In a converted livery stable in Intervale, N.H. Peter Limmer & Sons, Inc. makes prized hiking boots. Fifteen hundred customers are waiting, some for as long as two winters, for the custom-made boots ($65 and up) laboriously crafted by this Bavarian family. The Limmers wrestle six days a week with the monster backlog, but family pride demands corners be carefully rounded—not cut—and no hired hand be laid on a Limmer boot.
The factory is rudimentary—one large room with a few stitching machines and a long cobbler's bench where the soles of the boots are glued and leveled. Windows are everywhere, a panorama of budding trees and gentle slopes forming a backdrop for the "assembly line."
Most customers travel to Intervale to place their orders and their feet on Francis Limmer's yellow-lined pad. Limmer outlines the larger foot (few people have a perfectly matched pair), measuring it centimeter by centimeter in five crucial places from the ankle to the toe. Customers who cannot order in person are mailed precise measuring instructions.
"We attract a lot of people who cannot walk into a store and buy ready-made hiking boots," Francis Limmer says. Last year a medical student was fitted for size 18 boots, the longest ever made by Limmer.
The six Limmers (brothers, wives and children) produce 750-800 pairs of boots a year. Actual working time on a pair averages 10 to 12 hours, excluding time required for the cement to dry. Production during the summer drops to 10 pairs a week because the humidity slows the gluing process and there is increased business in the family's camping equipment shop. But the boots remain the firm's prime concern, as has been the case for almost 50 years. In 1925 Peter Limmer Sr., who held a Meisterbrief (master's degree) in cobbling in his homeland, arrived in Massachusetts and after a spell setting bowling pins and painting houses opened a shoe shop in Jamaica Plain. The business moved north in 1950.
The Limmers abhor publicity, knowing it will only swell the already burdensome number of orders, so no sign stands on Route 16-302 in tiny Intervale indicating the company's presence. But look east from the highway behind a stand of birch, and there you will see a lime-green and maroon barn. That is the factory. Just don't tell Francis Limmer we sent you.