WHO WE ARE
At Diba Imports, we are a family. We are family-owned for over 30 years, have a family of fashion footwear brands for women and men, and provide service that makes our retailers and customers feel as if they are part of our family.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
When our founder, Joe Butrus, was working as a high-level footwear merchandiser at one of the country’s largest retail corporations, his division closed unexpectedly, and he lost his beloved job. With a wife and three children to support, he knew he had to chart a new course – quickly. He decided to pour his experience and passion for the footwear industry into his own company. In 1988, he struck a handshake deal with a mentor to bring a cool, never-before-seen Netherlands brand, Bronx Shoes, to the United States.
The company got off to a bumpy start, literally. The first batch of shoe samples from Brazil tumbled out of the back of the delivery truck on its way to Joe’s house in St. Louis, MO. He and his daughter Suzanne scrambled onto the highway, darting in and out of traffic to retrieve every shoe they could. The two got the samples cleaned up enough for Joe to stuff into duffle bags and bring to buyer meetings in New York City. Every one of those first seven buyers bought shoes. With a company headquarters in his basement, Joe’s business was officially on its way.
The Bronx shoes, manufactured in Italy, were an immediate hit among American customers. Such a hit, in fact, that competitors started copying and selling the styles. Joe decided that he would do the same – for a much more appealing price. He duplicated the best-selling styles in Brazil and sold them to large US retailers and independent shoe stores. He dubbed the new label “Diba,” an acronym for Dutch design, Italian artistry, Brazilian manufacturing, and American ingenuity.
As Diba Imports grew to include more brands, Joe enlisted the help of family and trusted friends. His wife wrote orders at trade shows and handled invoices. Longtime friend and former colleague, Kurt Hibler, managed the reproduction of the Bronx styles. Suzanne and her husband Steve focused on sales. Footwear industry veteran Jon Wagner oversaw synthetic shoe production in China. His oldest daughter Diane came in as Chief Operating Officer, and his youngest daughter, Michelle, assisted with sales to online companies. Joe’s grandson Nick joined the team in 2018 to manage partnerships with up-and-coming companies for third party logistics (3PL). Today, Diba has over 30 employees, a majority of whom have been with us for 20 years or more.
Diba is now a global footwear company. We sell to some of the biggest retailers in the world. Our footwear has appeared on television, in fashion shows, at international trade shows, and in major print publications. Our brands appeal to women seeking shoes to meet real-life needs, women climbing the corporate ladder, and men looking for stylish, comfortable shoes and boots. Our 3PL services allow us to share our expertise with startup fashion brands in the US as well as international fashion brands ready to start US distribution. What began in a basement is now housed in a 45,000 square foot facility.
We believe we would not be where we are without the loyalty and support of our retailers, customers, and employees. No matter where you are on your journey - whether you are an established business, an emerging company, a small boutique, or a customer looking for a fashionable pair of shoes - we are with you every step of the way. Our mission remains the same: to offer the best footwear styles, with the highest quality materials, at the best value.
Joseph Butrus's passion for footwear began in the early 1960s in Philadelphia, PA with Edison Brothers Stores. Several weeks after starting, Joe was the top Sales Associate at his Bakers Shoes location. (He also met his “sole mate” on the job: his wife of over 57 years is one of his former customers.) Joe’s enthusiasm and desire led to several promotions. Under his management, for the first time in its history, the Philadelphia store brought in higher sales than any other Bakers Shoes retail location in the country. This earned him a coveted spot on the Edison family’s list of “employees to watch.” In 1970, Joe accepted a position as a Buyer/Merchandiser for Chandler’s footwear stores at the company’s headquarters in St. Louis, MO.
When the Chandler’s division closed and he was laid off, Joe was unsure which direction to take his footwear career – but not for long. He saw a hole in the shoe market that he intended to fill. His Dutch mentor (and soon-to-be business partner), Frits Dijkmans, initially described Joe’s idea to sell European shoes in the United States as “crazy.” Undaunted, Joe brought Netherlands brand Bronx Shoes from Frits and launched J.B. Imports in 1988. By initially selling one duffle bag of shoes at a time, his business (renamed Diba Imports in 1990), grew to include wholesale and retail divisions for several brands. Nearly 60 years after starting this journey, Joe is still selling shoes and sharing his expertise in developing new products. He treasures his family, friends, employees, and the countless footwear industry veterans he met along the way, for each has made an lasting imprint on his heart.
Diane Butrus is our Chief Operating Officer. Armed with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Missouri University of Science and Technology and a Master’s degree in Business Management from Maryville University, Diane did not originally plan to work in the fashion industry. Rather, she wrote software programs for aerospace engineering powerhouse Boeing. She also sold optical and laser equipment in the aircraft and automotive industries with Leica, Inc. She even started, operated, and sold a successful lawn care and landscaping business. However, her left-brain expertise was exactly what her right-brain father was looking for as Diba expanded. Since joining Diba in 1996, she thrives in streamlining our logistics and technology. Equally devoted to maintaining a high level of customer service, she has led us through periods of growth and economic downturn. Diane regularly engages in public speaking opportunities around St. Louis. She also serves as a Regional Committee Member of Two Ten Foundation’s Women In the Footwear Industry. If she is not in the office, you can find her biking around St. Louis or attending a Cardinals baseball game.
