Brothers William (Bill) and F.M. (Mike) Brooks took a leap of faith during the Great Depression and moved their families from Columbus to Nelsonville to start a shoe factory in Southeastern Ohio. In search of opportunity, the brothers set up shop in a rent-free factory with lent equipment and the William Brooks Shoe Co. was born. The factory employed 225 people and production output increased to more than 2,000 pairs per day. During the 1940s and 1950s business continued to grow. While supplying more than one million pairs of shoes and boots for military conflicts such as World War II and the Korean War, the company built key relationships with leading footwear retailers such as Sears, Roebuck and Co., JCPenney, Kinney Shoe and Thom McAn.