Q: And college?
A: As a family, we spent the summer of '73 in Hanover, N.H., where my dad was completing his master's degree. It's a beautiful location, and I fell in love with it and decided to pursue a history degree there. Dad's advice was to study what I liked, and things would work out OK. I expected I'd join the family business, but I was never pressured to.
Q: When did you take the helm?
A: In the spring of 1982, upon the death of our grandmother. She was 80. David and I were 24 and 25 when we took over. Our grandfather had died six years earlier, at age 82. We had 18 employees at the time. We grew up quick, because we realized their livelihoods, and abilities to feed their families, depended on us. In general, I handle internal operations and David, external.
Q: What have been some of your biggest struggles?
A: C.R. Anthony Co., our biggest customer, went bankrupt in '86, which forced us to seek other customers. And in '95 we began offshore production, realizing it costs one-third as much to manufacture in Asia (China, Taiwan, Korea and the Philippines) versus here. It's not just about the lower labor costs, but also the capacity. There's now no domestic mass production going on here, like there once was in North Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee.
Q: What's on tap for McCubbin?
A: Since 1999, we've bought a portfolio of licensed brands, including Keds, Stride Rite and most recently, Robeez (pronounced Robbies) soft-shoe infant prewalkers. Today, 80 percent of our business is focused on the kids' niche. Fashion is very important, and our designers work closely with our licensors to come up with a multitude of patterns and designs, appliques and bows. Next year, we expect to grow an additional 20 percent, partly through the direct sales of Robeez.com, which will launch in February. Robeez shoes retail from $22 to $30, while our socks retail from $1.99 to $9.99.