Biz Beat

Thirty years of ‘Greet, seat and measure feet’

Thirty years ago, gas cost under $1 per gallon. “Top Gun” inspired thousands to sign up for the Navy. Lionel Richie sang “Say You, Say Me.”

And Ron Fox opened the Shoe Box at Vintage Faire Mall.

The store, which has expanded into an adjacent location aimed at men’s shoes, recently celebrated its 30th birthday. Fox, who retired about 12 years ago, came back to commemorate the event with his sons Steve and Chris, who run the store.

“We were the little kid on the block,” Steve Fox said of those early years, when 21 shoe stores had spaces in the mall. “We slowly built our customer base over time.”

Many of those other shoe retailers have gone the way of big shoulder pads and pegged jeans. But the Shoe Box remains, one of the lone independents to thrive in a mall environment. The key, the Foxes said, is to be open to change and to pay attention to what customers want.

“Our goal is to provide a unique shopping experience,” Steve Fox said. That even goes down to the men’s side and the women’s side of the store. Shari Fox, Steve’s wife, handles the visual merchandising and interior design. The women’s side is light and airy, designed to make you feel like you’re almost in the French countryside. Men, next door, shop in an environment meant to model a den, heavy on the wood accents.

The Shoe Box remains a family business, with members of the third generation now joining the ranks of employees.

“Almost any time you come in, someone related to a Fox is here,” Chris said.

The family has weathered challenges from big box stores, the Great Recession, and most recently, the internet.

It’s not unusual for people to buy online, even after coming in to independent retailers and finding the shoes — or coats, or whatever — that fit. But the Foxes believe the customer service they pride themselves in is valuable, and people are starting to realize that.

“It’s been exciting to reinvent ourselves,” Steve Fox said.

Of course, like a good pair of riding boots, some things will always be in style.

For the Foxes, that means “Greet, seat and measure feet.” That was Ron’s mantra, and something his sons teach their staff. Rather than just going in the back to look for a certain size, the staff measures the customers’ feet and gets to know their needs.

“Some things never change,” Steve Fox said.

Elsewhere around the Business Beat:

In my column earlier this week on Black Friday/Thursday shopping, I neglected to include the website for Vintage Faire Mall. That’s where you can find the shopping center’s holiday hours, marketing manager Annie Amies said. Those are always subject to change, depending on shopping habits as the holidays approach.

You can find updated information at Extended hours begin Dec. 10, though festivities start far ahead of that, with Santa arriving Nov. 2.