shoe Company in 1951.  By that time, Greb operations were consolidated at a plant at Breithaupt and St. Leger Streets.

In 1959, Greb 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.

Greb Locations in Kitchener, ca. 1967

Greb Locations in Kitchener, ca. 1967

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 1974, Greb Industries Limited was purchased by Warrington Products Limited of Mississauga. The company continued to manufacture footwear under the new owners, but the Greb division was then sold in 1987. The Bauer skate division, operating as Canstar Sports, had been relocated to Cambridge and was eventually sold to Nike. The last Greb plant in Kitchener, a Kodiak boot plant on Hayward Avenue, closed its doors in 1991.

Hush Puppies catalogue

Hush Puppies catalogue

Paganos dress shoes

Paganos dress shoes

Bauer sport shoe advertisement

Bauer sport shoe advertisement

Left: some of the many products produced by Greb Industries Limited over the years.

 

 

 

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2 Responses to Greb Industries

  1. Michael Greb says:

    Very interesting collection of information. This is a great way for the community to look back and reflect upon the many companies, and more importantly the great employees, who all had a hand in shaping K-W to be the strong community it is today.

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