Suzanne Lorenz, our National Sales Representative for Testosterone Shoes as well as the Midwest and West Coast Sales Representative for Diba True. As a lifelong fashion-lover, she brings a wealth of knowledge about retail and customer service to the team.
She stepped into the fashion industry at age 15, when she began selling baby apparel at a local boutique. Suzanne studied Fashion Merchandising at Stephens College in Columbia, MO, but transferred as a junior to Fontbonne College in St. Louis, MO to assist with her father Joe’s new footwear company, J. B. Imports (now known as Diba Imports). After a rewarding time as a stay-at-home mother of two from 1998-2013, she officially re-joined her husband Steve, sister Diane, and father Joe at Diba in 2013.
Suzanne cherishes the unique experiences – both the challenges and triumphs - that come from working alongside family in some capacity for the last 30 years. She believes the foundation of any successful company is how it treats others, a legacy learned from her father that she is proud to continue.
Steve Lorenz, our Sales Manager and member of the Product Development Team, seemed destined to work in a family business. His grandfather started one of the largest printing companies in the Midwest. While his father, uncles, and cousins joined the printing industry, Steve longed to carve out a different professional path. So, in 1993 when his father-in-law expressed a need for someone he could trust to help grow the business, it was a perfect fit. Steve not only gets to work with family, whom he describes as his “reason for being,” he can also utilize his talents in creativity and customer service. Steve’s drive to help clients be successful comes through in his high level of personal attention to each client – whether it is a large, lucrative chain store or an up-and-coming, small boutique owner. When he is not at a trade show or working on a new footwear collection, this dog-lover unwinds outdoors by hunting and fishing. Steve also supports the Two Ten Foundation, an organization that aims to improve the lives of people who work in the footwear industry.
Nick Lorenz is our Third Party Logistics (3PL) Account Manager. As the grandson of our founder, he represents our third generation in the business. Eager to follow in the hardworking footprints of his grandfather, parents, and aunt, he came to Diba in 2018. Nick is responsible for assisting emerging companies from all over the world with finding a foothold in the United States. Since taking over this role, his outgoing personality and knack for interacting with clients from different backgrounds has helped grow the number of 3PL accounts from 3 to 14. Nick also credits his successful experience at Diba to having the opportunity to work with his family. An avid traveler, Nick spends his free time playing and watching sports.
Jon Wagner is our Principal and Vice President. When he was invited to join Diba in 1995, he had already accumulated a multitude of experience in the footwear industry. He worked in sales and product development at Nordstrom, US Shoe Corporation, and Caleres (formerly known as Brown Group, Inc.). This experience helped him spearhead our Diba Far East division, which services large national clients with private label and branded orders. A footwear industry veteran, Jon enjoys spending his free time traveling, playing golf, and being with his wife and daughters.
Kurt Hibler, one of our Partners, has over 49 years of experience in the footwear industry. His career began in Pittsburgh, PA, when he started selling shoes in high school for retail conglomerate Edison Brothers Stores, Inc. A few years later in 1983, he caught the attention of upper management by increasing his Bakers store’s annual volume by 33% - and breaking a million dollars in sales! He was quickly promoted to the Edison Brothers headquarters in St. Louis, where he worked under the watchful eye of Joseph Butrus in various merchandising and buying roles. As he transitioned to wholesale footwear in 1989, Kurt remained close to Joe. He was excited to join Joe’s new footwear company in 1991 as a National Sales Associate.
Over the years, Kurt acquired expertise in retail sales, customer service, merchandising, planning, buying, wholesale, product development, line building, procurement, and administrative tasks. This international jet-setter has also made countless production trips to Brazil, China, Mexico, and India, as well as sales and market research trips to Europe. Kurt is fondly known as our office “MacGyver:” if anything needs fixing, we give it to him to fix. (And he usually does.) Off-duty, Kurt loves spending time with his wife and daughter, collecting fine wines, riding his motorcycle, gardening, and outdoor sports.
Diba True® is a mainstream brand of proven fashion footwear. Designed and developed for real life, our collection features a combination of upgraded styling, materials and colors. This collection was developed to meet the real life needs of a discerning, fashion conscious consumer.
The Testosterone® brand was launched by Diba Imports L.P. in July 2013. The brand is designed to appeal to men with style, and features a wide collection ranging from slip-ons, to oxfords, to boots. Bold styling and fashion forward elements are the hallmarks of the Testosterone® collection.
For the trendsetting fashionista, Luichiny® offers unique heels, materials, ornaments and a look that always singles you out from the crowd. Luichiny® Shoes cater to the fast-paced, ever changing lifestyles of the women who wear them. Bold, sexy and awe inspiring- we present the exclusive Luichiny® footwear collection.
Diba London includes on-trend, affordable, vegan leather footwear. The sustainable designs seamlessly blend London's sophistication and edge with the comfort of American styling. Get London style right here in the U.S., no passport required.