Generations of Minnesotans have bought them at lake country resorts and North Shore gift shops.
Now, Minnetonka moccasins are adorning the feet of Victoria's Secret models, Hollywood stars and celebrity babies.
and a bit kitschy, the inexpensive footwear is breaking sales records
at fashion boutiques and upscale national chains such as Nordstrom and
Bloomingdale's -- yet one of its largest retailers is a cheese shop in
"It's been a crazy
year," said Jackie Granus, senior vice president of sales and marketing
for Minnetonka Moccasin, which is based in northeast Minneapolis and
manufactures its shoes at a company-owned factory in the Dominican
The privately held company,
founded in 1946, keeps a tight lid on information about itself. "We're
quiet as a church mouse," Granus said.
Moccasin doesn't advertise, has no Web site and won't reveal its
revenue, although company president David Miller recently told a
footwear-industry magazine that sales of its most popular style, the
Thunderbird, tripled in 2004.
But it's not
hard to find out who's wearing the company's moccasins and boots.
Actresses Drew Barrymore and Kate Hudson popped up in People magazine
wearing Thunderbirds. Recent spreads in Elle, Glamour, Vogue and other
fashion bibles featured modestly priced Minnetonka products paired with
fox-fur hats and $3,000 shearling coats.
when actresses Courteney Cox Arquette and Julia Roberts had babies last
year, their gifts of Minnetonka moccasins drew coverage on the
morning-TV shows "Today" and "Good Morning America."
Although fashion trends can be fickle, the Minnetonka Moccasin craze shows no signs of slowing, retailers say.
still selling a lot. It definitely doesn't seem to be stopping," said
Jaye Hersh, who sells about 200 pairs of Minnetonka footwear weekly in
her Los Angeles boutique, Intuition. "I think it's just the perfect
item: price, quality, everything you want."
Hollywood stars adopt a fashion style, it's a recipe for success, said
Hersh, whose store sold the moccasins Barrymore wore in People and also
provided matching pink Thunderbirds for Cox Arquette and her daughter,
And the low price of Minnetonka
moccasins -- most styles retail for between $25 and $50 -- gives
consumers the option of accessorizing with several different pairs, she
Ron Seguin has sold Minnetonka
moccasins for more than 30 years, ever since a sales representative
walked into Seguins House of Cheese and convinced him the footwear
would appeal to the tourist trade in Marinette, Wis., 50 miles north of
Seguin won't divulge numbers,
but he said company officials have named him as one of their largest
retailers. His Minnetonka sales doubled in 2004, he said, and now
threaten to displace cheese as the No. 1 item in his store...."We had our biggest holiday season ever," Seguin said. "It hasn't slowed down one iota."
said the company is working to stay ahead of the game, developing a new
line of beaded sandals that it will introduce this spring.
she also knows that today's must-have fashion can quickly become
tomorrow's thrift-store donation. Minnetonka moccasins went through
another craze phase about 20 years ago; while not as big as the current
wave of popularity, the experience has given the company a sense of
"We don't let it go to our
head, but it's kind of fun," Granus said. "We know it's going to move
to someone else. We're just enjoying it and riding it as long as we
John Reinan is at email@example.com.