Boot designer Mark Barbera, of Somerset, Pennsylvania, will be in Monongahela on Monday, December 18 th, 4PM to 8PM, offering his custom boots and shoes as part of a 2-location vendor’s show planned by the Monongahela Main Street Program.

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Barbera recently developed a design for an American-made version of the Chelsea boot, a type of fashion footwear with medium-height sides with elastic at the ankles, made popular when the Beatles began wearing them in the 1960s.

The Beatles rocking their Chelsea boots

After discovering there was no American manufacturer producing Chelsea boots, he approached the Abilene Boot Company of Somerset, Pa. (his hometown) about making a pair to his specifications. Thus was born the “American-Made” Chelsea Boot, as well as the Mark Albert Boot Company.

Barbera, a 21-year-old college student at Babson College’s specialized entrepreneurial program, designed several other lines and became the in-house designer for Abilene Boot Company. After a very successful Kickstarter campaign to raise start-up funds, he also opened his own storefront business in Somerset to market his products. Other footwear items that Barbera designed and Abilene produces include men’s eyelet derby shoes and a line of slip-on loafers. He also markets several lines of boots that Abilene began manufacturing decades ago, such as Goodyear welted boots, which are waterproof but can also be resoled after heavy wear and thus last for many years.

Barbera is the Great-Grandson of an Italian immigrant shoemaker who came to Somerset County from Sicily almost a century ago. According to Barbera:

My Nonno, Joe Barbera, was born in the small town of Fiumedinisi, Sicily in 1895. After serving in WWI and surviving a prisoner of war camp, he and his family immigrated to the United States in 1922 and settled in another small town, Rockwood, PA. Here, my Nonno opened up a shoe repair shop. In 1939, my Nonno moved his shoe repair shop to nearby Somerset, PA. Here, my grandfather and great-aunt worked with my Nonno in his shop where it was typical to repair at least 30 to 40 pairs of shoes per day. My Nonno worked as a cobbler in his shop in Somerset until he was 86 years old. He also passed on many of his techniques to the boot manufacturer that is creating all of the Mark Albert Boots. All of our boots are proudly manufactured here by 54 American workers. Leather runs in my blood, and I am incredibly proud that the same craftsmanship that my own Nonno used in his shop is being passed down into every pair of Mark Albert Boots.

Mark is attending this event while also getting everything in order for his next stop, a January show in Florence, Italy. We are proud to have Mark as a vendor this year.

But Wait There’s More!

We have more amazing vendors attending our pop-up event:

The pop-up vendor’s show this year has grown to two Main Street locations: Main Street Barber and Supply, 105 West Main Street, Monongahela, and the offices of the Monongahela Area Chamber of Commerce, 212 West Main Street. Hours from 4-8PM. Hope to see you there!

A note from Terry A. Necciai, RA, Executive Director, Monongahela Main Street Program:

Monongahela is a great community that just gets better and better every day. We are delighted to offer one more holiday event as a way to help young people explore business ideas and help us grow the downtown business climate as we become, once again, a “fully engaged community.”

As a potential customer, each and every reader of this post and – in fact – “each” and “every” local citizen is part of what is needed to bring our community further into its full potential. Everyone I talk to lately is excited about how much and how quickly the community is coming back to life, once again becoming like it was many decades ago when most small town business districts were economically healthy centers of commerce and community activity. But we still have much to do – with your help – in moving all of that forward. See you Monday afternoon or evening!

– Terry Necciai

** Support for this project comes, in part, from a “Lighter-Quicker- Cheaper” grant from the River Town Program.

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