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Finding Minnesota: Randall’s 90-Year-Old ‘Shoe Lady’

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(credit: CBS) Mike Binkley
Mike Binkley has been covering Minnesota news for more than 25 year...
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RANDALL, Minn. (WCCO) — Radio listeners in central Minnesota occasionally hear a voice that’s so unexpected and so unconventional, they have to stop and listen.

It’s the sweet, grandmotherly voice of Lenore Olson, selling shoes and boots just a few weeks before her 90th birthday.

“Hi, I’m Lenore from Bermel’s,” the ad begins. “When you put on your insulated boots this morning, weren’t you thankful?”

Olson is known around the region as The Shoe Lady.

She visits a radio studio every few weeks, reading ad copy she wrote herself for Bermel’s Shoes in Randall.

The store owner, Tim Koenig, said the ads have been effective.

“People come in looking for her,” he said, (asking) ‘is there really a Shoe Lady?”

There really is a Shoe Lady, and she not only pitches footwear on the radio, she’s been working in the store for 43 years.

“You’re going to live in (the shoes), so make sure they’re comfortable to you,” Olson said to one customer.

She’s on the move, working nine-hour shifts two or three days a week. Many visitors wouldn’t think of disappointing this great, great grandmother by leaving the story empty-handed.

“She’s kind of a pushy salesperson,” said Koenig with a laugh, “but she can get away with it.”

She first started working at Bermel’s in 1971, a middle-aged mother of five.

“Why should I quit?” she said. “My husband passed away. (Should I) sit home and look at the four walls? I’d rather talk to people.”

Olson likes to say, “if you rest, you rust,” which is why she doesn’t do much resting. She still drives to and from work, and she still mows her own lawn in the summertime.

If you have a Finding Minnesota idea for us, let us know here.

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