It’s just a shoe, right?
Not if you ask Lil Kurek, who owns American Clothing Gallery in Downtown Boise, or the hundreds of thousands of people who buy them each year.
“You know, it’s all good things,” Kurek says, referring to the Telic shoe, a rubbery shoe in flip-flop, clog-style or slip-on designs. “They’re a great price ... they’re a recycled product, they’re made in the U.S., and they’re comfortable.”
That’s why she keeps a pair at her front door and a pair at her back door. And it’s why, she said, she has to restock the store’s Telic supply every two weeks.
But the company — started by Rocco Azzarito three years ago and headquartered in Downtown Boise’s Hoff building — is making a change that delights Kurek even more: Telic shoes will soon be made in Caldwell.
For the past few years, Telic has relied on Okabashi, a shoes-and-sandals maker with a factory in Buford, Ga., for its manufacturing. But Telic is growing as orders rise. It has 15 employees in Idaho and plans to hire 10 more by the first quarter of 2016.
“We’ve been outgrowing our production capabilities,” said Aaron Azzarito, Telic’s marketing vice president and CEO Rocco’s son.
Telic is owned by Rocco Azzarito and co-CEO Terry Stillman, who lives in Florida and handles much of the international and marketing operations.
The company is now shipping footwear to 2,000 buyers in 34 countries. Telic is on track to sell 300,000 shoes this year — and it could be selling even more if it could produce them, Aaron Azzarito said.
Telics retail for $39.95 or $49.95, depending on the style. Most of them are unisex, but the “z-strap” slip-on style is a women’s shoe, Azzarito said. The shoes usually last more than a year, and some customers still wear pairs they bought three years ago, he said.
The company at first called itself and its shoes Terox, but changed to Telic after the shoe company Adidas pointed out its shoe brand Terrex.
Telic’s name is from the word “telic” — meaning purposeful or toward a purpose — but it could easily be called “Azzarito Inc.” Rocco Azzarito is a third-generation footwear worker. Besides his son, the Telic team includes Aaron’s twin sister, Aubri, the company’s top designer.
As the Azzaritos sketched out their growth plans, they thought, “We’d like to do something local, (and) we found a partner that’s willing to invest” in equipment and manpower, Aaron Azzarito said.
That partner is High Country Plastics, whose bread and butter is building products for the industry that makes actual bread and butter possible. Founded 27 years ago, High Country makes livestock and agriculture products — from barn accessories and roping gear to water tanks and gates. Shoes weren’t on its radar until months ago.
The two businesses started talking in February, said High Country Plastics President Chance Stevenson, son of founder Tony Stevenson.
“They’re very similar to us — a family-owned company based in Idaho (that is) very big on made in the USA,” Chance Stevenson said.
To make the shoes, High Country Plastics is investing in special injection-molding equipment. It plans to add to its current workforce of 27 people. Stevenson said seven employees per shift are needed just to operate the machinery. The factory will package the shoes, too.
When production starts in Caldwell this fall, the footwear company will be poised to ship about 600,000 pairs of shoes in 2016. Eventually, Telic expects to reach about one million pairs.
Stevenson said he plans next year to break ground on a new, permanent factory where it will make Telic shoes. Stevenson said his company is “looking for a long-term partnership” with Telic.
That was music to Kurek’s ears. She said she’s looking forward to having quicker access to supply when she’s running low on Telics. She enjoys the idea of selling shoes that are “like buying a souvenir, but it’s something you can use.”