The Soft Star elves are proud to tell people we’ve been making shoes since 1984, but anyone who saw our shop back in the early days might be surprised to see how much things have changed. The biggest difference: Soft Star once operated out of a school bus!
We recently came across a collection of photos from the first few years of the company, back when it was run exclusively by our founder, Tim Oliver, and his wife Jeanie. They began making shoes in 1984, but things didn’t take off until they brought their product to the Sawdust Art Festival in Laguna Beach, California the following year. The profits made from selling shoes at the festival allowed the young couple to purchase a plot of land just outside Wimberly, Texas, where they began to build their first house with their own hands. The property was located in the hill country alongside the crystal clear waters of the Blanco River.
During the construction process, the family—which included young daughter Corina—needed a place to stay. The solution was found with the purchase of an old, run down school bus. In 1987, Tim cleaned out the bus, fitted it with running water and a wood stove and the three of them moved in. They lived in that bus for about a year and a half, then moved into the still-unfinished house as soon as the walls and roof were up. When that happened, the bus became the official Soft Star workshop.
For the next three years, which included the birth of daughter Violet, Tim and his wife worked happily out of the bus to make their handcrafted shoes for mail orders, wholesalers and the occasional craft fair. Tim even managed to fit a (relatively) small leather-cutting clicker inside the tiny space. At that time, the product line was limited to just a few styles of children’s shoes. According to Tim, the official Soft Star policy was for everyone to jump in the river at the end of each workday.
The family stayed at that location until they decided to move to Oregon in 1990. Sadly, the bus, which was unfit for the trip, stayed behind. Soft Star Shoes then moved into a building just a few blocks away from its current location.
Today, more than a quarter century later, Tim is still working hard in the workshop. Soft Star now employs a dedicated family of elves and the product line has expanded to dozens of different shoe styles for babies, kids, youths, adults and runners. With the growth of our website, our sales are now worldwide—although everything is still made by hand in one big room in Oregon. If you ever find yourself in our cozy town of Corvallis, feel free to stop by for a tour. If you do, you’re still likely to see Tim putting the finishing touches on a pair of mocs.
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- Happy Thanksgiving! Holiday Shopping Tips and Ideas from the Elves
- GIVEAWAY! One-of-a-Kind Green Merry Mocs
- Holiday Shipping for Soft Star Shoes
- Tips for Choosing Minimalist Boots and Winter Shoes
- GIVEAWAY: Win a Free Pair of Very Unique Merry Mocs!
- We Have a Winner for Our Halloween Costume Contest!
- Help Us Pick a New Leather Color
- Shoe Artisans Share New Ideas at the Soft Star Workshop
- Heartfelt Obituary for Red Dash
- Monkeys and Elves Unite! Soft Star Teams Up with Luna Sandals
- Soft Star Halloween Costume Photo Contest… and a Secret from the Elves
- Knee Arthritis? Change Your Shoes for Prevention and Treatment
- We Have a Sweepstakes Winner! And More to Come...
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- Should Trail Shoes Be Thicker Than Street Shoes? Maybe Not...
- Soft Star Survey: Receive a Free $5 Gift Card and a Chance to Win $100 Cash!
- Elves Getting Dirty! Soft Star Volunteers at SAGE Community Gardens
- First Sneak Peek at the New Soft Star Ballet Flat!
- Maker's Wild Documentary: Go Behind the Scenes at Soft Star Shoes
- Are High Heels Giving You Hammer Toes? Tips for Prevention and Treatment
- Intrigued by Barefoot Running? Start this Weekend with International Barefoot Running Day!
- Are Those Shoes Made of Wood?
- Wikler's Quest for Healthy Children's Feet
- Michael Sandler Visit and Workshop – Barefoot Walking Book Review and GIVEAWAY!
- Thinking of Boston
- How Fast Do Children's Feet Grow?
- Barefoot Pioneers: the People Who Taught Us "Barefoot is Best"
- Caballo Blanco's Legacy Lives On: Tom Norwood Returns from Copper Canyon
- Book Review: Overthinking the Marathon by Ray Charbonneau
- Reinventing the Hammer: OSU Students Bring Their Skills to Soft Star
- An Olympic Thank You! Help Missy Franklin Swim for MS
- The Mighty Arch, Part 2: Strengthen Your Arches to Treat and Prevent Foot Pain
- Running Green: Soft Star Shoes at the Portland Shamrock Run
- Winter Playday at the Soft Star Workshop
- The Mighty Arch, Part 1: A Natural Cure for Plantar Fasciitis?
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- A Barefoot Running Book for Kids (Includes Free Lesson in Consumerism) + GIVEAWAY!
- Happy Thanksgiving! Turkey Shoes and Small Business
- Infographic: How to Choose Barefoot Shoes
- Rally 4 Jillie!
- Gifts for Her this Holiday Season - Fitting Tassels
- Sneak Peek at New Shoes for Women and Men - Vote for a Name!
- Soft Star Shoes for Mari's Place
- Introducing Youth Dash and Phoenix Boots
- Sneak Peek of the New Youth Dash - Vote for Your Favorite Color!
- And the Winner Is...
- Race, Walk or Skip for the Cure!
- Caption Contest Finalists - Vote for Your Favorite!
- Soft Star Caption Contest – Win a Free DVD of Barefoot Running, the Movie!
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