Don Green and his partner Michael Budman founded Roots in 1973.
Roots is a Canadian clothing and lifestyle products retailer. The retail stores sell Roots’ own brand of products in Canada, the United States and Asia. Products range leather goods, active athletic wear, yoga wear, accessories and home furnishings.
Inspired by camp “Tamakwa” in Ontario´s Algonquin Park, where the two spent their childhood summers. Roots is now a globally recognized brand.
Roots was the official outfitter of clothing for members of the Canadian Olympic team. The same line was sold at Roots stores in Canada. It has also clothed the United States and British Olympic teams.
Q. You started out by opening a shoe store in Toronto 37 years ago. What gave you the idea and how did it come about?
A. My business partner, Michael Budman, and I originally explored various ideas for a new business, which included yoghurt and waterbeds. At the same time, after we saw that a new type of footwear from Sweden, called Earth Shoes, were starting to become quite popular in the US, we tried to get the rights for Canada. To that end, we contacted their US office in New York and went to see them but they didn’t take us very seriously. As a result, we decided to start our own line of shoes, called Roots, and went about finding someone who could help us manufacture them in Toronto.
Q. The first product you and your partner Michael Budman constructed was the Roots Negative Heels Shoe, commonly called “The Earth Shoe”…Could you tell us more about this?
A. Made in Toronto from excellent leather, the soles were designed in a way that the “negative heel” was lower than the ball of the feet. The idea was that it was a healthier way to walk, good for your body, similar to when you walk in the sand. Remember this was in the early 1970s when there was still a strong hippie influence and a growing consciousness about health and wellness.
Q. When you started creating this company, what did you aim to achieve?
A. We of course aspired to success, based on the values and concerns Michael and I shared for running a creative, socially responsible business. We have never chased money but rather success, on our terms.
Q. Did you ever imagine ROOTS would have evolved into what it is today and what do you feel can be attributed to its success?
A. No, we never really thought of the ultimate dimension of what Roots would become. We attribute our success to a strong, mutual respectful partnership and friendship; a commitment to quality and integrity; a belief in people; attracting and nurturing an excellent team; being flexible and open-minded; developing an engaging, identifiable company values and culture; a passion for Canada, doing as much manufacturing in Canada as practical; good aesthetics, supporting sports, the environment and the arts, and other forms of community support; staying true to the company’s heritage.
Q. What is the significance of the ROOTS beaver as a logo?
A. The beaver is the quintessential and highly identifiable Canadian animal, a time-honoured, endearing symbol of the Canadian wilderness and well liked by all. Considered down-to-earth, industrious, and resourceful.
Q. You are originally from Detroit, Michigan. What enthralled you with Canada and why the move there?
A. In my youth, I was fortunate to be introduced to Canada via a summer camp in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen — a wilderness paradise called Algonquin Park. The camp is called Tamakwa and it’s situated about three hours north of Toronto and it instilled in me a love of nature, an appreciation of the Canadian outdoors and allowed me to make many Canadian friends at Tamakwa. When I eventually moved to Toronto in 1972, I was looking for a new challenge that comes, in part, from living in a new city in a different country. Also, at that period, Toronto was a fast growing, burgeoning city that seemed to offer much greater promise for young people than Detroit did.
Q. We’ve seen many influencers wearing ROOTS clothing – James Cameron, Scott Moir and Bill Clinton just to name a few… How do you get the right people to wear the clothing?
A. Roots has always been fortunate in attracting prominent people from various fields, especially from the world of entertainment, the arts, sports, business and even the political arena. We also know how to network well and establish friendships with good people. Of course, if celebrities didn’t like our products and the culture of our company, they wouldn’t gravitate to Roots.
Q. You were the official outfitter of clothing for members of the Canadian Olympic team as well as the United States and Great Britain. What is the next step?
A. We are always looking forward, always receptive to new ideas, proposals, challenges and new opportunities. As long as they are compatible with the essence of Roots. It’s hard to say what will be the next major step, although I can tell you that in the fall we will be returning in a big way to the shoe business. In general, as a successful business with an open mind and a creative bent, invariably Roots is both the source and magnet for great new projects.
Q. What do hope to achieve in the future?
A. To keep Roots fresh, relevant and successful while being, in its own way, a positive contributor to the world we live in.