British Columbia·Video

100-year-old glove factory keeps things old hand

"The actual process of making the gloves haven’t changed at all ... There are no shortcuts. It’s very manual and tedious."

Watson Gloves once sold to loggers, miners, farms and saw mills

Workers at the Watson Gloves factory have been using decades-old techniques to create their leather goods. (Peter Scobie/CBC)

Modern pop tunes are playing in the background at Burnaby, B.C.'s Watson Gloves factory, but workers there are repeating the same tasks their predecessors have performed for a century.

The factory and family business, which began in 1918, celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. It originally stood at 127E 2nd Avenue in Vancouver, and sold work gloves to early Vancouverites who worked in saw mills, mines, logging camps and farms. 

The factory moved to more spacious quarters in Burnaby 11 years ago.

Michele Moore, the granddaughter of one of the company's early directors, W.T. Moore, said the early days of the factory were rugged.

"There's lots of old stories where people would go and bring their hide in and trade and have gloves made," Moore said.

W.T. Moore, left, an unnamed worker, centre background, and business partner Wayne B. Stanley, right, in the Watson Gloves' showroom. (Submitted by Watson Gloves)

Despite the passage of time and change of locales, Martin Moore, W.T. Moore's grandson and current president, says the process of glove making has largely stayed the same.

"The actual process of making the gloves haven't changed at all ... There are no shortcuts. It's very manual and tedious."

Watch a glove being made from hide to hand at the Watson Gloves factory:

Watson Gloves has been in business for 100 years, but the manufacturing process hasn't changed much over time. 1:32

A 100-year-old glove making factory in the Lower Mainland seems like an anachronism in an era where factory work is being outsourced or shuttered in favour of newer industries.

Moore says it hasn't been easy to stay in the Vancouver area.

The company has managed to land major clients like Mark's Work Warehouse and Home Hardware, and work with major industries like oil and gas.

"We've had some really loyal customers in northern Alberta and nationwide who really understand the quality and workmanship that goes into our product," he said.

An early company photo of staff from the Watson Gloves Factory in Vancouver. (Submitted by Watson Gloves)

Many of the workers in his company have been there for decades, Moore added, saying they have been instrumental in maintaining the company for so long.

"I need to thank our staff and our fantastic customers."