At work with Alison: Gurkee's

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WDTV) - Gurkee's was first founded in 1984, then, in 2009, Ray Sickles bought the company.

Originally, the sandals were made in Mexico, but in 2010, Sickles decided it was time for a change and started making the sandals out of his home in Morgantown.

"American, hand-made products are very important to me; they've been important before I bought the company," he said.

Now, Sickles no longer works out of his home, but in a warehouse on Greenbag Road where he has several employees.

"I love employing people and being part of the community in that manner. And I love trying to inspire people, even if they go on to get another job," Sickles said, laughing.

He continued, "I've seen people, their whole attitude changes here, because they're actually doing something [with their hands]. When you imaging that someone in, [for example], South Korea is going to where something you made, that's inspirational to some people."

Each sandal starts with yarn, which gets spun into rope.

"We twist the rope sort of special; we call it 'comfort twist', that way it's a little softer," he explained.

Then the rope is flattened into large blocks on a machine that Sickles built himself. The blocks are then cut into chunks that become the soles of the sandals. There are four pieces for one pair of sandals...two for the top of the shoes and two for the bottom.

"Once the supplies are made, it's all hand done," he said.

From there, the sandals are made assembly-line style. Each person has a job: cutting out the sole, adding trim, strapping the sandal, and then fusing the soles together.

Then, they clean up any rough edges and add heel straps.

"Then they're tagged and shipped out," said Sickles.

At Gurkee's, the most satisfying part of the job is creating a product that people love.

Sickles said, "When someone likes our product and they want more, I'm super excited and I'll do anything I can to deliver it."