They say you should not judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes. And sometimes, if they are really great shoes, you should just keep walking in them… just like Michael Stumpfe did when Rolf Stumpfe handed over the reins of his small shoe business to his son.
Stroll with us while a passionate man tells the story of Bummel Leather Crafted Shoes and how a father and son’s journey which began way back in 1990, led to a store opening in Rosebank Mall’s SOKO District in 2021.
When Michael Stumpfe starts telling their story, he is quick to point out that the real hero in this story is his father, Rolf Stumpfe. Self-taught Rolf began designing and making shoes 40 years ago in his garage in Pretoria. Once he realised that he could make a living working with leather, he quit his full-time job and moved his young family along with his business, ‘Der Lederhändler’ – which means ‘the leather handler’ - to George where the Bummel Shoes factory and HQ can be found today.
Michael Stumpfe’s journey wasn’t a direct route to Bummel Shoes. When he left school, he knew he wanted to do something creative but wasn’t entirely sure what that was. Knowing that his son had a gift for working with his hands, Rolf suggested he try working with leather and asked Michael to design and make a pair of shoes with him. This turned out to be exactly the creative outlet that Michael was looking for.
An opportunity to go to Germany arose to learn this craft completely from scratch. So, after a year spent helping his dad build a boat, Michael went to Germany for 13 years where he completed a three-year apprenticeship in a shoe factory. By the end of the apprenticeship, he was able to do everything from cutting the shoes to putting them in the box ready to be sent to the retail outlet. After that came two years at design school full time, a time when Michael was able to be completely creative and simply spend time designing things. He went on to work in the design department of a very fashionable shoe company for eight years until he decided to come back to South Africa where he met his future wife. On his return he worked for Watson Shoes for another eight years designing shoes for them under the Grasshopper brand.
By this time, Rolf had sold ‘Der Lederhändler’ and decided to go sailing for a few years with his wife. On their return he started another small business but after a few years he was ready to retire and asked Michael if he would take over the business. In 2018 Michael resigned from Watson Shoes and joined his dad’s company.
By 2019, they both felt it was fitting for Michael to change the name of the company and bring a bit of his own flair to the brand. And so it was that Bummel Leather Crafted Shoes came to be. ‘Bummel’ is a beautiful, cosy German word, which means to stroll, meander or amble, so it brings that German flair to the business but also reflects that Bummel shoes are comfortable for walking anywhere.
In the early days, many of Bummel’s customers were holiday makers who would buy their shoes while visiting George. They had frequently asked when a store would be opening in Johannesburg. Eventually Michael knew the time had come to make their brand visible and accessible to more people in more regions. So, in July 2021, they expanded even further by opening a new shop in SOKO District at Rosebank Mall - a major step for a small business that was made possible by the flexible leasing platform and completely customisable space SOKO District provides to retailers. The sustainability aspect of SOKO also resonates with that of Bummel.
When asked about the journey Michael endearingly says: “It has been a privilege to take this adventure with my father at my side. He made it possible for me to live out my dream and start my own business making high quality, 100% leather shoes with leather insoles, uppers and lining. Since my dad retired, we started expanding our distribution network (which was mostly at markets up to this point) to include an online offering by moving our factory and our shop out of the industrial area to new premises on York Street in George. Our shop is unique in that we have a window which allows our customer to see right through to the factory showing them exactly how the shoes they just bought or are about to buy are made.”
They have a small team (which Michael calls a family) but they have never lost sight of their roots. All Bummel shoes are made by locals using carefully sourced South Africa made materials. This team is committed to ensuring they source locally. Leather for the soles and uppers comes from tanneries in Cape Town. Their insoles – which very importantly are the backbone of the shoe - are made from a very specialised plant-tanned leather sourced from the only tannery in South Africa which makes it located in Pietermaritzburg.
Bummel have always had a typically South Africa wide-cut shoe but have recently added a shoe which is narrower and more pointed to their men’s range. They have also added a beautifully elegant pointy ladies’ shoe and a brogue cut. These styles will not only stand the test of time; they are one of the most comfortable 100% leather shoes in South Africa – their clients will vouch for that. Michael explains why they hold themselves to such high manufacturing standards: “99% of shoes nowadays may have a leather upper but will have synthetic insoles and lining. This is a concern because 80% of the moisture / perspiration from your feet is stored in the insole. So, if it is made from cardboard, that moisture has nowhere to go and results in ‘stinky’ feet and shoes. Whereas leather is anti-bacterial and breathable, so it doesn’t smell. The advantages of our shoes are not just comfort related. We want our shoes to be sustainably worn too, not thrown away. This is why we choose to focus on timeless designs so that you can wear them year after year and re-sole them if you need to – the uppers will last that long. Your feet will feel that difference and thank you!”
This inspiring yet humble shoemaker is only just beginning – he has plans to take Bummel for a stroll on other continents eventually too… it seems Michael and his Bummel Shoes still have many miles to walk!
The Fun Stuff… with Michael Stumpfe
Can’t live without item?
Good coffee and love!
Being supplied with inferior quality materials and bad service from suppliers!
What might (someone) be surprised to know about you?
Maybe that I felt very inadequate to start this business, and I am grateful for the team that I have around me who support me and are the reason for the success behind Bummel Shoes.
Books or movies?
Books -the Bible!
My happy place is….
With my family – my four sons and wonderful wife.
Top of my bucket list is…
This is inspired by something I saw in a documentary about the making of Pixar’s Cars movie – the producer felt like he was burning out and he decided to travel through America in an RV. I would love to take whole family and explore America in an RV.
Visit the Bummel Shoes website here or watch this video to learn more about this brand. You’ll find their store at the first SOKO District located in the bustling heart of Jozi at Rosebank Mall, 50 Bath Ave, Rosebank. For more information visit the SOKO District website or watch the launch video here: https://youtu.be/9udCS_7EMPM
NOTE: All Covid protocols are in place.
SOKO District at Rosebank Mall Operating Hours: SOKO District is operational under the adjusted Level 1 restrictions: Mon – Thurs: 9am – 6pm | Fri: 9am – 7pm | Sat, Sun and Public holidays: 9am – 5pm
Operating hours over the Festive Season remain as above but please take special note of the operating times on the following days during the Festive Season: ▪ Black Friday 26 November 2021 9am to 7pm ▪ Day of Reconciliation 16 December 2021 9am to 6pm ▪ Christmas Day 25 December 2021 Closed ▪ Day of Goodwill 26 December 2021 9am to 5pm ▪ New Year’s Day 1 January 2022 Closed ▪ Sunday 2 January 2022 9am to 5pm
Follow Bummel Shoes on Instagram @bummelshoesand SOKO District on @sokodistrict or keep up to date with their latest news on Facebook @BummelShoes and @sokodistrict. Don’t forget to use the hashtags #SOKODistrict #SOKORosebank #ChooseLocal and #SupportLocal #RetailTherapy #RetellTherapy when you are sharing your SOKO District experiences.