After Vicky Edgar and her husband Rouben moved to P.E.I. from Northern Ireland eight years ago, they found a business opportunity when they couldn’t find their favourite brand of safety footwear.
“We’re excited. We know they’re a good product. They’re high quality,” said Vicky Edgar, vice-president of Atlantic Safety Wear in Montague.
The company had its official grand opening recently and it is the only distributor of the Italian-made Grisport safety footwear in North America. Rouben is the company’s owner and president.
Edgar explained that when the couple lived in Northern Ireland, Rouben was a dairy farmer and owned a construction company. He wore Grisport safety boots for 30 years.
But when the couple moved to Earnscliffe, P.E.I. to farm, they soon discovered the brand wasn’t available in North America.
“He tried a few of the different ones that were available locally, but he felt they didn’t compare to the Grisport safety footwear he has been used to wearing,” she said.
So, they contacted the Italian company to find out where they could find the product. That led to the business opportunity to serve as the company’s North American distributor.
Edgar said the boots are lighter and more stylish than standard work footwear.
“They just look like an ordinary shoe or hiking boot,” she said. “Our (company’s) tag line is ‘to do your best, you need the best’.”
Atlantic Safety Wear operates out of the old liquor store in Montague. They bought the building in July, and after some renovations, began operations in mid-August.
Currently, they have three full-time and one part-time staff member. But Edgar notes they are looking to add two to three more positions in the new year – in the warehouse (manager), accounting and marketing.
The company has so far distributed boots in Canada and the U.S. It has sub-distributors in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Alberta.
They just received a shipment from Italy with 6,000 pair of safety shoes or boots. The couple has ordered another shipment with about 3,000 pair that is expected to arrive late this year or early next year.
On the Island, four retailers carry the brand – Stewart and Beck Home Hardware in Montague, Callbecks Home hardware in Summerside, the Agro Co-op and Proude’s Shoes in Charlottetown.
In January 2015, the Edgars received $25,000 under the province’s Ignition Program. At the time, the company was called Sun Country Safety Wear.
Since the funding announcement, the family has been busy with twin newborn sons Rit and Ben.
But Edgar said a main reason it’s taken so long to get the business going is that the Grisport brand wasn’t certified by either the ASTM or CSA (Canadian Standards Association). Doing so was costly and time consuming. It also required the Italian maker to acquire equipment and perform safety tests before shipping to North America.
But the Montague business has now crossed that hurdle and has successfully certified 39 different styles of Grisport safety footwear (boots and shoes).
The company has also changed its name. Edgar said the name change, in particular the addition of “Atlantic,” was to represent where they are located (Atlantic Canada) but also to represent that the product is shipped from Italy across the Atlantic Ocean.
“We just felt it was a better fit and more in line with our goals for the company,” she explained.