Bruce R. Katz, who revolutionized the shoe industry as the founder of the Rockport Shoe Company and Samuel Hubbard Shoe Company, took the final step of his journey on June 26, 2022, after suffering a head injury from a fall at his home in Mill Valley, California, according to his family.
Throughout his footwear career, Bruce applied the philosophy, “We make friends one pair at a time.” As an avid hiker and outdoorsman, it was never enough to simply make shoes; Bruce continuously aspired to make shoes that emphasized function, with an insistence on using fine materials, European craftsmanship, and careful fit. Beyond his innovations in footwear, he also established an award-winning customer service department because he believed in truly listening to his customers and giving them what they asked for and more.
Bruce was the third generation of a family shoemaking legacy that began with his grandfather Samuel J. Katz, who founded the first Hubbard Shoe Company in 1930, and his father Saul L. Katz who was the co-founder with Bruce of The Rockport Company. His career in the footwear industry spanned over 50 years. Bruce believed the shoe is a person’s most important piece of apparel. It connects one to the earth and carries the body’s entire weight, helping to support an active lifestyle. All shoes he crafted were made with one thought in mind, “Feet have feelings too,” the headline of a prominent Rockport advertisement from the 1980’s. With an eye for detail that only an engineer can have, Bruce approached shoemaking with precision, reinventing classic styles and reworking new ones until they met his exacting standards.
Rockport was the first shoe company to put lightweight, cushioned orthotic elements and athletic technology into traditional footwear. RocSports, as they were called, became a huge success and kicked off the development of a new category of footwear – walking shoes.
Yet Bruce did more than sell the shoes; he codified a new type of physical activity he named “Fitness Walking." He created the Rockport Walking Institute to share walking information in films, books—Fitness Walking, and Fitness Walking for Women— special events and national partnerships, one with the YMCA. With this extensive promotion, fitness walking became an accepted exercise and walking shoes became a $1billion category at retail, with Rockport dominating sales. This success led to the sale of Rockport to Reebok in 1986.
After 25 years spent investing in Internet technology companies,
Bruce returned to his first business love, shoemaking, launching the Samuel Hubbard Shoe Company in 2013, when he was unable to find any shoes that he loved as much as his Rockports.
“Working with Bruce over the past six years has been a continual master class in shoemaking,” said Noah Wheeler, CEO of Samuel Hubbard. “While we are heartbroken to lose him, our team will continue Bruce’s extraordinary shoemaking legacy. The upcoming introduction of the Performance Walker is the ultimate shoe Bruce dreamed of. It will honor his genius and is a comforting reminder that he is still on his journey with us.”
In lieu of flowers, please take a long walk with someone you love. And talk with them about living life to its fullest.