Okabashi Brands is one of the only makers of flip-flops in North America. The company was founded by Iranian immigrants outside of Atlanta 30 years ago.
Okabashi shipped about 2.5 million pairs of flip-flops and other shoes last year from its factory in Buford.
From start to finish, it takes about an hour for the company to make a single pair of flip-flops
The basic process of making a flip-flop starts with a cardboard box full of pellets of rubber-like plastic.
An injection molding machine sucks up the pellets, heats them and squirts them into a hinged metal mold. Each mold is like a precisely engineered waffle iron that produces a single shoe each time it’s filled. As the material in the molds cool, a worker trim away any excess.
Then, two at a time, the molds open. A worker pulls a brand new pair of flip-flops from the set of molds and inspects them.
Rejects – the flips that flop – are ground up and incorporated into another batch of flip-flops. Flip-flops that make the grade are trimmed of any excess material and stored on racks.
Then the shoes are finished with fancy decorations or a Made-in-the-USA hang tag and packaged, ready to be shipped to a flip-flop store near you.
Manufacturers in Asia, particularly China, dominate the U.S. flip-flop market. But in recent years, some companies have turned from Asian to U.S. companies to make flip-flops and other consumer goods.