One source of fun (and educational!) opportunities that is often overlooked when traveling, is that of factory tours! We have done several tours this winter while visiting the sunny south; the latest was a visit to the SAS shoe factory in San Antonio, TX. SAS stands for San Antonio Shoemakers, and their quality products have been 100% American made since it’s beginning in 1976. Planning our visit, we weren’t really sure what to expect – the website made a stop look like it would be fun – but you know how websites can be – they can make a destination look like an interesting place to visit only to arrive and find that the attraction is a dud. Not so with SAS! We found it to be much more interesting than we had hoped! Pulling into the parking lot we found the grounds to be spacious, with adequate room for RV and bus parking. The parking lot was neat and clean, and full of interesting displays of classic cars and machinery. The buildings are designed to look like old barns, and the entire place has a rural, hometown America feel to it.
Crossing the covered porch and entering the spacious showroom, we found ourselves in the midst of an old-fashioned store that offered leisurely, and varied, shopping opportunities. Don’t be in any hurry when you visit the SAS factory! The open interior of the retail building features 2 areas full of racks and racks stocked with shoes of every size imaginable. SAS is famous for their craftsmanship, their commitment to making uniform shoe sizes (fitting does not vary from shoe style to shoe style), and for offering specialty sizes of shoes from narrow to triple-wide shoe widths.
We walked through the showroom to the customer service desk where we signed in for the next tour. We were glad that we had made reservations! The factory tour is very popular, and even though they conduct 3 tours a day, and each can accommodate 40 guests, the tours are often booked to capacity. The factory is a popular stop with tour buses and local clubs, so if you are thinking of a visit, try to call ahead and get your name on the roster for one of their tours. As the time for the next tour approached, the guests gathered on the old fashioned covered porch before loading into a nice tour bus that would transport the visitors to one of the two nearby factories. The tour would last 45 minutes, and while the little kids and I stayed back and explored all the nooks and crannies in the showroom (under 6 is not allowed on the tour), the rest of my family really found the tour to be an interesting lesson in the shoe making process. Even the big kids came back and said that it was pretty cool!
We spent quite a bit of time checking out the showroom. There are several different areas within the open layout, shoe display areas, an old-fashioned candy counter, a General Store that carries everything from playing cards to baby toys to candles and puzzles, and a display area for their toddler shoe line (which can be purchased only at this location) with it’s neighboring mini-factory where you can watch the toddler shoes being crafted. Their Li’l SAS line of adorable toddler shoes bring back the days of Dick and Jane, Li’l SAS also has the cutest sandals made of pink flower-print leather (a little out of my price range tho)!
Our very favorite part of the store however, was the popcorn counter! Yep, you can even have a little snack while you are visiting the factory! And, to go with the old-fashioned theme of the showroom, were old-fashioned prices! (LOVED that!!!;)) It was incredibly funny how tickled my kids were with being able to get a bag of theatre popcorn for 5 cents. yep. cents.
Popcorn=5 cents, a cup of Coca-Cola for a dime, a little bag of yummy honey roasted peanuts for a quarter. It was funny to watch my littles walk up to the counter with their nickels and dimes and buy their Coke and popcorn; they were so tickled. There were other treats offered, like various flavors at the ice cream parlor, but we stuck to the popcorn and peanuts 🙂
The kids also loved their penny candy area. Technically, it wasn’t penny candy since you couldn’t buy each piece for a penny, but you were able to fill a bag for $2; we got several… (the kids bought it with their own money and had fun mixing and matching the different kinds to fill each bag).
There were isles and isles of SAS shoes. The shoes offered for sale at the factory showroom are said to have slight blemishes, so are sold at a discount from retail prices. The blemishes that we could find were very minor – such as would occur the first time you wore a pair of shoes, like a very slight scuff mark on the leather. They also offer new insoles for their shoes, and that seemed to be a very popular purchase with folks. While we were there, we picked up 2 pairs of shoes to send back to Vaughn’s mom as requested; she loves SAS shoes. The SAS factory is a fun way to spend half a day if you are able to visit San Antonio! Admission to the grounds and the factory tour are free, and you are sure to find something of interest in the showroom! SAS is open Monday thru Sat from 9 to 6 (5 on Sat), but tours are only offered Mon – Thurs. at 9:15, 12:30, and 2:05. Prior signup for tours is not required, but space is limited, so it’s a good idea to sign up ahead of time to secure a spot. The San Antonio Shoemakers Factory and General Store are located at 101 New Laredo Highway, San Antonio.
If you are interested in stopping by, you can search for nearby RV parks to camp at through the Woodall’s Campground Search page. San Antonio has so much to offer (including the nearby Toyota factory tour, which is also free :)), so pick a nice rv resort, enjoy the beautiful weather, and check out the sites in both San Antonio and the nearby, beautiful Texas Hill Country.