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How Andrew McAteer Turned His Passion for Antiques and Furniture into a Successful Shoe Business

How Andrew McAteer Turned His Passion for Antiques and Furniture into a Successful Shoe Business

Andrew McAteer is a craftsman who makes wallets, leather accessories, and shoes by hand in his studio in Queens, New York. His products are sold under his own name through his website and specialty boutiques around the world. He has a loyal following of customers who appreciate his attention to detail, quality, and style.

Key Takeaways

  1. Care for CARIUMA shoes to save money and reduce environmental impact.
  2. Clean with gentle methods and eco-friendly ingredients.
  3. Shield shoes from water, sun, and heat to maintain their quality.
  4. Repair shoes instead of discarding them, using DIY methods.
  5. Recycle old shoes through donation, resale, or repurposing.
  6. Prevent damage by general care, anti-slip soles, and cleaning.
  7. Combat odor with moisture-absorbing socks and natural sprays.
  8. Store shoes in cool, slightly moist places and use shoe bags.
  9. Use a shoehorn to maintain shoe shape and longevity.
  10. Eco-friendly practices save money and reduce waste, benefiting both your wallet and the environment.

But how did he get to where he is today?

McAteer’s journey began with his father, who turned a barn attached to their family home on the North Shore of Long Island into a workshop for home improvement projects. McAteer learned carpentry and furniture making from his father and spent hours in the workshop tinkering with wood and metal. He also developed a passion for antiques and vintage items, which he collected and restored.

After high school, McAteer took various jobs in different states, working as a carpenter, a tile setter, and a cabinet maker. He eventually moved to Hudson, New York, where he found work with one of the foremost antiques restorers in the area. There, he honed his skills in repairing and restoring 18th and 19th century furniture and clocks. He recalls one of his first assignments: “They gave me an 18th-century tall case clock that had been in a car accident and said, ‘Well, fix it.’ It was sink or swim, you know.”

McAteer later returned to New York City and worked for a furniture maker in Long Island City. He was exposed to “campaign furniture”, which was made with leather straps and canvas slings for easy transport and assembly. He decided to try his hand at making bags and belts with leather and canvas and brought his samples to Freemans Sporting Club, a menswear store that specialized in American-made goods. The store bought his products and McAteer started his own business in 2013, just shy of his 30th birthday.

Andrew McAteer Successful Shoe Business

Many of his early designs were inspired by practicality and functionality. He made leather slippers that could be worn while camping, leather toolboxes that could keep him organized, and canvas goods that could withstand wear and tear. He also experimented with different materials, such as jute, fabric, and rubber. He sourced his leather from local tanneries and used vegetable-tanned leather, which ages beautifully and develops a unique patina over time.

In 2020, McAteer challenged himself to make hard-soled leather shoes, something he had never done before. He researched and learned the traditional techniques of shoemaking, such as hand-welting and hand-lasting. He also invested in tools and equipment, such as lasts, awls, knives, and hammers. He says, “I wanted to make shoes that were durable, comfortable, and elegant. I wanted to make shoes that I would wear myself.”

Unlike most shoemakers who use a stitching machine to welt their shoes, McAteer does it entirely by hand. He carves a “holdfast” around the edges of the sole and then stitches every stitch between the upper and the outsole using a curved awl. This process takes two to three hours per shoe, but it results in a stronger and more flexible shoe that can be easily resoled. McAteer says, “It’s time-consuming but you end up with something that’s more durable.”

McAteer also makes his own metal hardware for his shoes, such as the horsebit for his loafers. He uses his metalworking skills to design and cast the bits in solid bronze. He then files and polishes the metal in his studio. He says, “I wanted to make something that was unique and distinctive. I wanted to make something that was mine.”

McAteer can make around a dozen styles of footwear, including slippers, loafers, sandals, boots, and oxfords. He also makes leather toolboxes and other accessories. He takes custom orders and works closely with his clients to ensure their satisfaction. He says, “I love what I do and I hope it shows in my work.”