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For over 50 years, Dexter has delivered handcrafted footwear that blends quality, comfort and performance in every shoe. Classic styles combine the finest materials, up-to-date comfort technology such as Dryz¬Æ foot beds, and an attention to detail. This ensures that the Dexter consumer will comfortably wear great-looking shoes for many years to come.
Harold Alfond was an American businessman who founded the Dexter Shoe Company and invented the idea of the factory outlet store. Alfond was born in Swampscott, Massachusetts, on March 6, 1914, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, Simon and Rose Alfond. Harold, his brother, David, and four sisters, Anne, Bertha, Gladys and Grace grew up in Swampscott and attended Swampscott schools. In high school, Harold was an outstanding athlete and developed his passion for sports.
After graduating from high school in 1934, Harold got a job at Kesslen Shoe Company in Kennebunk, Maine, where his father worked. In a short time, he rose from odd shoe boy to factory superintendent. In 1940, Harold and his father bought a shoe factory in Norridgewock, Maine, and founded Norrwock Shoe Company. They sold the company to Shoe Corp. of America in 1943 and Harold stayed on as president for 25 years.
After a few years, however, he got the desire to run his own company again and Dexter Shoe Company was born. Harold bought an old woolen mill in Dexter, Maine in 1956 and started making shoes for the "make-up" market (Sears, JC Penney, Spiegel, Montgomery Ward & Co., etc.). Although Dexter was successful from the beginning, Harold soon tired of being controlled by a few large customers and decided to go into the "branded" business. He developed a line of shoes under the Dexter name, hired a sales force and began selling to independent shoe stores across the country.
Harold is often credited with the invention of the factory outlet store. Because factories make mistakes, not all shoes come out as first grade. The mistakes are called FDs (factory damaged). The practice in the industry was to sell these FDs to jobbers for about a dollar a pair. The jobbers would resell them for five times their cost. Harold thought that was a pretty good mark-up so in the 1960's he opened an outlet store at Dexter's Skowhegan factory and started selling his own FDs. Soon, the factories weren't making enough mistakes to supply the store so Harold decided to put in stale inventory (first grade shoes that weren't selling in the wholesale market). This worked so well that Dexter's log cabin style outlet stores started popping up on all the heavily traveled roads throughout New England. Other manufacturers caught on to the idea and as Dexter put up new stores, other manufacturers would open their outlets next door. By the 1990's the Dexter Factory Outlet chain had expanded to over 80 stores. About this time, Dexter also stopped building freestanding log cabins and began leasing stores in the new "Outlet Malls".
Dexter continued to grow rapidly throughout the 1970's and 1980's, and from time to time corporate suitors came calling to see if they could entice Dexter into a marriage. Many of these were national retail chains that promised rapid expansion, but would emphasize foreign production and likely, a departure from Dexter’s family style of running the business. Finally Harold decided to sell, to Berkshire Hathaway, which agreed not to interfere with the family's continued management of the business. On November 7, 1993, Dexter and its affiliates, Pan Am Shoe and Ocsap Ltd., were sold.
Harold founded Dexter Enterprises, Inc. in 1996. The company has served as an important management resource for all family members, with their investment, legal, and business interests. In 1997, Harold launched the construction and operation of the Belgrade Lakes Golf Course, which has been recognized as among the best public golf courses in the country. In 2002, Golf Digest recognized the course as the only 5-star public golf course in the Northeast.
In order to coordinate his charitable giving, Harold, at the age of 36, organized the first private foundation in the state of Maine, the Harold Alfond Foundation. The foundation has contributed more than $100 million to charitable causes since 1950. He has donated money to various colleges to help improve their sports facilities; for example, the Alfond Arena at the University of Maine, and the Harold and Ted Alfond Sports Center at Rollins College. In 2007, having lived with cancer for 17 years, Alfond donated $7 million to a cancer care center at MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta. The center is named the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care. Thanks Harold Alfond Foundation, starting in January 2008, all Maine newborns will be eligible for a USD 500.00 grant for college.