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Helping Hands: How Raber Glove Garbage Mitts® Became a Canadian Classic

For more than 80 years, made-in-Winnipeg Raber Glove products have been keeping Canadian hands warm

A grey factory building with many rectangular windows with black frames, and a couple of green trees on the sides of it.

Courtesy of Raber Glove

When Harry Raber emigrated to Canada from Poland with his young family in 1925, he had no idea that almost a century later, his surname would be synonymous with warmth, quality and made-in-Manitoba pride. Here’s how the Raber family set up shop in Winnipeg and, along the way, created a Canadian classic.

A Family Affair

Harry Raber wasn’t always a glove maker. While working as a janitor, he was taught by a friend how to cut leather. Eventually, Raber secured a job as a glove cutter. In 1934 he co-founded Perfecfit Gloves with a partner, becoming the go-to manufacturer for men’s dress gloves in Western Canada. By 1941, Raber was ready to branch out on his own, and with his son, Sunny, founded Raber Glove.

A hand wearing a red glove using a template to cut a piece of black leather.

Today, Harry’s grandson Howard is company president.

“I got my honours degree in psychology from the University of Winnipeg,” Howard says. “But I always knew I wanted to carry on the Raber name.” 

For Howard, the idea of family extends beyond his role as a third-generation business owner. “My father and grandfather showed me how to treat people well and how to treat people fairly,” Raber says. “And they taught me that business comes from relationships—never the other way around.” 

That “relationships first” spirit is evident at the Raber factory in Winnipeg, where many of the staff have been employed for decades. “I consider my staff my family,” Howard says. “My office manager has been with me for 36 years.” 

A red wall with glove-shaped cutting templates hanging on it.

Keeping it Local

Over the past few decades, many Canadian manufacturers have shifted their production overseas. But Raber continues to manufacture all its gloves and mitts in Winnipeg, using traditional techniques and tools, in the same building on McDermot Avenue where the company has been located since 1964.

“I always wanted to stay Winnipeg-made and Canadian-made,” Howard says. “There have been roadblocks, of course, and there will always be a cheaper product available that’s made elsewhere. But as we celebrate our 82nd year in business, we’re finding that local is actually important to our customer. People love knowing that they can actually tour the factory where their gloves were made.” 

A person's hands holding a pair of yellow mittens, feeding them into a sewing machine.

Garbage Mitts®: A Canadian Classic

Over the years, Raber has manufactured gloves and mitts for movies, the RCMP and the Department of Defence, but its best-known product is perhaps the one with the oddest name. Raber Garbage Mitts®—so called because they were originally worn by Winnipeg garbage collectors in the 1950s—are a perennial top seller and an indispensable piece of cold-weather gear. 

Howard Raber knows the mitts’ reputation is well deserved. “Their popularity isn’t based on advertising and merchandising. People grew up with Garbage Mitts. Everyone wore them. They’re a basic. They’re just a great quality Canadian-made product that will always serve you well in the winter.”

Garbage Mitts® make a great holiday gift for everyone on your list.

Find them online or at a CAA Store near you.