Written by Carolinne Griffin
Matt Renna’s first love as a craftsman was making shoes. In the mid-1990s he made a pair on the front porch of his house, relying only on books to learn the trade. When he started Queen City Dry Goods (QCDG) in 2011, he focused mainly on selling handmade leather goods like bags and wallets. Renna kept honing his craft making slippers, sneakers and boots on the side, but the challenges of footwear prevented him from manufacturing them on a larger scale. That changed in May 2020, when the Vermont House Shoe was born.
“The year before the pandemic,” says Renna, “I was developing what the House Shoe was going to be, so it was kind of synchronicity that when the pandemic hit, we were all set with this home product.” Made from North American leather, with a merino-wool lining and an option for a rubber sole, the House Shoe was a success from day one. More than 500 pairs have sold since the launch. While the QCDG website offers customers free exchanges and returns, Renna reports there have been virtually none. “I’m really pleased that not only is the product resonating with people, but they’re fitting.”
Renna plans to move the new Queen City Shoe Factory to a larger space next year. “It’s become our main focus. I’m shifting all of our resources to scale up shoe production.” Relocating will allow QCDG to expand its line and stick to a vertically integrated manufacturing model where design and production stay in-house from start to finish. Next up? Renna is prototyping a classic lace-up sneaker, just in time for folks who are ready to venture outside of the house.