Klingbeil brings fashionable designs to masses

Renowned boot maker creating new lines for on, off ice

A side view of Klingbeil's black high-top shoe, which is inspired by skating boots.
A side view of Klingbeil's black high-top shoe, which is inspired by skating boots. (courtesy of Klingbeil)


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By Lois Elfman, special to
(10/04/2012) - What looked to be a sad time for acclaimed skating boot maker Don Klingbeil turned out to be an amazing turn of good fortune.

A year ago, Klingbeil had decided to close the factory in Jamaica, Queens, where Klingbeil skates were made. Enter the Adoni Group, a company that manufactures and sells a variety of upscale shoes and leather accessories that are sold in stores like Bloomingdale's and Macy's.

"We went to buy the machines and we fell in love with Don Klingbeil and his staff," said Richie Perna, now president of the Klingbeil division of the Adoni Group. "We saw what they were doing, the craftsmanship of putting these boots together.

"It's nothing like making a shoe," he continued. "It's so much more sophisticated. In the spirit of keeping a tradition alive, we purchased the company and moved it into our Manhattan showroom/factory."

Now Klingbeil and his staff are based in Manhattan, and instead of downsizing they're working on new products for skaters of all levels. Included among those is a line carrying Sasha Cohen's name, which is due out in the next few weeks.

Previously, Klingbeil had focused exclusively on custom-made skates for elite competitors in figure skating and roller skating. The Sasha Cohen line will include three new ice skating boots: one for beginners, one for slightly more advanced skaters and a rental boot.

The latter is going to be sold and distributed to rinks with public sessions. The beginner boot and blade will retail for $150, while the competitive model will run $300 a pair. All are branded by Cohen, who was heavily involved in the design.

"The fit will never change," Perna said. "The fit is the Klingbeil fit. We're using the same shoe last measurements for all the boots we're doing. That's something that took years to develop."

In addition to the three Sasha Cohen items, the company is also developing another line of boots that will be sold in sporting goods stores.

For skating lovers who prefer watching to being on the ice, there will also be a unique new skating-inspired shoe that is essentially built like a skate.

"It's for men and women. It pretty much is the exact same shape and fit of a skate minus the padding," Perna said of the line due in stores later this year. "We do a low- and a high-top bootie. It's a lace-up. Same lacing you would have on a skating boot."

The boots, which initially will come in conventional skating boot colors like white, beige, brown and black, retail for $299.

Perna laughed at the thought of how immersed he's become in the skating world. His kids have taken up skating, and he is becoming a fixture at skating competitions and shows.

The company is also planning to make skating boots a bit more stylish looking without changing the construction. Klingbeil has always made customized looks in terms of color and patterns, but Perna wants to expand on that notion.

"Figure skating is such an elegant, beautiful sport, we want to put more emphasis on the boot as far as the aesthetics," he said. "We want to bring that [fashion] element to skating and make it a little more funky for the younger generation."

In addition to Cohen, Timothy Goebel is consulting with the company on developing some new technology developed by veteran coach Bill Fauver. Perna said there is a patent on the technology, which they're in the the process of testing.

"We're working on the conceptual part of it," Perna said. "We've tried some prototypes. We're trying to put it into actual play now. That's probably looking to debut early next year."