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KCBS Cover Story: San Carlos Firm Outfits Olympians With Custom-Made Skates

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A worker at the Harlick custom skate factory in San Carlos. (Margie Shafer/CBS)

A worker at the Harlick custom skate factory in San Carlos. (Margie Shafer/CBS)

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SAN CARLOS (KCBS)— A Bay Area company which has been making custom ice skates for Olympians for decades is in the spotlight again as a Bay Area skater is set to make her debut in Sochi.

15-year-old Polina Edmunds of San Jose will be wearing a pair of boots from Harlick Skating Boots in San Carlos on Wednesday when she competes in the ladies’ singles competition for the U.S. team.

 

A box of manila file folders inside the Harlick store holds the foot templates and fitting information of many Olympians. The information is used to make the high-end, hand-crafted boots.

“I think the oldest one I have is from Tim Woods; 1960 Olympics. We’ve got Peggy Flemming’s file, Nancy Kerrigan, Kristi Yamaguchi, Brian Boitano…” said Ginger Kuhn.

Her grandfather bought the business from Louis Harlick decades ago. She and her husband Phil run the business now.

“We’re still handmade. We make the boots traditional ways. What really have changed are the materials and the design,” Phil said. “We’re the last boot company that trims their soles by hand. It’s really important to give the boot a very elegant look.”

The boots are lower than decades ago and use materials like carbon graphite, but craftsmanship is still a key component.

James Kuhn finishes the soles, while his twin brother Jason fits orthotics.

“The inner sole is going to be exactly to the shape of their foot. It helps it to fit just like a glove,” Jason said.

He also makes sure machines that date back to 1918 are still in good running order.

“Not many people know how to reset the timing on an old Singer sewing machine. [This] big needle here almost looks like a crochet hook,” Jason said.

Seven of the 15 members of the U.S. Olympic skating team as well as several international skaters wear Harlick’s boots.

“I’ve been fortunate to meet most of them. We know Polina really well because she’s a local girl,” said James. “I think Jason measured her the first time she came in. She was four-years old.”

And when skating enthusiasts watch the Olympics on TV, it’s good for the boot business.

“We get a lot of young, new skaters because they’ve watched it. They were inspired. They want to do this. And then I also see where we get a lot of former skaters,” James said.

While Harlicks has lasted generations, it looks as if demand for their custom skates should endure for generations to come.

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