We decided to take advantage of a unique opportunity today and it was free! We headed across town to the SAS shoe factory in San Antonio, TX to take advantage of their free tour. SAS stands for San Antonio Shoemakers, and their quality products have been 100% American made since it’s beginning in 1976. You can check out their website in advance. They have a large parking lot with adequate room for both RV and bus parking. They even have a little fenced in area to walk your dog. The parking lot surrounded buildings designed to look like buildings in an old town. First off you can see the General Store front.
And along the side of the "building" are more "stores" and a "post office".
All the kids were excited.
Dad is busy explaining how a shoe shine stand works to the kids.
The SAS philosophy is clearly posted inside the building.
Once we crossed the covered porch and entered the unique showroom, we found ourselves in the middle of an old-fashioned store complete with lots of antiques and unique shopping opportunities. Plan on taking some time to check out the whole building but we’ll come back to that in a minute.
We called and made reservations for the tour since this was spring break week so we walked through the showroom to the customer service desk to sign in. The factory tour is very popular and are often booked to capacity even though they are conduct 3 tours a day (Monday through Thursday), and each our can accommodate 40 guests. The factory is a popular stop with local clubs and tour buses, so if you are thinking of a visit, you might want to call ahead and get your name on the roster. As the time for the tour approached, the guests gathered on the old fashioned covered porch before loading into a tour bus that would take us to the factory buildings.
The tour lasted 45 minutes. There was a group of 9 and our group of 4 and 2 available tour guides. We were very lucky to get our own tour guide who tailored her tour to interest a 6 and 8 year old as well as their Dad and Grandma. Be aware that you must be 6 years old to go on the tour. They got to handle the shoes at each step of the construction process and ask questions whenever they wanted. Unfortunately, pictures are not allowed on the tour but it was interesting for all of us. The factory buildings were neat and clean and there were St Patrick's Day decorations everywhere. Most of the employees had been there for many years.
Once we finished with the tour, we headed back to the front of the store to make sure we didn't miss anything. The original owners came from Maine and started the factory in 1976; however, these are not the original buildings. The original factory buildings were burnt down in 1998 when sparks from welding machines being used on the roof accidentally set them on fire. So....the unique village you see now was built. There are many antiques located throughout the showroom.
Some big, some small.
There is an old fashioned ice cream shoppe where you can still get ice cream.
The kids were fascinated by this stuffed Brahma bull. Yes, it was real.
There was also a rhinoceros but, of course, he was not real just covered with leather.
The open interior of the retail building features 2 areas full of racks and racks stocked with shoes of every size imaginable. SAS is famous for their craftsmanship, their commitment to making uniform shoe sizes (fitting does not vary from shoe style to shoe style), and for offering specialty sizes of shoes from narrow to triple-wide shoe widths.
There is a candy store with lots of penny-type candy. You can't actually buy it by the penny but you can select your candy and fill a bag for $2.00. Still not a bad deal, right?
Hmmm, where did this stuff come from?
You and your kids will be delighted to find that you can still get a real old-fashioned deal here. A cup of coke is $ .10 and popcorn is only $ .05. That is a deal you won't find many other places. The kids got a big kick out of taking their $ .15 to order their own coke and popcorn. The peanuts were $.50 a bag.
There were isles and isles of SAS shoes. The shoes offered for sale at the factory showroom are said to have slight blemishes, so they are sold at a discount from retail prices. The blemishes that we could find were very minor – such as would occur the first time you wore a pair of shoes, like a very slight scuff mark on the leather. You won't find them cheap though ($102) but we know they are well made and you will have a hard time finding the blemishes.
We had to explain to Cameron what an outhouse was and, no, it wasn't in use.
This is the area within the showroom where small kids shoes are made. No one was working there while we were on site but you could see all the leather, the machines, and the pieces cut out and ready to sew.
I couldn't resist the comparison between today's child and yesterday's child.
There were many different items typical to a tourist type store such as candles, soap, cards, etc., for sale and here was one of the checkouts. The clerk ducked behind the glass case just as I snapped the photo or you would have seen her costume.
Back outside, you can see more of the vintage cars on display.
They even had a gas station for them.
The SAS factory is a fun way to spend half a day if you are able to visit San Antonio! Admission to the grounds and the factory tour are free, and you are sure to find something of interest in the showroom! SAS is open Monday through Saturday from 9 to 6 (5 on Sat), but tours are only offered Mon – Thurs. at 9:15, 12:30, and 2:05. Prior sign up for tours is not required, but space is limited, so it’s a good idea to sign up ahead of time to secure a spot. The San Antonio Shoemakers Factory and General Store are located at 101 New Laredo Highway, San Antonio.