LEWISTON — Team USA will sport red, white and blue leather boat shoes hand-sewn here by high-end shoemaker Rancourt & Co. during opening and closing ceremonies at this summer’s Rio 2016 Olympics. 

Ralph Lauren, which is making the official uniforms for Team USA, reached out to Rancourt in April 2015.

Rancourt & Co. President Michael Rancourt said his company has worked with Ralph Lauren for seven years quietly making private-label shoes for its stores. (The only tell on the box is “Made in Maine.”)

He assumed this project was similar, a behind-the-scenes honor they’d keep to themselves.

Instead, Rancourt, son Kyle and workers in their Bridge Street factory star in a video posted on RalphLauren.com last Friday touting its Olympic uniforms, footwear and jewelry as made in the USA.

“The fact that we’re being credited for making the shoes, it’s another level,” said Kyle Rancourt, vice president. “We were surprised, to be honest, that they featured us so prominently. I think it speaks to the authenticity of our story: My grandfather being a shoemaker, my dad joining him and then me joining my dad. All along, we’ve been making shoes in Lewiston.”

Kyle’s grandfather, David, opened his first local shoe shop in 1967. 

Michael Rancourt said Rancourt & Co. has grown from 20 employees to 65 over the past seven years. Its largest private-label customer is Cole Haan, followed by Ralph Lauren, for which it makes boat shoes in everything from cow leather to crocodile. It also makes its own line of handcrafted Rancourt-brand shoes.

Production started in mid-September on 2,000 pairs of the special red, white and blue Olympic boat shoes.

“I met with everyone of our workers individually and explained the project and how exciting it is for us and how it should be for them, given that they’ve spent so many years in the shoe manufacturing world,” said Michael Rancourt. “Knowing when they retire they can look back and say, ‘You know I was involved in the 2016 Olympic team uniforms.'”

Every piece of the shoe was sourced in the U.S., some from within Maine. Foam rubber lining is made by a Biddeford company, thread by Lewiston’s Maine Thread Company. It is estimated 138 steps go into making just one.

They’ll be worn by 1,100 Olympians and Paralympians, and sold in Ralph Lauren stores, retailing for $350.

Kyle Rancourt said the exposure to “millions of people who may have never heard of us before” has a great chance of growing the company’s brand and sales.

“Honestly, I love the attention that it brings to the community as well,” Kyle Rancourt said. “If anything, it really does celebrate the heritage here in Lewiston-Auburn. It’s not just a reward for the Rancourt family — it’s certainly a nice recognition — but I also think it’s a great recognition for the community because it’s such a positive thing, the fact that a brand such as Ralph Lauren would ask us to go ahead and produce this Olympic boat shoe for the world stage.”

Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce President Matt Leonard called it an example of not just what companies in Lewiston can do, but what they already do.

“Lewiston-Auburn is home to many No. 1s and bests and greatests and onlys,” he said. “I think this is going to be a great example for everyone to see.”

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