Third Generation of Bristol Owners Promise to Preserve Grandparents’ Legacy
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“Swerte kaming third generation dahil inihain sa amin itong business na established na,” said Francis Gerard “Gee” Abacan, who helps his mom in managing Bristol Shoes and Shoe Co., the shoe manufacturing business started by his grandparents in the 1970’s.
An economics graduate with an MBA degree both obtained from the Ateneo De Manila University, Gee has been helping map out the future of the company. There are plans to expand production to meet the growing demand for shoes in the domestic market, strengthen its women’s line and enter the export market in the future.
Since the company started more than four decades ago, Bristol has been known for its high quality and well-crafted formal and semi-formal men’s shoes that could match any expensive and imported shoes. Bristol expanded into ladies’ shoes in the 1990’s when Gee’s mother took over the company from her parents.
“Isang goal namin is to increase production para matugunan ang demand ng local market. Another goal is to focus on ladies’ shoes. Ang babae kasi, sobrang dami kung mamili ng sapatos. At papalit-palit. So magandang market iyan. Gusto namin mas madaming designs at styles for women pero we are inclined sa formal at semi-formal para in line pa rin with the image of Bristol,” said Gee in an interview inside his office in Brgy. Concepcion Uno in Marikina City.
Apolinario De Dios, the father of Gee’s mom, Erlinda, started Bristol with his wife in the late 1970’s. Apolinario used to work in a shoe manufacturing company also in Marikina before he decided to start his own business with the help of his wife, who was also into shoemaking. Gee’s grandparents started small, accepting made-to-order shoes.
The name Bristol was chosen by Apolinario because he liked the sound of it, Gee said. From a small operation, the business started to grow and attract more customers.
When Erlinda helped in the family business, she decided to sell the shoes that they manufactured in retail outlets such as the then Marikina Shoe Expo in Cubao, Quezon City, where Marikina-made shoes were being sold.
“In the late 1980’s, tumulong na ang mom ko sa grandparents ko in running the business. Doon siya nagka-idea na palawakin ang business from made-to-order to selling them sa mga department stores dahil iyon talaga ang puntahan ng mga tao. Nag-umpisa siyang maglagay ng tindahan sa Cubao Shoe Expo,” Gee said.
It was also his mom who worked hard so that Bristol could become a consignor in one of the biggest department stores in the country.
“Kwento nga sa akin ng mommy ko, siya dati ang pumipila sa department store na ubod ng haba para lang ma-approve na maging consignor kami,” he said.
Gee’s mom also expanded the product line to include women’s shoes. She also introduced casual shoes into the men’s line.
“Sa kanilang magkakapatid, si mommy talaga ang mahilig sa sapatos. Hilig niya talaga ang business na ito. May taste siya when it comes to shoes. Unlike us, lumaki talaga si mommy sa factory. Kaya alam niya mula sa umpisa ng paggawa ng sapatos hanggang pagkatapos. Kaya hindi siya maloloko,” Gee said.
His mother starts her day at the factory as early as 6:00 in the morning, he said. This is the main reason why Bristol outlived most of its peers in the industry, some of which were forced to shutdown since they could not cope with the flood of cheap imported shoes into the domestic market.
Gee’s dad, a banker, also helped in the family business by organizing its structure. As a banker, it was him who put the system into its operations.
“Since banking ang background ng dad ko, he helped in managing the financial aspect of the business. For example, siya ang gumawa ng sistema ng pag-release ng check,” he said. “Iyon ang malaking naitulong ng dad ko.”
From a mom and pop operation where the shoes were made in the garage of their home during the time of Gee’s grandparents, the company now has a two-storey factory and is planning to put up another one in a lot currently being used as a warehouse.
Bristol shoes are now being sold in 27 outlets, that is, in the shoe section of department stores, and in one stand-alone shop in Market! Market! Mall at the BGC.
Continue the Legacy
There is a famous saying that it is usually the first generation that starts the business, the second generation inherits and expands it, but the third generation squanders it.
When asked about it, Gee, who is the manager for administration and finance, simply smiled and said it would never happen. He and his younger sister -- who does the design and marketing -- are intent on further growing the business.
“Sabi ko nga, swerte kaming third generation dahil hinain sa amin ito ng walang problema. Our goal is to continue, maintain and improve the business,” said Gee, married with two kids, who will probably inherit the business from their dad later on.
The middle child in a brood of three (two boys, one girl), Gee said his older brother lives in Chicago and has a flourishing career in IT, so it is up to him and his younger sister to continue the legacy that his grandparents had started.
“Naisip ko sayang naman kung walang magtutuloy. Kung pababayaan lang ito. Actually, iyan ang problema ng shoe industry ngayon dito sa Marikina, kung sino ang magtutuloy ng business from their parents. Kaya naisipan ko tumulong dito pagka-graduate ko. Ngayon ang sister ko, tumutulong din pagka-graduate niya,” said Gee.
The welfare of the company's workers is another reason why he wants the business to become more prosperous. Bristol employs nearly a 100 workers both in its factory and in the retail outlets.
Gee and his sister still consult their mom, the current owner and general manager, in running the business. After all, it is her who is responsible for the success of Bristol.
With Gee’s vision and determination and his mother’s guidance, there is no reason why Bristol will not thrive in the generations to come.
For more about the company and its products, visit Bristol Shoes at 35 Caimito St., Amang Rodriguez Subdivision, Concepcion Uno, Marikina City. Better yet, call 942-2776. Or visit its Facebook page:
(Photo credits: Alfred Javier of MASIDO and the Facebook page of Bristol Shoes.)
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