In the spring of 2012, Isobel Schofield quit her job as a design director at a major US retailer and went in search of something more. Armed with her determination to learn how to make shoes, she journeyed from the coast of Spain to the mountains of Sedona and finally to Northern California to build a studio.
“After a lot of learning, making, failing, getting better, and refining my craft, I was finally ready to launch a line of women’s modern clogs. That’s when Bryr Studio was born,” said Isobel Schofield, Owner, Bryr Clogs of their launch in the Fall of 2012.
Today, Schofield and her team operate out of the American Industrial Center, located in San Francisco’s Dogpatch district, where they produce a line of handmade, West Coast lifestyle-inspired clogs, with vegetable-tanned leathers from heritage US tanneries and traditional European solid wood bases.
The word “bryr” means “to care” in Swedish, and when COVID-19 struck, Isobel and her team took immediate steps to take care of their employees. Despite having to close their manufacturing facility, the company’s quick action and business savvy made it possible to retain their team.
“Our goal through the COVID-crisis was to keep our team and business safe and secure-both and financially. Though most of the team were unable to work from home, we were fortune enough to be able to keep the team paid throughout the 8 weeks of shelter in place ( we leaned on EDD benefits for 2 of those weeks) ” said Schofield.
In response to the crisis, Jenny Houser, Bryr’s Operations Manager, became the company’s in-house Covid-19 health and safety guru and started working on their reentry plan. She got the ball rolling weeks prior to the official announcement that authorized manufacturers to go back to work.
“We prepared the space and then trained the whole staff on Zoom and in person on the new health and safety measures that include not just the way the facility is set up, but also how we need to adjust our behavior, wear masks, sanitize equipment, and other safety measures. Beyond just knowing safety rules, we felt it was just as important that we made a group commitment to practice these new life-saving behaviors,” said Schofield.
Bryr recently expanded their footprint at the American Industrial Center, which made it easier to adapt to working with sufficient distance between people and workstations. The company also changed shifts and staggered breaks to avoid bottlenecks. According to Schofield, “It’s hard to create new habits as an adult and so it’s up to all of us to constantly remind ourselves of our new responsibilities—from simply wearing our masks, to washing and sanitizing our hands frequently, to being vigilant about our health and staying home when we are sick. These small changes add up to creating a healthy workplace.”
In addition to their manufacturing facility, Bryr also operates a retail space, which they plan to reopen in the next quarter. The company is moving “slow and steady” with their retail arm, according to Schofield. Creating a safe and healthy environment for our customers and employees is Bryr’s top priority.
By reacting quickly and creating marketing plans between the announcement and the start of shelter in place, Bryr was able to continue pre-selling clogs during the shutdown. Despite being closed for a total of 8 weeks, Bryr received enough orders for clogs to retain their team.
“Our customers are incredibly loyal to us, and we’re so grateful for their support,” said Schofield. “The outpouring of support from our customers allowed us to keep our employees employed and keep the business moving forward.”