Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

February 9, 2022

Winter Olympics shoemaker in Lewiston launches crowdfunding campaign

close-up of woman stitching a moccasin Courtesy / Rancourt & Co. A Rancourt & Co. employee hand-stitches a moccasin slipper at the company's Lewiston factory.

As Winter Olympic athletes sport its boots and Ralph Lauren ads glam them up, the Lewiston company that made the footwear is working the crowds.

Rancourt & Co. Shoecrafters Inc. outfitted Team USA with winter boots for the Beijing Games, and the leather boots — in red and white, with a deerskin lining — were seen during Friday’s opening ceremony. You might also glimpse the boots at the closing on Feb. 20.

Rancourt, a third-generation family business, has been in the spotlight. National news stories have mentioned the company. Slick advertising shows Team USA modeling the boots and other official gear from Ralph Lauren Corp. (NYSE: RL).

The iconic clothier has dressed the American team since 2008, and contracted with Rancourt for two previous Olympiads in addition to the 2022 Winter Games.

But despite the glitz, these are tough times for apparel makers, who are coping not only with the general economic devastation of the pandemic but a shift to the most casual of casual wear. Rancourt's shoes, by contrast, are in traditional styles. Instead of flip-flops, think handsewn oxfords, boating moccasins and penny loafers.

So Rancourt has resorted to crowdfunding. A campaign to sell 1,200 pairs of Rancourt men's and women's shoes launched Monday and will run until the Beijing closing ceremony.

The company's first such campaign was in June 2020.

“If it weren't for the [2020] campaign, this would've certainly forced us to lay off some of our employees, mainly due to the pandemic,” David Creamer, the company’s customer service manager, told Mainebiz on Tuesday.

Rancourt employs 41 people at its factory and headquarters on Bridge Street in Lewiston. With the crowdfunding boost, business has been on the upswing recently. In addition to the wholesaling for customers like Lauren, retail sales last year surpassed $2 million, Creamer said.

close-up of red and black winter book with olympic logo
Courtesy / Ralph Lauren
Team USA will wear Rancourt & Co. boots at the Feb. 20 closing ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics.

The crowdfunding is really a form of pre-ordering. Rancourt invites customers to order certain shoes online at discounted prices, and then produces the footwear in the appropriate quantities over the next eight weeks or so.

“These are unprecedented times and the economic downturn created by the pandemic has negatively impacted our business in many ways,” wrote the company owner and president, Michael Rancourt, and his son, Vice President Kyle Rancourt, in the 2020 campaign message to customers.

By ensuring a minimum volume of sales in advance, the crowdfunding approach creates efficiencies, according to the company.

“We can keep all of our valuable shoemakers employed and avoid devastating layoffs which hurt the shoemaking heritage in our community,” the Rancourts wrote in 2020.

That initial drive resulted in 3,000 orders, which were more than the company anticipated. Since then, it’s run several more campaigns and capped the total number; the current offering of 1,200 shoes means 50-100 pairs are available in each style.

There’s always Paris

The company dates to 1967, when Michael Rancourt’s father, David Rancourt, opened a moccasin-making business in Lewiston. Michael joined in 1970, and the cobblers grew the business into a maker of luxury calfskin loafers for brands around the world.

The company was acquired in the 1990s by Wisconsin-based Allen Edmonds Corp., which announced plans to close the factory in 2008. Instead, Michael and Kyle bought it back and launched Rancourt & Co. in 2009.

two men standing near racks of shoes
File photo
In this 2011 file photo, Michael Rancourt, left, and his son, Kyle, display some of their company's footwear at the factory in Lewiston.

“I still felt the product we were making was relevant, and that if marketed correctly, if the story was properly told, we could maintain, if not grow, what we were doing,” Michael Rancourt told Mainebiz at the time.

Over two years the business quadrupled in size, with revenues surpassing $3 million by 2011 and the staff going from 20 to more than 50. Rancourt & Co. moved to its current, 25,000-square-foot digs, and began supplying high-end clothing companies such as Brooks Brothers. Shoes went for as much as $500 a pair.

Michael and Kyle were named to the 2011 Mainebiz Next List of the state’s up-and-comers.

A decade later, the world — and the shoe industry — are very different. Brooks Brothers, once a bastion of old-school fashion, filed for bankruptcy in July 2020. The epitome of preppy has since been purchased and is eking out business, but most of its stores are gone for good.

Meanwhile, Rancourt & Co. is catering to what may be renewed interest in trad style, as it's now called.

“I believe these styles have always been popular,” said Creamer. “I think it's safe to say that they're back.”

The company plans two or three crowdfunding drives this year. If those don’t work out, well, the next Olympic Games begin in Paris on July 26, 2024.

Editor's Note: This story has been revised to reflect additional reporting.

Sign up for Enews


February 9, 2022

lol, how about just making shoes people actually want? You say right int he article that they're not keeping up with the times. I don't see why that's an issue that needs to be pushed onto the public. do better market research, hold a focus group with people under the age of 40, and retool your business to meet actual demand.

Order a PDF