A Walk to Remember
School almost always called for a shoe/sneaker hybrid, and I would actually count the days before I could get a pair by Travel Fox or Timberland. For my gift pair, just as every kid in urban America, my dreams for months on end were consumed with the possibility of unwrapping and smelling a fresh pair of J's. As for Easter, it had to be a pair of white bucks.
And, from my recollection, they were ALL bought at Walk-Rite Shoes. And now I have to write that the store that served as the place to buy shoes for so many of us as children will be closing its doors within the next 2-3 months.
The current version of the store dates back to 1948 when the father of Ron Weisenthal, Mo Weisenthal, bought the store from its owners. It remained a mainstay on Halsey Street for decades, occupying a few different store fronts selling basic shoes for children amidst the larger department stores. It wasn't until Ron took over the store in 1971, when he was only 21, that the store began to offer more stylized and fashionable shoes for children. And but for an addition of a big & tall section for women, the store has stayed true to its vision of selling basic and fashionable shoes for children with a strong emphasis on customer service and education.
It is this education on the proper fit as well as the closeness with customers that has carried Ron and the team this far. He even made a video on it (http://youtu.be/ZBcvnLLSye8). During our interview, Ron was very wistful about coming to the store for the past 45 years and being on a 1st name basis with so many customers. He repeated himself throughout our conversation with quotes such as: "We've had the nicest customers that anyone could have," "Three generations of customers," "Concerned and considerate customers." He went on to highlight how even people passing him at the airport would yell out, "Hey, Ronnie!" or "Yo, Walk-Rite!"
With the changes in shoe and retail shopping culture, the store will change its focus to a online retailers such as Amazon and eBay, while also offering a traditional experience at flea markets.
As I met with Ron, customer after customer came in to give their thanks and to reminisce about the past. With a smile, Ron just wanted to stress the importance of shoes for children that properly fit and even the care of a skilled podiatrist in extreme cases. As I walked out of the door, he reminded me, "You can buy cheaper clothes, but you NEED better shoes."
With all of the boots on the ground in our city, we couldn't agree more.
For the going out of business sale currently going on, you may visit:
Walk-Rite Shoes889 Broad St, Newark, NJ 07102