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Aug 7, 2014

Forged Rubber: The Mobile Factory Tour

Photographed by Jason Rosette

We’re about to tell you a story about a machine. His name is DESMA and he makes Chrome’s Forged Rubber Sneakers. DESMA is an old pro at making shoes. Seventy years ago, he was cranking out army boots during WWII but after the war, he just sat with 85 of his fellow machines rusting away in a basement in Slovakia. One day, he got the call that Chrome Industries wanted him and his pals to build Forged Rubber Sneakers by forging rubber soles directly onto durable canvas uppers, one at a time, by hand, the same way they made army boots 70 years ago. While his pals went to work in Thailand, DESMA oiled his pivots, slapped on some paint, and hopped the first flight to San Francisco, where he and our Chrome Crew geared up to take this one-machine Forged Rubber Factory on tour.

The idea was for DESMA to hit the open road with our Chromie, Jason as co-pilot; stopping at every Chrome HUB to make shoes and show folks the Forged Rubber process. We called it The Forged Rubber Mobile Factory Tour. Sure, DESMA is not computer automated and he takes 15 minutes to vulcanize the rubber onto the shoe, but let me tell you … when DESMA is done doing his thing and that shoe comes off the press, not only is it tough as nails, it’s a thing of beauty.

The first stop, of course, was our HQ city San Francisco. We have two HUBs in SF and only had time for one stop, so we had to choose which HUB would kick off of The Mobile Factory Tour. The only logical solution; cage fight. Two HUBs enter, one HUB leaves. After some sweet spin kicks and frowned upon hair pulling, our Mission HUB emerged victorious. At each stop on the tour, we offered 50% off one pair of Forged Rubber Sneakers to the first 100 people in the door. On the first day in SF, DESMA got to work pumping out shoes as fast as his little 70-year-old heart could and people stood back, watching in awe. Many came to the general realization, that they had never before seen a shoe being made. Mimosas were served, it was the morning after all. It was funny how when offered an alcoholic beverage in the a.m. many people said, “But, I have to go back to work, ” then took it after we said, “but it’s a mimosa!” After San Francisco, the crew loaded up in a wicked tough minivan and hit the open road across this great nation of ours bound for New York City and more partying. forgednyc Photo cred – Cyclehawk, DoobyBrain, Cinnecycle

In New York, we took it to the streets … literally. DESMA rarely gets to work outside and since this was his first trip in years, we decided to let him make shoes outside in the sunshine in front of the HUB. Meanwhile, inside the hub, the beer flowed like wine, Forged Rubber Sneakers found new homes on happy feet and DJ Dirtyfinger laid down the jams. After New York, we headed to Chicago where our Chromie Jason handed the tricked out Chrome minivan keys over to me. His only instructions were to not to let DESMA drink too much. There was stories of him getting wild at some of the after-parties. What a 70-year-old shoe machine drinks to get drunk is beyond us, but those were the instructions.  forgedchi We got along with like peas and carrots. You can tell he’s a little old when he’s telling you a story and starts listing off a bunch of names, but never tells you who they are or anything about them. After some car time together he confided in us that he was scared about our Chicago stop because we were going to be on the news on the early show and he wasn’t sure he’d have time to warm up. To put his mind to ease, we did what anyone would do, we built a fort in the Chicago HUB basement with help from our Chromie, Bob. That way we could wake up early and ready to party. Mimosas! The next morning the Chicago HUB had a line going down the block. THE BLOCK YO! Mind you, we weren’t giving shoes away, they were just on sale. Word spread like wildfire about the work DESMA does and people lined up to get in on the action. Chicagoans are rad and patient. The first day was busy from start to finish and after the doors were closed,  we had ourselves a little after party. 10462682_10152512796940622_6388624147634965658_n Good clean fun! We made the long trip from Chicago to Seattle through the Midwest while sharing stories of our past and listening to Gerry Rafferty. There’s a lot of time for that through the prairie. cow2 Here’s a cow we saw along the way and our super sweet, tough as nails, bad ass … minivan. Chrome’s official, non-official mascot Palmer3000 caught wind of the tour and since we were so close she insisted we swing by and pick her up for the Seattle stop. 10448790_10152514602345622_2079305339092083048_n How could we say no to a face like that, plus she spelled everything right on her little sign. Whoever said Basset Hounds are stupid is a dumb jerk. forgedsea Seattle’s Mobile Factory Tour party started the way most Fraiser episodes start, with a cup of coffee courteous of our new in-store Chrome Coffee shop. Because the popular stimulant is now in-house, we opened the doors at 8am and guess what was out front. Guess. If you guessed a line, you are correct – award yourself 100 points. As old as DESMA is, you’d expect he’d get tired from time to time but there he was, pumping out shoe after shoe. When we asked him if he wanted to take a break, he’d launch into some big lecture about work ethic in his day and such, so we just let him do his thing. We offered the same deal we have to all the other stops, 50% off one pair of Forged Rubber Sneakers to the first 100 people, so when Mr. 100 and Mr. 101 came in at the same time, it looked like we had another cage match on our hands. We remembered that we left the cage in San Francisco, so we weren’t going to be sticklers about it and gave them both 50% off, but only after they helped DESMA into to the van  -he’s old, remember? Thanks Seattle! Our last stop on this whirlwind tornado of a trip was Portland.  forgedpdx Portland was the last, but definitely not least. The line to get in was probably the longest of all our stops. We kept the folks in line caffeinated with Stumptown cold brew. Their patience paid off. Once they made it through the door, they were met with Forged Waffles and, you guessed it, mimosas. Breakfast of champions. We bumped Bootsy Collins and his brothers in funk all day long while folks picked their Forged Rubber Sneakers and DESMA showed off his skills. DESMA said he was sad The Forged Rubber Mobile Factory Tour was coming to an end. It had been a long time since he’d been on a trip and never one quite like this. We were a little sad too, the old machine grew on us and we were going to miss him. It’s not like we’d never see him again … it was more the feeling of finishing a really good book. The story was told, but you are a little sad it’s over. We met incredible people all around the country and were continually humbled by how much excitement they brought to each stop. Thanks to everyone who came out. DESMA is back at it with all his pals working hard to make Chrome Forged Rubber Sneakers for you, yes you. If you missed our tour here’s a Forged Rubber Factory video we put together. Watch it and then get in a pair, why don’t ya? Forged Rubber: 70 Years in the Making from Chrome Industries on Vimeo.