In the years when shoes and footwear were primarily manufactured in the United States and not so heavily imported, Indian Head Shoe Company in Manchester, New Hampshire, a leading athletic footwear manufacturer (established in 1946), needed an outlet for its surplus inventory. Thus, in 1958, the start of Indian Head Shoe Factory Outlet, located in the basement of the manufacturer, in the historic millyard of the city of Manchester, New Hampshire.
In time, the shoe manufacturer needed more space and the owners purchased the historic
7-20-4 Cigar Factory building at 175 Canal Street in Manchester. The outlet store occupied a portion of the ground floor. People would come from all around to purchase their athletic shoes and ice skates. Ultimately, the outlet expanded and became an outlet for sporting apparel and hard goods; serving as a destination for the serious and casual athlete alike.
Don York, a former Manchester athlete out of Memorial High School, started working there while a college student at Plymouth State. His fondness for sports and his enthusiasm led him and his wife, Gail, to purchase the athletic outlet store in 1980. Don and Gail changed the name from Indian Head Shoe Factory Outlet to Indian Head Athletics to indicate how the business had expanded. They chose to keep Indian Head in the name and designed a new logo. “The Indian represents honesty, integrity, and a hard work ethic,” says Don York.
The business began to grow into its own and a very strong team and league portion of the business developed along with the retail sales. In 1981, The Yorks soon recognized a need to be able to screen print and embroider and after outsourcing, chose to purchase equipment and offer screen printing and embroidering as a service to go hand and hand with the team, school, camp and business sales.
The shoe manufacturing business closed, as many did during that turbulent time, and the owners of the building on Canal Street decided to sell the property. In 1984, Don and Gail York were forced to move and had to make a choice as to where they would want to operate their business. Being Manchester natives and having had enjoyed Manchester’s downtown during their youth, they chose to stay in the city and the downtown area. An Auto Parts store on Lake Avenue was for sale and the young couple decided to make a major investment and purchase and renovate the property at 18 Lake Avenue. It was tough for a while when downtown Manchester was not very vibrant. The Yorks never gave up their hope for the downtown’s revitalization. The investment proved to be worthwhile as downtown Manchester redeveloped and the Verizon Wireless Arena went in directly across from Indian Head Athletics. The Arena changed it name on 9/1/2016 to snhu ARENA.
Don and Gail York have five sons and the business has proven to be a benefit in more than one way as all the boys have been athletes. Now grandchildren are starting to participate in sports, too. (The Yorks had owned Screen Printed Special T's, a screen printing and embroidery business. It was sold on August 27, 2018.) In 2015, the York sons purchased the prior property at 175 Canal Street and, thus, brought it back to the family. Indian Head Athletics and Screen Printed Special T's (note above) remain at the 18 Lake Avenue property. York Athletics Manufacturing (see link below) was also developed. A feature article was published in the January/February 2017 issue of Family Business magazine on the three generations.
The store has been a hometown destination to many athletes. The trained and knowledgeable staff gives the customers personal attention. Indian Head Athletics prides itself on its strong reputation as a quality and honest business with deep roots in Manchester and in New Hampshire.
After educating their five sons and 40 years of running Indian Head Athletics, owners Don and Gail York have made the decision to retire. The last day of business was June 30, 2018. The decisions to close the store (as opposed to sell their business) and lease their property were made to preserve the integrity of the name they made running a successful and honorable business. Their legacy will continue with www.yorkathleticsmfg.com
The York family thanks all of their loyal customers. It was their pleasure to watch families grow along with them. They will continue to support and be active in the community they very much enjoy. THANK YOU!