HOLLAND, Michigan – Tulip season is fast approaching. A big part of the traditions of the festival are the wooden shoes that the dancers wear in the parade. The shoes are called “klompen” or “clogs” and the De Klomp Wooden Shoe & Delftware factory in Holland still makes the shoes the old-fashioned way.
At the boutique, you will see unique things you won’t find anywhere else. The staff paint traditional Dutch pottery only seen in the Netherlands, called Delftware, and make wooden shoes using ancient technology.
“These machines are over 125 years old,” said director Jacob Veldheer.
Veldheer describes himself as a jack-of-all-trades, running the shop with his father, making the wooden shoes by hand and helping out on his family’s tulip farm.
“I definitely have a lot of Dutch in me,” he said with a laugh.
De Klomp Wooden Shoe & Delftware Factory has been in his family for decades. They are one of the only traditional wooden shoe makers in the country, although to save costs they also ship pre-made shoes from the Netherlands to their store. However, with the pandemic affecting the supply chain, the past few years have been difficult.
“The whole transportation chain is going crazy. It’s one of those things we’re still working on,” Veldheer said.
Despite shipping delays and higher costs, they are ready to bring customers back to their store after not having Tulip Time in 2020 and having a reduced celebration in 2021.
“Fortunately, we are still here,” he said. “Where a lot of people unfortunately didn’t survive. We’re slowly trying to get it back to normal and we’ll keep going for as long as we can.”
The business is a family affair. Jacob’s grandfather, Vernon Veldheer, founded Veldheer Tulip Gardens, the only tulip farm in Holland after World War II. At 96, he still cultivates the plants and prepares them for the festival every year.
Wooden shoes date back to 1230 AD. The Dutch wore them to prevent food-borne illnesses when farming and working in rainy and humid conditions. It helped them much better than leather shoes. Today, wooden shoes are a symbol of Dutch culture and traditions. The shoes to Wooden and earthenware shoe factory in Delft De Klomp are made to be worn, for decoration and for traditional dancing.