We’re lacing up our shoes and kicking off a new series of stories to welcome you into the Hubbard family. At Samuel Hubbard, we like to think of ourselves as a group of adventurers who happen to make shoes. We’ve visited incredible corners of the world, love the outdoors, and have a unique passion for adventure in daily life. We’re beginning to tell our stories of adventure for a simple reason. Samuel Hubbard is about more than just shoes. We’re people who are chasing horizons and making shoes that help us (and you!) reach our goals.
For our founder, Bruce Katz, this adventurousness, creativity, and curiosity started in childhood and many moments in his life continue to motivate Bruce to make the very best shoes. Below you’ll see the first part of his story in his own words.
"When I was 9 years old I was put on a train in North Station in Boston and sent to the Farm and Wilderness Camp in the mountains of Vermont just outside Woodstock. Much of the summer was spent on hiking and canoe trips. I was sent to camp each summer for five years with a new pair of hiking boots that often gave me horrible blisters. I learned then and there to appreciate what a good pair of boots means in the woods.
As a young boy, I loved building things. All around our neighborhood, they were building houses in the post-war boom. I would go out on weekends and scavenge building materials. I slowly built a rather enormous treehouse in our backyard—much to the chagrin of our neighbors who began to ask if I needed permission from the building department.
As a child, I wanted to know how everything worked and I asked endless questions of everyone I ran across. I can’t tell you where that came from. To this day, I still want to know how things work.
When we would drive somewhere in my father’s convertible, I was fascinated by dirt roads and many times would push my father to turn off and follow the dirt roads to the end to see where they went.
When I was ten years old, my father bought the family a 23 Herreshoff-designed sailboat and we all learned to sail. I loved the sea and spent part of my first 17 years on the beach in Ogunquit, Maine. Raised on surfing waves on rubber rafts, I began surfing for real as soon as I got my driver’s license and could carry a longboard around the coast of New England. The water was frigidly cold and we had no wetsuits. We surfed until we were literally blue.
I loved science and when I was 13, I had one of the great teachers of my life. I was given enormous freedom in those years and was fascinated with science projects. On several occasions, I went to see the first large mainframe computers, including one that was entirely run on vacuum tubes at Raytheon. For my 8th-grade science project, I spent the year soldering wires and building a fairly large digital computer out of relays and car batteries. It stood about 6 feet tall and 7 feet wide and won first place at the National Science Fair.
Until I learned to drive at age 16, my bicycle was my way to get around and I would go as far as I could on a Saturday. I also loved to take the trolleys to the very ends of the line to see where they would go. Once I could drive, I went as often as I could to ski and hike in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and back in Vermont.
When I was 16, I also began working part of the summers in the family shoe factory and learned about the meticulous engineering and effort that went into making every pair of shoes.
After college, I was longing to see America. Our family had traveled in New England and I had been taken all over Europe when I was 14, but I had never been out to see the great national parks and I had never been to California. And of course, as a surfer, I had long dreamed of going to the West Coast.
I saved enough money to buy a Ford van. I spent a year and a half living in this van and traveling all over the country. I picked apples to earn gas money and later painted house numbers on the curbs of homes in Daly City. I traveled to many of the national parks and drove from San Diego to Vancouver following the surf and music festivals. I fell in love with San Francisco and lived in the city and Berkeley in my van. I made many friends along the way and people were very open and generous with me.
I have already mentioned that we spent our summers in Ogunquit Maine and we all loved spending time on the ocean in our small sailing boat. I never lost that love of the sea.
When I was living in my van, I was often woken in the night by the police telling me I had to move, that I could not camp there. Usually I would just drive until I could not stay awake any longer and then pull into some side road and camp for the night.
After a year and a half in the camper, I began dreaming of extending my travels to other lands and I started thinking of traveling by boat..."
To read more of how Bruce’s love of the sea took him sailing around the world and ultimately to founding Samuel Hubbard, keep your eyes open for the second part of this story, coming soon.