Mason Companies has been owned by the Mason Family for more than 100 years. Mason Shoe was founded by August Mason and his son Bert in 1904. Bert Mason (BA) led the company until 1945 when his son, Ned Mason took over the operations. Following Ned were brothers Owen, who took over in 1960 and Victor who followed in 1976. Fourth generation family members, Bill Scobie and John Lubs led the Company from 1989 through August 2004. On September 1, 2004, a new milestone in Company history was set with the appointment of Dan Hunt as the first non-family CEO/President.
During the late 1800s, lumbering dominated life in the city of Chippewa Falls and the Chippewa Valley creating thousands of jobs. These jobs spawned numerous area businesses that provided support to the lumbermen and the lumber industry. One such industry was the boot and shoemakers.
August Mason came to Chippewa Falls from Germany in 1854 to work in the lumber camps and by 1880 he was one of the key subcontractors to the larger lumber companies. By 1903, however, the great forests of Wisconsin were cut down, and in 1904, August and his son B. A. (Bert) Mason formed the Mason Shoe Manufacturing Company. Mason got its start handcrafting logging boots for the lumberjacks and river men working in the Chippewa area and quickly became known as one of the finest boot makers in the Northwoods.
In the beginning, the Company shipped their shoes to mercantile and clothing stores that sold the shoes on consignment. When the economy soured in the 1920’s, many of the stores returned their consigned shoes to the Company. Since there was an urgent need to get rid of these returned shoes along with the ones that were being manufactured, dealers were recruited to sell the overflow of inventory. The Masons devised a marketing plan that they would end up following for more than fifty years – direct sales of their shoes to consumers.
In order to assist the dealers, in 1922 the Company produced its first salesman catalog, the Mason Catalog.
The company began to grow through the direct sales of shoes by the dealers and as a result, in 1942 the Company went from a strictly home office sales operation to a home office/branch office structure. At one time there were 14 Mason Shoe branch offices throughout the United States. The branch offices were closed in 1970.
The installation of the Company’s first computer, an IBM System 360 Model 30 in April 1968, paved the way for rapid growth. The computer provided an efficient way to recruit new dealers by quickly and economically identifying markets of dealers and buyers. However, in 1970 the role of the dealer changed. They were no longer full-time salesmen who sold shoes for a living. The new dealers were part-time salesmen who could earn extra money selling shoes to friends, relatives, and co-workers.
Seeing that direct selling was slowing in the 1980s, Mason started to develop a mail order business. The Company’s first mail order catalog, Wissota Trader, was printed in 1985 and was followed by B.A. Mason, in 1990. Acquisitions of catalogs helped grow the mail order business. The acquisitions included Maryland Square in December of 1994, Masseys in October of 1997 and the Executive Shoes/E.T. Wright catalog in November of 1998.
In the fall of 1996, Mason Companies embarked on its initial venture of offering revolving credit as a method of payment in the Mason Easy-Pay Catalog. Mason Easy-Pay offered a credit payment plan for customers to purchase shoes over time. This tapped a new source of direct mail buyers who were accustomed to purchasing on a revolving credit plan.
With the success of Mason Easy-Pay, the Company further developed its credit offerings with the Massey’s Credit catalog in 2002, the K. Jordan women’s apparel catalog in late 2006, and Stoneberry, a general merchandise catalog in 2010.
For the local shoppers, the Company has a retail presence in downtown Chippewa Falls. The Mason Shoe Store sells footwear and women’s apparel items and offers every Mason catalog product as well as a “store only” selection of footwear.
In October 2003, ninety-nine years of footwear manufacturing in Chippewa Falls came to an end when the plant closed. This was a result of increased competition of foreign sourcing and continued reduction of market share because of pricing competition from lower cost offshore manufacturers of footwear.
As a result of Mason’s growth over the past 100+ years, we are referred to as the largest mail order footwear company in the World and are the 150th largest e-commerce retailer in the U.S. Today Mason’s catalog business includes: Auditions, Maryland Square, BA Mason, Masseys Credit, Mason Easy-Pay, K.Jordan, Stoneberry, Figi’s Gallery, and an internet only site – ShoeMall.com.
Mason Companies has made a long-term commitment to its customers, employees, and the community and today employs over 1,000 people. We have enjoyed over 100 successful years and look forward to a prosperous future.