Biz Beat

After 33 years in business, Modesto’s Shoe Box stores closing in Vintage Faire Mall

See the closing sale at Shoe Box in Modesto’s Vintage Faire Mall

Modesto, CA’s Shoe Box and Shoe Box For Men stores in Vintage Faire Mall are closing. The shoe selling business opened in 1986 and is still family owned and operated. A liquidation sale is underway.
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Modesto, CA’s Shoe Box and Shoe Box For Men stores in Vintage Faire Mall are closing. The shoe selling business opened in 1986 and is still family owned and operated. A liquidation sale is underway.

After making feet happy for the last 33 years, the family-owned Shoe Box in Vintage Faire Mall is closing.

Started by Modesto businessman Ron Fox in 1986, the store operates the side-by-side shops Shoe Box and Shoe Box For Men on the mall’s second floor. But now, second-generation owners Steve and Chris Fox and their families have decided it’s time to lace things up for good.

The culprit? Steve Fox said many factors led to their declining sales and the ultimate decision to shutter the store, particularly changing consumer trends and increased online shopping. In short, in a time when even national brick-and-mortar retailers are having difficulties, a locally owned family store like Shoe Box just couldn’t compete with the Amazons and Zapposes of this world.

“We’ve had multiple generations of customers, and we’ve had the best customers in the world,” Steve Fox said. “But in recent years, the last two specifically, we’ve seen a sharp decline in sales. The recent trends we’re seeing in retail world is that other businesses like ours are struggling these days. And malls in all of America don’t have the foot traffic they once did.”

Instead, in the last few years, the Foxes said, they have seen more and more people come into the stores to try on shoes, only to leave and say they were buying them online. They said people treated the shops as showrooms, testing out the models and then looking for better deals elsewhere.

Still, the Fox brothers said being able to serve valley customers for more than three decades has been an honor. Just like they’ve brought in their kids and nieces and nephews to work in the store, customers have brought in the next generation of shoppers and their kids.

“My dad said from Day 1 that this is going to be a place where you greet, seat and measure feet,” said Chris Fox. “When people come in, (we want to) make them feel like family, like they are coming into your house ... We don’t ask what size and hand you a shoe. We get down on the floor and put the shoes on you.”

The shoe seller was one of a handful of independently owned stores remaining in Vintage Faire Mall. Through the years, the shop was known for carrying high-quality European and domestic comfort shoe brands ranging from Birkenstock to Ecco, Taos to Danske. And it remains one of the only sellers in the area offering some of those brands and styles.

The store is expected to stay open through early to mid-July, but Steve Fox said closure could be sooner depending on inventory. Both stores are liquidating all of their merchandise and fixtures. On the first day of the sale last Friday, they had a line stretching well out the door waiting for it to open.

Shoe Box opened in 1986 in what is today the food court, and has moved to a couple other locations in the mall. The accompanying Shoe Box For Men opened in 2002. Then in 2006, Ron Fox, who is now 82 and retired, sold the store to his sons Steve and Chris. That same year, the shops moved next door to one another in their current locations.

Currently, about half the 10-person staff is family. Steve Fox, 62, and Chris Fox, 56, said they aren’t sure what their next step is after the stores close. They said they looked into opening outside of the mall, but it isn’t an option for them.

“Three generations of shoe people within one family have been doing this for 33 years,” Steve Fox said. “Customers have been coming in and saying, ‘My grandmother first started shopping here, then my mom, and now I’m a customer. I don’t know where I’m going to get my shoes.’”

For more information on the closure, visit www.facebook.com/ShoeBoxVFM.

Elsewhere around the Business Beat:

Looking for a summer job? Or want to find a job for your summer vacationing teenager who is lounging around the house and sleeping in until noon every day?

You’re in luck. Both Panda Express and Sprouts Farmers Market are hiring hundreds of positions this summer. A representative for Panda Express said the restaurant chain plans to hire 180 positions between its Modesto, Manteca and Stockton locations. A walk-in hiring event will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 12, at the Manteca Panda Express at 1467 Hulsey Way. People not able to attend can still apply online at www.pandacareers.com.

Sprouts supermarket is hiring some 1,700 positions across its 300 stores nationwide. The grocery chain has a store in Modesto’s McHenry Village. Job seekers must be at least 16 years old. Applications are also being accepted online at sprouts.com/careers.

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Marijke Rowland writes about new business, restaurant and retail developments. She has been with The Modesto Bee since 1997 covering a variety of topics including arts and entertainment. Her Business Beat column runs midweek and Sundays. And it’s pronounced Mar-eye-ke.

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