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Harlick History

Home : About : History

For Over 70 years

The year was 1935, Oscar Johnson and Eddie and Roy Shipstad were readying the debut of their ice-skating road show, Sonja Henie was putting the finishing touches on her Madison Square Garden ice show, indoor ice rinks and dazzling ice carnivals had spread across the country.

In San Francisco, home of Shipstad and Johnson, Louis Harlick, a Custom Footwear Maker (English Riding Boots, Ballet Shoes, Orthopedic Shoes) from Russia, was making his first pair of Custom Skating Boots.

Harlick Skating Boots Began.

Ever since the 1860's, when American Ballet-Master Jackson Haines treated Ice and Roller Skating as an art form and successfully took his Balletic Skating to several European capitals, skating had moved from a pleasant pastime to a year round sport. By the turn of the century, ice skating was professional - and very popular with the public.

What hadn't kept pace with skatings popularity was the Quality of the equipment being used. Sure, wooden skates and iron skates had given way to steel skates. But these blades - or rollers - were often strapped or clamped on to street shoes or boots used for other purposes. It was for that reason that skaters turned to professional custom footwear craftsmen, men like Louis Harlick, to design and build for them fully integrated Skating Boots that not only fit properly but were constructed to withstand the physical pressures and performance demands of Skating. That's exactly what Harlick did for Skaters such as Skippy and Merrill Baxter, Dick Button, Carol Heiss, Hayes and Andrew Jenkins, Richard Dwyer and many others including Olympic, World and National Champions.

As if Louis Harlick's excellence and expertise weren't enough, by the 1960,s he had reached out to the Henderson Brothers, Bob, Burt and Jack - Scotsmen with a family tradition as Custom Footwear Makers that went back to Edinburgh of the 1700's! Five generations and over 300 years as Custom Footwear Craftsmen.

The 1960's were a period of innovation and imagination in skating. There was a style revolution in the sport. The Henderson's realized that the equipment was going to have to change to keep up with this newer style of skating.

One of the first changes made in the new design was making the boots much lower. Skaters were always complaining that the laces would work loose. The cause for this was immediately recognized. The old styling was designed for the boots to go all the way up past the calf of the leg where the leg muscles were the strongest, and as soon as one began to skate, the calf muscles would expand, making the lacing work loose. As soon as the new design was made and the height of the boot cut down three to four inches the problem was eliminated. This low cut design became so popular, all of the boot manufactured were copying the low cut design.

By listening to what the Coaches and Show Skater told them about their skating needs and problems, Harlick Skating Boots corrected those problems and changed the Boot to meet those needs. The Boot was streamlined, extra padding was added, especially in the ankle area, more stiffening was given to the ankle area also.

Through the years the skaters were very instrumental in making suggestions and the Henderson Brothers would work out the problems. They loved challenges, and never said, it can't be done, to any request.

The innovations and improvements keep on coming. Sometimes in Styling with Dance Scallops in the lacing area for flexibility, and Dance Backs for comfort in toe points. Sometimes in boot construction and materials. Leather Soles and Heels stitched and nailed to prevent separation, solid brass hooks for strength and security, imported Austrian sponge rubber for tongue and ankle padding and unique upper stitching procedures.

Harlick Boots are the highest quality available, only because they're working to improve them all the time. It's also because they are Committed to the Tradition of Excellence passed down from Harlick and the Henderson Brothers.

That Commitment to Excellence shows up in everything Harlick does from their hand-crafting of the boot to their hands-on approach to business. The owners are involved in every facet of making the boots.

Hand Crafting starts with the Designer who designs Custom Patterns for each individual Skater from the tracings and measurements that are taken.

The Hand Cutter then selects the boot leathers. Selecting the hide, making sure it's the best piece of leather available. There are several different kinds of leather used in one boot.

Next the Sewers check the leather as they're sewing the boots, they make sure that all parts of the leather are holding up. Changes can take place in the leather in the sewing process. They also make sure that each component of the upper is properly positioned. If something goes wrong that can't be fixed, the boot is cut up and thrown out. Harlick sells no seconds or thirds. It's either first class going out or it doesn't go out.

The Custom Boot is never checked out by computer, machine assembled or conveyor belt processed. At each step of construction and assembly, the boot is hand held, hand worked and hand checked.

Not only is the leather and other materials picked from the finest suppliers in the United States, Harlick is constantly shopping, all around the world, to find components that measure up to their exacting standards. The boots rubber padding is special ordered a year in advance and comes from Austria, the one place that makes it the way Harlick wants it.

Skaters phone calls and letters are answered personally by the owners. Special needs and design modifications are taken care of individually. The hands-on approach is Guaranteed by the size of the company, - there are currently only 18 employees, including the 4 owners - and the attitude of giving individual attention to each pair of boots is the priority by all. Harlick's employees have an average length of employment of 11 years with the longest working for over 30 years. When Harlick brings on a new member to its family they are trained for a minimum of one year before the are able to be trusted with your boots. This insures consistency and quality in each pair.

Recently, the father of a skater from North Carolina called to ask about certain special needs for his daughter's boots. He passed on the recommendation of the Doctors at Colorado Springs. They had told him that if he wanted a proper fit he'd better go to Harlick - "because they would be sure to do it right!" Recommendations like that are based on Harlick's well-deserved reputation for quality and caring.

This quality of care shows up in Harlick's concern for the individual Skater. They won't compromise, and won't ask the Skater to. One indication of that extra effort is that Harlick has more options available on its custom boot than anybody else. That includes making the boot softer, more flexible, or stiffer, orthopedically correct, or designed for a specific need. If you don't see what you need, ask Harlick. They are always trying new designs and working with skaters to make the boot Perfect for them

In one skater's routine, her partner grabs her around the ankle. In one boot on that pair used in the routine, she didn't want any hooks. So the boots were adjusted to have hooks only on the one boot and none on the other. This is a simple change but it shows the attention to details that Harlick is famous for.

One pair of boots takes four to six weeks to make. However with the popularity and demand for Harlick Skating Boots, the volume of orders will cause delays of several weeks for delivery. This is not something Harlick likes, but they refuse to take short-cuts or sacrifice quality to turn the orders out faster. Instead, they suggest that you plan ahead and order your Custom Harlick's in advance.

Even when the boot is finished, the process isn't over. Follow-up adjustments are made so that the boots fit when the Skater is skating in it - which is the real test!

And even that is not the end of it!! Skating can bring about changes in the fit. Often all that is needed is a simple adjustment - like removing the Growth Insole, adjusting the tongue of the Sock Lining or the Orthopedic Arch Supports - most of which can be taken care of with a friendly phone call. Harlick also provides reconditioning services to restore tired boots with new life.

With over 60 years experience, the folks at Harlick know what to look for when Skaters are having problems. Harlick and Co. is still family owned by the Henderson Brothers descendants. The current owners, Dan Doud, Glenn Henderson, Phil Kuhn and Sam Swartz combined, have over 85 years experience between them. They put that experience to use in solving those boot problems.

These are only some of the reasons that Coaches recommend and Olympic, World and National Champions choose Harlick Skating Boots.

That is the Professional care and excellence that skaters have come to expect from Harlick.