MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Lake Street landmark is getting ready to close its doors — much to the disappointment of its loyal customers.
Roberts Shoe Store and its iconic green and white sign has been a staple on corner of Lake Street and Chicago Avenue for 77 years. More than 2 million pairs of shoes have been sold during that time.
Mark Simon took over the business from his father-in-law, Nate Roberts, who purchased the store in 1937. It hit its stride when it started offering hard-to-find widths and sizes.
From sizes 5 to 20 and every width in between, it’s been the only place in town to find hard-to-find sizes.
“We are a multi-generational store. We have people coming in here in their 70s, who remember coming in with their grandfather who was born in the 1800s. They bought shoes in the late 30s and early 40s. They’re all coming in now with grandchildren or great grandchildren,” Simon said. “All of the people who’ve been coming in over the last few days, without exception, are coming because they’ve been loyal customers over the years.”
Roberts Shoe Store isn’t so much a business, but a family. The store has been fitting generations of neighborhood kids as well as local athletes and celebrities.
Musician Jerome Benton started shopping at Roberts in the 80s as his band, The Time, broke into the national scene.
“One of my first pairs of Stacy Adams — brand new Stacy’s — were bought here,” Benton said. “When we came here for our footwear, they always answer the calls. They had cool colors, very consistent customer service. I happen to be in town just now and saw they were closing. I knew I had to come over here to say goodbye.”
Simon said the writing was on the wall. When the store opened 77 years ago, Lake Street was home to 35 shoe stores. The Mall of America has roughly the same amount right now.
Growing competition from the malls and internet sales Simon is going out of business on his own terms.
“I’ve been thinking about it for five years, but I really wanted to keep everyone working,” Simon said.
He’s the store’s youngest employee. Everyone has been selling shoes or clothes their entire careers.
“I wanted to keep the family working,” he said, “that was one of the main things that kept me motivated for the last five years.”
Simon owns the building and will start to look for a new tenant.