Black and white photograph of Wooden Shoe Factory employee Claribel Wright demonstrating how to decorate wooden shoes as a group of children look on.
Claribel Wright was born on 11-21-1893 in Elk Rapids, MI to Fred and Mary Wright. In 1934 Claribel began working for Chester Van Tongeren at the Dutch Novelty Shop in Holland, MI. She would work here for 38 years as a decorator. During this time Claribel decorated wooden shoes for numerous celebrities from Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.
Claribel lived at 17 Post Ave in Holland (1949 and 1960 city directories). After her retirement in 1972 she moved to Grand Rapids, MI with her sister Bernice. Claribel passed away on 8-30-1991.
In 1929 the Dutch Novelty Shop was located at 50 West 8th Street in Holland, MI (1929 city directory). Owned and operated by Chester Van Tongeren (1896-1971), the shop had relocated to 141 River Avenue by 1934 (1934 city directory). By 1940 the address had changed once more, this time the store was located at 85 River Avenue in Holland, MI (1940 city directory). The Dutch Novelty Shop appears in city directories as late as 1962.
One of the attractions of the Dutch Novelty Shop was the window to their wooden shoe factory, where tourists could watch the carvers at work. The carvers were Gerrit “Gary” Ten Brink, a klompenmaker (wooden shoe maker) who immigrated in 1934, and Fred Oldemulders.
The Wooden Shoe Factory and Restaurant was an extension of the Van Tongeren's Dutch Novelty business.
The Wooden Shoe was originally located on M-21 (Chicago Drive). This building burned down on 12-26-1956, re-opening in 1962 at 16th and US 31. By this time Chester's son Del Van Tongeren (1929-1996) was helping run the stores.
The Fuller Brothers had a special room at the US 31 shop where their wooden bowls were sold. In 1987 the Fullers sold the Wooden Bowl to the Wooden Shoe Factory. The Wooden Shoe Factory closed it's doors in 1999 and, under the guidance of Chester Van Tongeren's grandson Dave Gier, began to focus solely on producing wooden bowls.