Minnetonka was founded in 1946 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where we are still based today. The company was named after nearby Lake Minnetonka; we later learned that “Minnetonka” means “great water” in the language of the Dakota Sioux tribe. In fact, many nearby cities and lakes (and even our state) have “minne”-centric names because we are surrounded by so much water.
Minnetonka started out as a small business creating souvenirs and other goods for roadside gift shops in the region. As more and more families took to the open road to explore America, our handcrafted footwear influenced by traditional Native American moccasins quickly became our most popular offering.
Shortly after Minnetonka started, it attracted the attention of Philip W Miller, who had come to America as a boy from Poland. Philip had been running a corner grocery store in Minneapolis, and he sold the store, using its proceeds to become a partner in Minnetonka. Philip continued to work at Minnetonka until his passing in 1986.
Philip’s son, and future CEO, Marshall Miller joined Minnetonka in 1953. Soon thereafter Philip and Marshall bought out the other partners. Marshall’s business acumen and operations savvy would help Minnetonka expand and flourish in the years ahead.
Nine years in, we introduced our Thunderbird Softsole, featuring a hand-beaded design modeled after its namesake symbol. While we originally embraced this striking design for its beauty, we later learned of the Thunderbird’s meaning in Native American mythology. For many Native tribes, the Thunderbird is a revered supernatural being, playing a key role as protector, rainmaker, and enforcer of justice. Its three tail feathers represent past, present, and future (Source: An Overview of Pacific Northwest Native Indian Art, Clint Leung, 2006). At Minnetonka, the Thunderbird moc has been a lasting favorite for generations, with truly timeless style.
There’s no doubt that America is a car culture. In 1986 we introduced our first driving moccasins, designed with supple leathers for lightweight flexibility and rubber nubs for high-performance grip. On or off the road, our drivers proved to be must-have accessories for men and women about town.
From the beginning, our moccasins often featured a playful touch of fringe over the top: sometimes short, sometimes a little longer, usually cut straight across. In 1996, we perfected the look with the Kilty hardsole, featuring a tapered skirt of fringe peeking out beneath a neat, hand-tied bow. A flexible rubber sole with 95 individual nubs added a comfy, massage-with-every-step effect, and the Kilty is still our bestselling style today. In addition to the hardsole original, the Kilty collection now also includes softsole, boat sole, cushion “Plus” sole, and driving moc pebble sole options.
We were already known for making some of the most comfortable footwear around, but we wanted to do even better. So we introduced the Kilty Plus with three layers of cushion, the Silverthorne Prism made of contoured ultra-comfy EVA, and the Windy and Wilder slipper styles with feather-light sneaker-like soles. You can never be too comfortable.
75 years after our founding, Minnetonka remains a proudly independent, fourth-generation family-run business. On any given day, you can still find three generations of the Miller family hard at work — including Marshall, who's in his 90s and still actively involved! We continue to be grateful for and humbled by the loyalty of our customers, old and new. Looking ahead, we are committed to preserving the high standards and handcraftsmanship of our products. Our overarching goal today is to keep the goodness going, so we can create more joy for generations to come.