1. Hi Steve! Tell us a bit about you.
I grew up in Queens but moved to the Ossining area in 1983 shortly after my wife Linda and I married. We’ve lived in two different homes in Chilmark and raised two daughters who both graduated from Ossining High School in the early 2000s. Both daughters recently purchased homes in Lower Westchester communities so we are going to stay here and continue to be part of the community for a long time. I have served on the Briarcliff Manor Recreational Advisory Committee and was a Briarcliff Manor Fire Department firefighter for 13 years.
In my free time I like to ski (naturally), ride my bike, garden (I’ve become adept at creating topiaries) and do home improvement projects. We just had our first grandchild in early November so we are spending a lot of time just watching her sleep. It’s hypnotic. I’m also a crazy wood gatherer. We have two wood-burning stoves and burn pretty much every day during the winter. I’m always scouring the neighborhood for hardwood cut to 18” lengths!
2. Tell us about your business.
I was executive editor of Ski Magazine from 1981-95 and launched the first independent ski boot testing program during my time there. When the magazine planned a relocation to Colorado, my wife and I decided to stay in New York. The boot test director I had hired a few years prior asked if I’d be interested in helping him create a training program for ski bootfitters. I figured it might be a good seasonal business and keep me in the ski industry.
We called it Masterfit University and we immediately drew good crowds at our events. Some attendees started asking where we sourced our materials and equipment for making insoles. After the third person asked I said, “You get the stuff from us. We’re the distributors.” So we started distributing tools and materials made by other companies. My partner in Masterfit, Jeff Rich, is a Certified Pedorthist and runs an orthotic lab in Manhattan. He’s also an inventor and he figured out how to build insoles, fit aid and tools that were better than those that were on the market at the time.
We started out contract manufacturing in other facilities but in the early 2010s, we grew big enough to buy our own fabrication equipment and started manufacturing and distributing from Ossining. Our warehouse and factory are located in the Wire Mill Industrial Park down by the Ossining train station on Water St. It’s a great facility with a bunch of small businesses located on one side of the building and a Mini Storage facility on the other. It was actually an operating Wire Mill when I first moved here. They made braided cable for industrial use.
Twenty-five years later we are the leading insole brand in the snowsports market and we do significant business in the outdoor, cycle, shoe store and medical markets. We manufacture both custom insole products (under the Instaprint name) that stores fabricate on site shaped specifically for an individual’s feet and also cut-to-fit upgrade insoles (under the EZ Fit name) that are significantly more supportive and comfortable that those that come stock in boots and shoes. We make all our custom insole “blanks,” and molding/heating machines right here in Ossining.
We use a machine shop in Arizona to fabricate our boot stretching tools and we make the rest of our products in Asia. We try to make as much as we can in the USA and are able to make about 65% of what we sell right here in Ossining. Our technology is so well respected that we manufacture a co-branded insole product line and molding equipment for Specialized Bicycle Co., one of the largest cycle companies in the world.
Since we started, Masterfit University has also grown substantially. We now run training courses across the US, in Europe and Australia. Last year we trained more than 1,000 bootfitters including 500 employees for REI, the outdoor retail giant.
And we’ve continued to do what Jeff and I started out doing at Ski Magazine. Masterfit still runs the world’s only independent ski boot test every spring, testing the boots that will be on the market the following winter. We publish our results on our website, Bootfitters.com.
3. Why did you decide to run your business from Ossining and what do you like about running your business from Ossining?
It’s a matter of convenience for me. I maintain an office in my home and having the warehouse and factory only a five-minute drive away makes it easy to pop in and work with the managers and crew when necessary. We’ve found great employees from here in Ossining and the surrounding communities. And I know a lot of business owners can’t say this: we have a good landlord and a great facility to work from. We’ve got access to a three-bay loading dock and a forklift and whenever something goes wrong in the building, the landlord is responsive and gets it fixed quickly.
4. For someone not familiar with your business: what product/service do you suggest they try and why?
If you’re a skier or snowboarder, get your boots fit by a professional and get an upgraded Masterfit insole. It makes a huge difference in the comfort and performance of boots. It’s not easy to find an expert like that so we also run a marketing co-op program for better bootfitting shops. You can find those shops at our Bootfitters.com website (Editor’s note: See their recommended local boot shops including in NYC and the Catskills here). If you want to buy an upgraded insole for ski and snowboard boots that doesn’t require a visit to a ski shop, check out our EZ Fit Snow Intelligent Insoles®.
If you’re not a skier or snowboarder and just want to make your feet feel more comfortable and your shoes last longer and perform better, try one of our EZ Fit Universal Intelligent Insoles®. They provide great support and auto-adapt® to your feet for a custom, comfortable fit.
You can fit all our EZ Fit insoles to your footwear with just a pair of scissors. We invite our Ossining neighbors to try them; if they use the discount code OSSINING10 at checkout they will receive 10% off.
5. Give us your best Ossining tip or recommendation.
My wife loves fresh flowers and the Stop & Shop in Arcadian Shopping Center has great bouquets at reasonable prices. If you need auto repair see Eli and Vinnie at E&L Automotive on Croton Ave. Super honest, great mechanics; very fair prices. The Sing Sing Kill Greenway is a great place to take a short stroll. It’s an elevated, paved walkway ABOVE the tributary, deep in a ravine. It’s just up the block from our warehouse loading dock so I walk it frequently. There’s also an entrance by the Ossining Community Center. It’s especially cool when there’s been a big rain and the water is raging.