CEO of the Year:
Paul Grangaard, Allen Edmonds Corp.

Rumors circulated this year about potential buyers of Port Washington-based men’s dress shoe manufacturer Allen Edmonds Corp. Some worried how a new owner would impact the status of the iconic Allen Edmonds brand and if a new owner would be willing to maintain manufacturing operations in Port Washington.

A major player in the company’s future was chief executive Paul Grangaard, who was brought into the position by the Minneapolis-based private equity firm Goldner Hawn Johnson & Morrison. Grangaard said it was very important to him that the company’s manufacturing operations be kept in Port Washington.

“Made in the USA is the absolute essence of our efforts,” Grangaard said. “Our history north of Milwaukee has just been iconic for us.”

In early November, Goldner Hawn Johnson & Morrison sold Allen Edmonds to an affiliate of Los Angeles-based private equity firm, Brentwood Associates. Allen Edmonds will remain an independent private company and its operations and 550 employees will remain in Port Washington. Grangaard will remain as CEO. In recognition of his role in the company’s ownership transition, Grangaard is the winner of BizTimes Milwaukee’s inaugural Best in Business CEO of the Year Award. “(Receiving the CEO of the Year award) is a reflection of this year being an important milestone in the development of the company,” Grangaard said. Grangaard was nominated for the award by Port Washington Mayor Tom Mlada.

“Paul’s active promotion and passionate belief in that brand’s place as Made in America – and more specifically, alignment with Made in Port Washington – has had a tremendous impact upon our local economy, our tourist industry, and our community pride,” said Mlada. “With Paul continuing his service at the helm, the future will no doubt bear very exciting things for Allen Edmonds.”

While completing the ownership transition from Goldner Hawn Johnson & Morrison to Brentwood Associates was the year’s biggest headline for Allen Edmonds, the 91-year-old company has even more reasons to celebrate.

Paul Grangaard

About 200 employees have been added in Port Washington in the last three years, said Grangaard, and the company is headed toward its third consecutive year of not only record sales, but also the third consecutive year that saw a $20 million increase in revenue over the previous year – up from roughly $120 million in 2012 to an estimated $145 million for 2013.

“From 2009 to 2013, we’ll have doubled the company,” said Grangaard.

Allen Edmonds plans to use the cash infusion from Brentwood to expand employment at the plant and expand its retail footprint across the nation, with seven new retail stores planned for next year, bringing the company’s total number of retail stores to over 50 nationwide. Long-term, Grangaard said, Allen Edmonds is looking to expand retail internationally.

In addition, Allen Edmonds is expanding into other areas of men’s apparel, including belts, bags, travel goods and other leather goods.

“Everything starts with great products,” said Grangaard. “Just this fall, we had what we called ‘The Big Launch,’ and we went after leather goods and apparel with a level of sophistication and comprehensiveness like never before.”

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