For years people have been trying to come up with ways to recycle old car tires. No longer acceptable in landfills, old tires have become an environmental nightmare. Now, two Benzie County entrepreneurs have developed one solution: making snowshoes from old tires.
Well actually, someone else developed the concept -- he had a tire business here in Northern Michigan, said Steve Herkner. My partner Scott Griner and myself have a maple syrup business and we were looking for ways to get through the deep snow in February and March. The snowshoes out there today are really for groomed trails and not deep snow. Through a friend we came across these snowshoes made from old tires and they worked great.
A few years back the partners left their snowshoes in a shed and over the summer mice chewed through the straps, so they set out to either have them repaired or purchase new ones.
We called the guy we bought them from and he told us he quit making them. He was never really in business. he owned a tire shop and came up with the idea about 20 years ago, said Scott Griner. He just made them for family and friends and told us he wanted no part of making them so we asked him if we could buy his idea and equipment and he agreed.
A BUSINESS IS BORN
So three years ago Griner and Herkner formed S&S Snowshoes and opened up a small manufacturing operation in Benzie County. They launched a website to sell the snowshoes and also began selling them at Herners store, The Pantry Shelf in Grawn. The two made some minor adjustments to design, including an easy on and off strap system.
They have been selling well and we have gotten great feedback on them, said Herkner. Both of us have day businesses so we are not trying to set any sales records just yet as these are very labor-intensive and Scott and myself make all of them in our spare time.
The Treadrite snowshoes are flexible and are easy to strap on, making them appealing to those interested in hiking in deep snow.
That is what is great about these snowshoes is that they really work well in deep snow and trails that have not been groomed, said Herkner. Another great thing about these snowshoes is that they are flexible, so if you step on a log the snowshoes flex because they are made out of rubber.
The partners are now in their third winter selling Treadrites that come in four different widths (the deeper snow, the wider the shoe) and to date, they have sold a few hundred pairs. As for the future, they will see what the demand is before expanding production.
Right now it takes one and half hours to make one pair of snowshoes. Scott and myself make them by hand and I made eight pairs over the Thanksgiving weekend, said Herkner. We both have other businesses so we will have to see. We have been approached by a couple of others who want to retail these so we might expand, but right now we are not in a hurry.
I like their versatility, I bought them for hunting and they are great in the cedar swamps and other hard to get places, said Jim Potter of Interlochen. They are very durable and I like the environmental aspect as well; it is cool, these are definitely green snowshoes. I have turned my friends on to them. They love them as well.
Treadrite snowshoes retails for $75 a pair. In addition to using recycled tires, they are constructed with high-strength cloth straps, industrial-grade rivets that double as cleats to provide excellent traction, and secure, durable bindings that are easy to put on and take off.
To learn more check out www.sssnowshoes.com where there is an online order form. The shoes may also be purchased at the Pantry Shelf in Grawn.