May 27, 2024

Brown Shoes to close after 57 years in Upper Arlington – The Columbus Dispatch

Jeff and Patty Brown, owners of Brown Shoes in Upper Arlington, plan to retire in January, bringing to an end nearly six decades of their family’s shoe store at 2108 Tremont Center.
Jeff Brown’s father, Bayard Brown, founded the store with his wife, Marjorie, in 1964.
Jeff Brown, 67, worked at the store in high school and college and at other retailers including Lazarus before returning to the store in 1988. He bought the business from his father before his father passed away in 1990.
In 32 years of running the show, Jeff, who was born and raised in Upper Arlington, has seen first-hand the shift of retail from in-store to online.
“The number of shoe dogs around central Ohio has dropped dramatically,” he said. “At one time Columbus was a major shoe hub.”
Independent, traditional “sit-and-fit” shoe stores are a “dying breed,” said Brown, whose announcement comes a year after Easton Shoes, also in Upper Arlington, closed after 67 years in business.
With the rise of online shopping, Brown Shoes has had to adapt by offering more inventory and better customer service, Brown said.
“We used to say brands come and brands go and our name stays on the door,” he said. “Well, this is the last time we’re gonna walk out and close the door.”
When Brown Shoes opened, the shop was primarily a children’s shoe store frequented by school kids from nearby Tremont Elementary School and Upper Arlington High School, Jeff Brown said. This was the 1960s and ’70s, before leather shoes were largely replaced by tennis shoes in schools.
Upper Arlington:Upper Arlington most expensive suburb in Ohio, according to Travel + Leisure
Longtime customer Jeanne Favret, 71, of Albuquerque, grew up in Upper Arlington and got fitted for saddle shoes at Brown Shoes as a child. She still visits the store when she comes home to visit family, and has shoes shipped to her in New Mexico.
She doesn’t know where she’ll shop now that the store is closing.
“They fit shoes, they measure, and they carry all the odd sizes,” said Favret. “They do all that. It’s tremendous service that they offer to people who need unusual things.”
Because Jeff Brown is a licensed pedorthist, closing a store like Brown Shoes could be a big loss for senior citizens and other orthopedic shoe customers. Orthotics and prosthetics facilities may be able to fill the gap, Brown said, but many times their shoes are special order, and they don’t readily carry the inventory and variety of shoes Brown Shoes does.
The store carries Clarks, New Balance, Sebago and Easy Spirit, as well as less common brands like Drew, Daniel Green, L.B. Evans, SAS and more.
“We’re the largest supplier of footwear to senior citizens in Franklin County,” said Jeff Brown. “And so all the people with disabilities that are in walkers and wheelchairs and orthotics and braces, they come through my door.”
The Browns have been eying retirement for a while now, but the coronavirus pandemic pushed those plans back by a year. Brown Shoes was fortunate to be able to survive the pandemic and end on a high note, said Jeff Brown.
Patty Brown said she will miss the customers, and Jeff Brown said that business in the last few weeks since their announcement has been going especially well, with longtime customers and former employees coming by to express their appreciation.
“I had a guy come in the other day, worked for my mom and dad like 40-some years ago,” said Jeff Brown. “He wanted to come in and just see what the place looked like and say thank you.”
The couple is gradually winding down their inventory, and in-stock merchandise will be discounted. Special orders will be taken at full price.
Jeff Brown is grateful for customers’ support over the years, providing a livelihood for three generations of his family. At 67, he’s now older than his father was when he passed away and doesn’t want to leave the burden of closing the business on his wife.
Over the years the Browns have only been able to travel when the business allowed, and not at all in the last two-and-a-half years because of the pandemic. Now they will get to do much more of that and spend more time with their grandkids in West Virginia. They also plan to get involved with local charities in their retirement.
“It’s time for us to take the money off the shelf and put it in our pocket and go sit in the sun,” Brown said. “It’s time to enjoy the fruits of our labor.”
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