Footwear brand BEARPAW plans Fernley expansion; 30-50 jobs planned

Indiana-based EFP Corporation also planning Reno expansion; 60 jobs on tap

BEARPAW utilizes sheepskin and other natural and sustainable products to create comfort-focused footwear, like the slippers seen here.

BEARPAW utilizes sheepskin and other natural and sustainable products to create comfort-focused footwear, like the slippers seen here.
Courtesy Photo


When Tom Romeo, founder and CEO of BEARPAW, started thinking of where it would make the most sense to expand the footprint of his Northern California-based casual footwear brand, one location had a leg up on the rest: Northern Nevada.

Not only was Romeo attracted to greater Reno-Sparks’ growing reputation as a warehousing and distribution hub, but Northern Nevada also “has a special place in BEARPAW’s heart.”


“It is where our brand was conceived, and we have many connections to the area,” Romeo said in an email to the NNBW. “In a way, looking for potential growth in the area is like coming home for us.”


In 2001, Romeo, at a career crossroads, was meditating on a rock hugging the shores of Lake Tahoe when he encountered a large bear that looked directly at him, just for a moment, before lumbering along.


The experience inspired Romeo to start his own shoe company, BEARPAW, as an homage to his chance encounter with that Tahoe bruin.


Twenty years later, Romeo is in the process of bringing his Citrus Heights, California company — which has grown into a national brand with a strong foothold in the casual space — into the region to capture its growth opportunities.


In 2022, BEARPAW plans to open a distribution facility in Fernley that the company says will serve as a key ecommerce center for its slippers, boots and casual footwear made for men, women and children.


“As we grow as a brand, we are always looking for new opportunities, and we are excited to explore the possibilities offered by several potential locations in the state of Nevada, whether it’s the proximity to Interstate 80, which is a major corridor to many of our customers, or the business-friendly environment the state fosters,” Romeo said.


The company has not decided whether it will move into an existing facility or build one from the ground up, said Romeo, adding that he is leaning toward the latter.


“We are still in the process of weighing all our options, but we like the idea of building our facility, which would be quite large and would represent a significant investment,” he said.


The Fernley facility would likely create between 30 and 50 jobs over the first five years. When asked, Romeo did not provide average salaries or hourly pay rates for staff.


Tom Romeo, founder and CEO of BEARPAW, says Northern Nevada“has a special place” in his heart.

 

He added: “We make a practice of offering highly competitive wages and even more generous benefits packages to our team members, which would be the case for any future endeavors as well.”

BEARPAW has seen demand rise over the past 18 months, driven by the pandemic-related wave of people working from home and, in general, spending more time lounging in the house.


“From a business perspective, the social change to a more comfortable and casual lifestyle has really played right into the type of products we offer in boots and slippers, while the renewed focus of getting outdoors is perfect for our expanding hikers collection,” Romeo said.


Still, Romeo said the past year and a half has been “one of the most challenging times” in BEARPAW’s 20-year history due to the manufacturing and distribution disruptions continuing to trip up businesses nationwide.


As a result, Romeo said the company is looking ahead at ways to store more products at facilities, such as its Northern Nevada operation, to avoid running low on inventory and keep its ecommerce operations humming.


BEARPAW’s overall sales during the pandemic are comparable to pre-COVID levels, Romeo said.


The company has its sights set on growing its revenue 50% over last year’s numbers, “with our ecommerce platforms serving as the driving force for these projections,” he noted.


BEARPAW DONATES $20,000 TO TAHOE FUND

In celebration of its 20th anniversary, BEARPAW is donating $20,000 to the nonprofit Tahoe Fund in support of its Smartest Forest Fund and post-Caldor Fire restoration efforts.

According to a Sept. 30 press release, the Smartest Forest Fund was created “to invest in innovative projects that will significantly increase the pace and scale of forest restoration to help prevent catastrophic wildfire.”

“We are very grateful for this partnership with BEARPAW that supports our mission to restore our forests,” Tahoe Fund CEO Amy Berry said in a statement. “Now, more than ever, the forest needs advocates. Contributions like this help us do the work that is necessary to keep our forests healthy and prevent future catastrophic wildfires.”

EFP CORPORATION EXPANDING TO RENO

BEARPAW isn’t the only company that has recently targeted Northern Nevada for expansion.

EFP Corporation, which designs, builds and tests cold chain packaging for the distribution of pharmaceuticals and food, has plans to open a distribution facility in Reno at 10991 Lear Blvd., Ste. 101, in the North Valleys.


The company expects to create 60 jobs over the next five years.


“This is EFP’s first facility west of the Mississippi. We selected Reno as our gateway to the West Coast,” Roy Pidock, director of temperature solutions at EFP, said in an email to the NNBW.


EFP’s products include molded and fabricated insulated shipping containers, such as preassembled in-box containers, fully kitted with gel packs, gel bricks or PCMS for production protection, according to the company.


Pidock said EFP’s products are primarily composed of expanded polystyrene (EPS), and the firm is adding “new technologies” that will be manufactured in Reno.


These include polyurethane shippers, gel packs and bricks, and well as a new series of pre-qualified shippers utilizing a renewable insulation resource.


Founded in Elkhart, Indiana in 1954, EFP also has locations in Evansville, Indiana, Decatur, Alabama, and Nashville, Tennessee.

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