Fugawee Corp was started officially in 1986 By Art and Nancy Ayotte. To bring weal made historically accurate footwear to Re-enactors. Art was retiring after 40 years at sea having been all over the world and seen all kinds of things. He always had black powder guns and good connections for shoes. Nancy being a Jeweler by trade so along came Medallions and buttons.
It all started from my brother's old bedroom at my Mom and Dad's house. Art, before he retired from forty years at sea, had fallen in with a bad group; the American Mountain Men. And from there it was all downhill! He had my mom dressing in funny clothes, go "rendezvous-ing" for weeks at a time. The muzzle guns had been around my whole life. I remember hiding behind trees with a string tied to the trigger of a shot gun and giving the string a pull to test a gun with a double load. So I should have known that the black powder would eventually eat up his common sense! Then my father and mother went to Friendship; when they came back we heard the stories of the shining times they had and the friends they made (monkey business and all??). I think It was there at Friendship when he totally lost his mind and decided to retire and Rendezvous somehow . Art was still going to sea at that time. He usually he sailed as First mate (Captain's don't get over time), he was on a run across the pacific to Thailand, some other places and back again, every three to four weeks. Thailand was where he had always liked his clothes and shoes made. Art had been going to sea from when he joined the navy when pearl harbor was bombed he was nineteen. He told me the lines were too long at the recruiters office the first few weeks; he and three of his friends would start walking at 6am, stand in line all day and be turned away because the recruiters were closing for the night. They then walk seven miles back home to Maynard, Massachusetts. Art and his friends did this for a week in December (Massachusetts is cold in December)until he decied to wait till after christmass when the lines were shorter. January 1943 to join the United States Navy. And that is how and when Art started going to sea. He studied his Coastguard Mates license exams on the battle bridge of the USS Houston when they weren't using it.
Two Bad days in October
And for the Johnny whiners out there it was 18 months between port calls.
Back to Thailand; He had Nancy, my Mother, sew up all kinds of rendezvous outfits including some knee breaches, Westcott's and had some shoes made for their colonial outfit. so he would have five pairs made. And this was an interesting part! . Art spoke 7 languages but not Thai or Korean; so he had a Korean that spoke Japanese so he spoke Japanese to the Korean who then translated it to Korean to the Thai shoe maker. This was a daunting task. (This could take a while). And the orders were growing larger getting to be 20 pair of shoes at a time. We started looking in the United States for shoe manufactures. We were too small a company but we contacted about 11 manufactures in the Northeast United States and no joy.
One day I asked my father why he didn't go to Mexico for boots and shoes instead of half way around the world? Piss leather was the first concern (uric acid tanning) is cheap and was ok as long as you were in the desert!!. Art had been speaking Spanish for forty years and was fluent in several dialects (his days sailing master in the Carabeian). So off we went on a great adventure to Mexico in our blue Dodge van!
It took about two weeks to find a good shoe town and longer to find good manufactures. The first thing we wanted to know was about the leather, so we went to a tannery. There were twenty pages in the phone book of tanneries!. They were using BASF chemicals and brand new Italian tanning equipment.
A far cry from a scudding knife and log with small children doing the work and a guard standing in the corner. Top shelf German chemicals and 90% of the shoes we saw were going to Europe, Italy and Germany mostly. We saw "Hush puppies", Bali's, Tom McCann and much more recognizable brands . So this was good enough for Florsheim should be able to live up to Fugawee standards. But this was 25 years ago before the Chinese became so big into making shoes.
As the years went on I stopped brain tanning, left the family business and, went back in to the technical/computer world as I was trained in. I had to stop Rendezvousing all the time and could only go to Alafia. It was for the better after Jerksville was outlawed and the long beards were dropping like flies. Then one Saturday it happened to us-Art, my father, passed away on a sunny July morning and our world came to a crashing halt.
Nancy (my mom) had the whole thing dumped on her. And after losing her husband of over forty years she decided to continue on with the business and mind you-she is a sharp business woman and has broaden the horizon for I was working in computers at the time, quit my job and joined Fugawee full time again. Bringing my knowledge of computers with me, I have further enhanced the website to include shopping carts (unheard of in the rendezvous world!), thereby allowing and increasing the styles and comfort of footwear (and have been working and growing with Fugawee ever since. We now just finished building a 8500 square foot warehouse and are moving out of the second Fugawee location of 2300 square feet. This is an exciting adventure and we look forward to hearing from you. and this is a big event in our lives.