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San Diego
Saturday, May 18, 2024

Shoe Co.’s New Line Takes Untraditional Path

Kevin Gordon brings a fascination for history to work with him.

That and a helping of patience are good things to have at Pinnacle Brand Group Inc. In the fashion industry, everything that’s outdated eventually becomes trendy again.

Classic styles such as the brogued wingtip — which some may have dismissed as something from a grandfather’s closet — are selling. Those 1990s styles with the squared-off toes? Not so much.

Pinnacle produces men’s shoes under the 19-year-old Gordon Rush brand as well as newer brands. Thirty percent of the company’s business is designing and sourcing shoes for other companies. That gives Pinnacle advantages in the market including the ability to buy in volume, said the 42-year-old Gordon, who is president of the family held company.

The business started a new brand called Blake McKay this year. With it, the Miramar-based business hopes to offer premium products at accessible prices, in part by eliminating retail middlemen and doing without a salesforce.

“If Blake McKay was distributed traditionally, there would be a lot more overhead,” Gordon said.

The business describes the Blake McKay line as modern updates to classic dress shoes. The line also includes sneakers. Prices range from $90 to $150. Pinnacle sources the shoes from factories in China and Italy.

DSW Sales

Blake McKay is selling its shoes exclusively through Columbus, Ohio-based DSW Inc.’s retail stores and on the DSW website. There will also be sales on the Blake McKay website.

DSW (NYSE: DSW) stands for Designer Shoe Warehouse. It has 500 stores in 43 U.S. states and operates 396 leased departments for other retailers. The publicly traded company also has a stake in Town Shoes of Canada, which operates 188 stores under several banners.

DSW had $2.7 billion in revenue in 2016, up from $2.6 billion in 2015. Some 22 percent of its business is men’s footwear, 69 percent is women’s footwear, and 9 percent is accessories. That mix is unchanged since 2014.

The Ohio-based corporation has been active locally. DSW acquired San Diego-based e-commerce retailer Ebuys Inc., which sells footwear and accessories, for more than $62 million in February 2016. Later in 2016, DSW agreed to distribute custom-fitted, 3-D printed shoes produced by a San Diego startup called Feetz.

Classic Boots

The Pinnacle offices include a collection of classic shoes and boots from the 20th century, and stacks of vintage magazines. “We look at this stuff for inspiration,” Gordon said.

One inspiration is a historic business called Hood Rubber Co. Pinnacle revived a shoe brand that thrived in the early 1900s and went extinct sometime in the 1960s. Hood made shoes and tires early in the 20th century, and rubber boots for the Defense Department during World War II and the Korean War. It also made basketball shoes.

Pinnacle’s take on the Hood brand, which went on the market in 2016, is more casual than dressy. Many products resemble hiking boots. The shoes are made in Italy and Portugal, and sell in the $295 to $500 range. Pinnacle sells its line through retailers.

The shoes are for “the doers, the makers and the creatives,” according to copy on the Hood website — which sounds a lot like millennials.

A Hood shoe is kind of “like a Range Rover,” Gordon said. You could conceivably take it off-road, but you won’t.

Pinnacle’s oldest brand, Gordon Rush, is sold in traditional department stores and online. It offers classic styles and prices range from $225 to $600.

The demand for luxury goods such as a good pair of shoes seems good. On the day Gordon spoke with the San Diego Business Journal, Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. announced plans to buy women’s shoemaker Jimmy Choo PLC for $1.2 billion.

President: Kevin Gordon

Revenue: Undisclosed

No. of local employees: 21

Investors: Gordon family members

Headquarters: Miramar

Year founded: 2009

Company description: Designer and producer of men’s shoes.

Kevin Gordon
Photo courtesy of Pinnacle Brand Group Inc.

Formed a Holding Company

Pinnacle has come a long way since the San Diego Business Journal profiled the business, then known as Gordon Rush, in December 2001. At the time, Kevin Gordon was vice president and brother Alan Gordon was CEO.

Gordon Rush had opened a store in University Towne Center in 1998 as a way of getting the word out about the brand. Then they rolled out the brand in Nordstrom department stores, beginning with Orange County’s South Coast Plaza. By 2001, Gordon Rush shoes were in 50 Nordstrom stores, revenue exceeded $2.5 million, and the UTC store was pretty much an afterthought.

The business formed a holding company called Pinnacle Brand Group in 2009. Kevin Gordon declined to give his current revenue figures, but said the company is profitable.

The business has 25 employees now, up from the eight it had in 2001. Most employees are in San Diego.

Gordon said he chose Blake McKay as the name of his new brand because of history. Blake and McKay were actually two people who, on the eve of the U.S. Civil War, invented and financed a specialized sewing machine that stitched together the outsole and upper portions of a shoe. McKay reportedly gave the machines to factories, asking only for a few cents on every shoe produced. When the patent expired, he sold the machines. He became a rich man.

“I’m kind of a history buff,” Gordon said.

If he could, Gordon said, he’d like to build a factory in the United States. That would be a “passion project,” he said.

“A lot of this is a passion project for me,” he said.


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