Since 1985, loyal customers have relished the products of Marysville-based Northside, an independent, family-owned and -operated footwear business. With a headquarters that peeks out onto Mount Pilchuck and the Cascades, the team claims to have developed “a more honest take on the outdoors.” The company prides itself on products that perform effectively while not requiring an instruction manual to understand.
Launched in the mid-1980s by Jim Thayer, Northside now boasts more than 50 employees and is owned by Thayer’s two sons, Bob and Jeff, who were brought up in the business. The brand philosophy has held steady from the get-go, aiming to provide high-quality, affordable, outdoor footwear for the entire family. Though the company has expanded its product line over the years, it is best-known for its waterproof hiking boots, outdoor sandals, and water shoes.
Despite the COVID-related economic shift beginning in early 2020, Northside managed to have a fairly solid year, thanks to company leaders whom the company’s national sales manager calls both “smart and industrious.”
“We’ve been lucky,” Mike Pintz said. “We kept our orders in place for fall; consequently, we had goods when many others didn’t.” As the year unfolded, Northside was able to fill voids for other companies that had paused production.
The company’s best-sellers consistently include the kids’ Frosty, an insulated snow boot, a functional and whimsical shoe that comes in a variety of styles. Its Brille water shoes prove the No. 1 choice for many spring and summer adventurers, while Snohomish waterproof hiking boots are a year-round staple for men, women, and children who love wandering the trails.
“This whole outdoor trend worked out for us,” Pintz said, referencing an increased interest in alfresco activities since the pandemic.
Although the company’s online presence is growing, its products can be found at brick-and-mortar venues like Sportsman’s Warehouse, Shoe Carnival, and Midwest-based Scheels. Regional farm and agriculture stores prove a great market for the company, and other Northwest-based accounts include Alaska Commercial, Nordstrom Rack, REI Outlet, Fred Meyer, McLendon Hardware, and Northwest-owned and -operated Coastal Farm & Ranch.
Northside boasts an impressive independent shoe store base, too. Thanks to the hard work and sturdy foundation established by the Thayer family, the Northwest is one of the company’s best markets.
Pintz said he always encourages team members to look at each territory through a different lens. “It really comes down to having solid sales representation,” he said, adding that the focus has been on getting the right people into each market who truly understand the brand and value proposition.
The company’s headquarters have been located in Marysville since the beginning; three years ago, the family built a new 110,000-square-foot space, accounting for future growth. The company also is unique in that it owns its trading company, Fortune Star, located in Shanghai.
“It helps in sourcing and helps maintain solid/ consistent factory relations to maintain a steady high-quality product production,” Pintz said. “It also affords us to pursue other opportunities via alternative categories due to our office proximity to the factories.”
This connection to China helped provide interesting insight as COVID-19 swept across the globe in early 2020. Northside was able to pivot quickly and build an unexpected side business based on wipes, masks, and hand sanitizer.
Slowly but surely, Northside has brought employees back to the office, while exercising hypervigilance and making use of masks, partitions between desks, a temperature scanner, and an abundance of wipes and sanitizer. Despite the unsteadiness of this past year, the company has continued to consistently create products that allow each of us to step into the great outdoors — pausing to take a deep breath among the beauty of it all.