Small Business Story: St. Louis Braid Co.’s Challenges & Facing Competition


The CoverWallet Small Business Scholarship encourages entrepreneurship in students by asking them to take on the perspective of a local small business owner. Students share their perspective on the opportunities and challenges faced by a business in their community.

Student: Charles Goltermann, Western Michigan University, Cooley Law School

Small Business: St. Louis Braid Co.

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In 1929, St. Louis Braid Co. was founded as an American-made shoelace factory in bustling downtown St. Louis, MO. For fifty years, and just blocks from the Arch, 2035 Lucas Ave was home to hundreds of hard working blue collar Americans, who spent their days churning out high quality shoelaces and shoe care related products.

In 1982, when my grandfather became too sick to continue the business, my father took over, hoping to continue the business with the same growth and prosperity as his father. Though, in this time, American-made products were becoming a thing of the past. China employed the cheapest labor and outsourcing was the new way for American companies.

Not for St. Louis Braid Co — my father worked through those hard times, he kept the company going through frustrations and layoffs after layoffs. Through my father daily faced struggles, he never let it show and he never let my family worry. As a young child, he protected me from the financial issues that faced our family, he came home from work everyday with a positive attitude and belief that tomorrow would be better.

As I grew up, I began to learn of the hardships that faced my family and the difficulties that my father fought to overcome. The factory had tried to make changes to keep up with the competition; diversifying the lace products and importing from countries like China, but none seemed to really work. As the business began to fail, my uncle, my father’s business partner, gave up. My uncle laid off every single employee, sold all the equipment for a quick dollar and stripped the building to the studs. But my father did not give up. My father has still not given up.

To this day, my father wakes up, reads the paper, makes a cup of coffee, puts on his business clothes and drives to his abandoned shoelace factory. Everyday he still goes to work, alone. Because everyday, he gets up with the belief that the next call could come, today could be the day that a new order will finally be placed, and when that day comes my father will be there to answer the phone. The one phone, in his empty four story building, just my father and his faith.

Not all stories have a happy ending but my father’s story isn’t over yet. Through all our family’s tough times my father has taught me to never give up, to never stop working for what you want and no matter how hard life becomes, you put your best foot forward and keep going. Now, because of him I am working hard to achieve my own dreams of going to law school and becoming an attorney. He is my mentor, he is my motivation and he is my reason why.

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