Five Belleville businessmen – Adolph Knobeloch, H.E., Leunig, J.B. Reis, James Rentchler and William Weidmann – founded Belleville Shoe Manufacturing Co. in 1904, employing 50 workers and making 50 to 75 pairs of shoes a day. Though none of the five had any experience in shoe-making, they were confident of their market and within a few years, they were selling shoes from coast to coast.
Received 1st order for combat boots
During World War I, Belleville Shoe received its first order for military footwear. This began an enterprise that has sustained the company ever since. Belleville has revolutionized from a small operation into today’s large, technology-driven business which develops and produces breakthrough footwear for the nation’s armed forces.
Awarded the “E” for Excellence Award by the War Department
Military production resumed during World War II, and the War Department was so impressed with the firm’s products and its unfailing on-time delivery that it bestowed its coveted Army-Navy “E” Award on the firm in 1945. Of the 90 companies producing combat boots during the war, only five received this distinction. In the years since, the government has repeatedly honored the company for its quality and performance.
Partnered with Rawlings Sporting Goods to manufacture and distribute athletic footwear
Belleville Shoe branched out into athletic shoe production, making baseball, football, golf, soccer, bowling and track shoes under the RAWLINGS brand. Baseball great Stan Musial was their best customer; he would typically go through six or seven pairs in a season. According to the New-Demo-Crat at the time, “the majority of Olympic track stars and almost all major league baseball players wore shoes made at Belleville.”
Earned the Defense Quality Excellence Award from DLA
The company won the Defense Department’s prestigious Defense Quality Excellence Award in appreciation for its performance in meeting an urgent, accelerated deadline. Belleville delivered 120,000 pairs of desert boots on or ahead of the revised schedule. The Defense Logistics Agency, which conferred the award, noted that of 656,000 boots Belleville produced in the year from Aug. 18, 1989 to Aug. 17, 1990, not a single boot failed to meet government quality requirements.
Named National Small Business Prime Contractor of the Year
The company competed first regionally and then nationally for the award, which recognizes outstanding small businesses that supply the federal government. Belleville Shoe eclipsed 147 other nominated companies to take the prize. These 147 nominees came from the ranks of 75,000 small businesses performing federal contract work.
Expanded capacity by opening a second factory in Dewitt, Arkansas
Belleville made the shift from a traditional military boot specification adopter to the leading footwear innovator, allowing Belleville to be first to market with new boot designs and construction methods. The sharp increase in military production required a corresponding expansion in capacity.
Received Vendor Excellence Award in large business Category
Belleville Shoe was the Large Business award recipient when the Defense Logistics Agency honored 18 industry partners with their Vendor Excellence Award. The award recognizes individual businesses that have demonstrated outstanding efforts to partner with DLA and improve the agency's mission - providing supplies and services to America's war fighters – which includes excellence in superior product quality, on-time delivery, superior customer service, reliability, dependability, consistency and accuracy.
Belleville was nominated for this category based on its superior support to Defense Supply Center Philadelphia with the introduction of the hot-weather Army combat boot and temperate-weather Army combat boot.