At one time, Xenia had several major factories. One of the largest and best remembered was the Hooven and Allison rope factory. But there were other industries as well. One was the manufacture of fine shoes.
Perhaps the best-known and remembered would be the Xenia Shoe Manufacturing Company which was located at the corner of South Detroit and Leaman streets. The business was also known as Krippendorf-Ditman Company.
The 1915-16 Xenia City Directory lists P.H. Flynn, president, Carl Krippendorf of Cincinnati as vice president, Albert Krippendorf as secretary and W.B. Schawe, treasurer. Flynn had been associated with the company as early as 1892 when he was a traveling salesman and later secretary-treasurer before assuming the role of president. The business was listed as a manufacturer of women’s, misses, and children’s fine shoes.
The Buckeye Shoe Manufacturing Company with S. Frazer as president, and F.B. Drees as secretary-treasurer occupied the same building for a short period of time. The building was destroyed by fire several years ago.
Another shoe manufacturer came to the city in 1939. Miller-Jones Shoe Company of Columbus opened what was known as “Plant B,” located on West Second Street at the corner of South Allison. The company manufactured what it advertised as women’s high-grade, popularly priced footwear. The business was such a successful venture that factory space was doubled by utilizing the second floor of the building as well as the first.
After the shoe manufacturer closed that business, the building was occupied by the Kroehler Furniture Manufacturing Company. That building was a victim of the 1974 tornado.
Several years later, the United Shoe Machinery Corporation opened for business in the old R.A. Kelly rope manufacturing building on West Market Street. This company did not manufacture shoes but made equipment used in the shoe manufacturing business.
In 1947, the announcement was made in the Gazette that another shoe manufacturing business would be hiring workers. Joyce, Inc,. was opening a factory at 518 W. Market Street, again the R.A. Kelly building.
In October 1950, the newspaper reported “Xenia interests will finance and erect a new industrial plant in the 1000 block of West Second St. to house the Xenia operations of Joyce, Inc. of Pasadena, Calif.” Cost of the new building was estimated at $150,000 to be financed by a group known as Greene County Development, Inc. This group was headed by A.E. Chenoweth with O.J. Burnett, Sol Arnovitz, and Harry Elias taking part in the organization. The Joyce Company was to take a 25-year lease on the property. Groundbreaking took place on Dec. 21 the same year. This was a one-story sprawling building of glazed tile block construction
Work proceeded quickly on the building and by September of the next year, 20 workers were busy manufacturing shoes. A formal opening was scheduled for Nov. 1, 1951. This was listed as a “civic undertaking promoted by a group of Xenia businessmen and is one of the most modern shoe factories in the world.” The company anticipated that the plant would manufacture 1,500 pair of shoes per day at this location.
The company must have been an excellent employer. Hazel Muterspaw, one of the former employees, stated in a 1983 interview, “They would rent big busses and take us all to ball games. We had covered-box lunches and parties all the time.”
She further remarked that she had been an assistant foreman making $1.72 per hour, which was a good wage at the time. She stated that the company “would keep their employees in shoes too. If there was even a slight blemish on a shoe, some you might not even notice, instead of destroying the shoes, they would sell them to us at a very low rate. And they were good shoes.”
When employees started talking about a union, the company stated that it felt the employees were treated very well and was against such action.
In spite of the excellent quality of the work and the mutual respect between employer and employee, the following announcement was made on April 22, 1954.
“Joyce, Xenia, one of four shoe manufacturing plants operated by Joyce, Inc. of Pasadena, Calif., will be shut down immediately and the operation at 1030 West Second St. is being phased out by department.”
Possibly the impact of lower-priced, foreign-made shoes was one of the factors for the plant closing.
William H. Joyce, founder and president of the company, stated that the local employees would be given preference for jobs in the Columbus plant, if desired. The shoe manufacturing plant was closed and the building was vacant for more than a year. This was the end of an era for Xenia manufacturing shoes.
Remembering Louise Buffington
Louise Buffington was born in Springfield and graduated from Willis University. She served as assistant auditor at Springfield Community Hospital for several years. A talented musician and singer, she studied with Frances Hanford of the Metropolitan Opera. She was interested in antique furniture and porcelain pottery and was an active member of several organizations including the Greene County Historical Society, where she organized the first tours of privately owned homes. She was a charter member of the United Voluntary Service and was a toastmistress. She was the wife of former Xenia Fire Chief Walter Buffington.
— Joan Baxter
Joan Baxter is a Greene County historian and resident.