In Menorca, the least well-known Balearic island, the production of shoes and sandals has been a tradition since the end of the 19th century. Who would have thought at the time that the Menorcan sandal that would become the most famous would be a model created by a peasant!
In the 1950s, when Menorca found itself isolated due to its position in favour of the republicans during the Spanish Civil War, a peasant came up with the idea of making a pair of sandals for himself that was sturdy, practical, comfortable and most of all suitable for the hot local climate. His great idea was to make the sole from the rubber tread of a used tyre…
The sandals were adopted by the Menorcan people in the 1960s, and the island’s cobblers started to make these sandals to order.
But it wasn’t until the 1970s that the first workshops opened their doors to the production of “avarcas”, as these sandals are called by the Menorcans. From that moment on the sandals became popular with the rest of the inhabitants of the Balearic islands and with tourists who took them home in their suitcases. The name given to the sandals by French tourists was “Minorquines”.
Since that time these “Menorquinas” have conquered Spain… and have even become the favourite summer shoes of the Spanish royal family!
The family’s passion for shoes goes back to 1929.
The grandfather, Joseph (also known as Bep), who was born in 1899, had had enough of the difficult working conditions in the fields, and decided at the beginning of the 1920s to go and try his luck in the town. He found work straight away in the shoe making industry and in 1929 he started producing made-to-measure shoes. His two sons Antonio and José joined him in his small workshop as soon as they were old enough to work.
In 1965, Antonio had inherited the workshop producing traditional shoes and José, who was 20 years old at the time, identified the high potential of the “avarca” model. At the time they were produced manually and in very small batches. He quickly made his decision – he wanted to devote his life to avarcas!
In order to increase production, he started sub-contracting part of the production in Menorca and in continental Spain by applying the production and quality methods he father had taught him: right up to the end of his life, José personally checked each pair of shoes before it was sent to the retailer.
Then in the 1980s, José started selling his avarcas outside Menorca. He travelled to Majorca, Ibiza, Formentera, Catalonia, Valencia and other regions of the Iberian Peninsula.
He implemented several new modifications in order to make the avarcas more comfortable and provide more support. José also satisfied customer demands for a lighter avarca model by creating a new rubber role and offered a wider range of colours and leather types.
Today it is his son, Amalio, the grandson of « Bep », who manages the family business. Like the avarca, the company has evolved over time. When he opened an on-line store a few years ago, Amalio was very surprised to receive orders from the United States of America, Canada, Japan, Australia and even… France!
Menorquines are inspired by the Balearics. Their foundor is head-over-heels in love with that handful of Mediterranean islands.