Grandfather wanted to recruit their energies while they were still young and living at home. It was orchestrated to their advantage so their only responsibility was the business and they could focus fully, without the distraction of having their own families. It was a master plan for success. The announcements were made, introductions assured the shoe manufacturers, that the high quality of Sole leather would remain the same as it always was, but the real advantage would be more production therefore better prices, and they would have enough power behind them that it would blow away any competition.
Grandpa rallied an alliance with the shoe companies to supply them exclusively. “Our company has grown very slowly and steadfastly to become the largest supplier of shoe leather in all of Brabant. We are building a new factory on Gillis Straat to accommodate the growth, so we may continue to provide the best quality of sole leather that customers have come to expect. The old factory will be managed by my son Louis and will focus strictly on the tanning of leather. The new factory will be managed by my son Jan and will fabricate sole leather. By using this new system, we reduce the cost of product. A winning situation for all.”
Uncle Louis took over the old factory on Kerkstraat in Rijen, seen in the photo above, using traditional tanning processes. The hides were then shipped to my father on Pastoor Gillisstraat, and to shoemakers across Holland, direct from the Pastoor Gillisstraat factory.
Construction of the new complex began, resulting in a two story building that was huge for it’s time. It was quickly erected, taking up a prominent space in the village of two hectars on Pastoor Gillisstraat. It required massive oak beams and tons of masonry brought in by horse drawn wagons. Most astounding of all, was the size of the chimney. It rose up into the air out of the middle of the complex a good 32 meters high. With the name of ‘Van der Steen’ permanently etched into the stack pipe, dominating the landscape for miles around. None of the villagers had ever seen anything as big and it created a stir of expectation in the village. The factory on Pastoor Gillisstraat made sole leather, improving productivity and cost.
This was at a time when horse and buggy; and motor cars shared the same roads. You can see father’s car parked in front of our home right after it was built.
The success of the new factory allowed father to finally marry my mother. They married in her home town Riel, on February 3, 1912, just two months before the tragic sinking of the Titanic. My grandfather in a gracious gesture bestowed upon them a gift of 2,500 guilders to help them get started. They built their new two storey home across the street from the factory on Pastoor Gillisstraat in Rijen.