Footwear Plus | August 2023

Page 10







10 And the Brand Plays On

Noah Wheeler, CEO of Samuel Hubbard, on how the company hasn’t missed a beat since the sudden passing of its legendary founder.

16 Spring/Summer ’24 Forecast

There’s a strong chance of heavy Barbiecore pink, plenty of chunky constructions, and some twists on classic silhouettes.

26 Stan the Man

For more than 50 years, Stanley Eisenman, owner of the eponymous boutique chain in Fort Worth, TX, has been hitting it out of the park with top-notch service and an unbeatable selection.

34 New Wave

Mermaidcore washes ashore this spring rich in iridescent materials, alluring oceanic shades, and scale-like textural details.

Belinda Pina


Greg Dutter

Editorial Director

Nancy Campbell

Trevett McCandliss

Creative Directors


Kathy Passero Editor at Large

Kathleen O’Reilly

Fashion Editor

Ann Loynd Burton

Contributing Editor

Melodie Jeng

Marcy Swingle

Contributing Photographers


Noelle Heffernan Sales Director

Laurie Guptill

Production Manager

Kathy Wenzler

Circulation Director

Catherine Rosario

Office Manager

Mike Hoff

Digital Director


Carroll Dowden


Mark Dowden

President & CEO

Steven J. Resnick

Vice President & CFO



One Maynard Drive Park Ridge, NJ 07656

Tel: (201) 571-2244

Advertising: Belinda.

Editorial: Greg.Dutter@

On cover: Satin platform sandals by Dee Ocleppo

Photographer: Mark Andrew; stylist: Mariah Walker/ Art Department; fashion editor: Kathleen O’Reilly; model: Kate Demianova/Supreme Management; hair and makeup: Clelia Bergonzoli/Ray Brown; digital tech: Chris Wert.


One Maynard Drive Park Ridge, NJ 07656 Tel: (201) 571-2244

2 • august 2023
FOOTWEAR PLUS ™ (ISSN#1054-898X) The fashion magazine of the footwear industry is published monthly (except for bimonthly April/May and October/November editions) by Wainscot Media, One Maynard Drive, Park Ridge, NJ, 07656. The publishers of this magazine do not accept responsibility for statements made by their advertisers in business competition. Periodicals postage paid at Mahwah, NJ, and additional mailing offices. Subscription price for one year: $48 in the U.S. Rates outside the U.S. are available upon request. Single copy price: $10. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to FOOTWEAR PLUS, PO Box 300, Lincolnshire, IL 60069-0300. Publisher not responsible for unsolicited articles or photos. Any photographs, artwork, manuscripts, editorial samples or merchandise sent for editorial consideration are sent at the sole risk of the sender. Wainscot Media will assume no responsibility for loss or damage. No portion of this issue may be reproduced without the written permission of the publisher. ©2008 by Wainscot Media. Printed in the United States.
Iridescent indoor/outdoor platform mule by Dearfoams 4 Editor’s Note 6 This Just In: Paris 8 Scene & Heard 32 A Note to My Younger Self Shoe Salon DEPARTMENTS
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Never Surrender

EVERYONE FACES ADVERSITY in life, from overcoming expected hurdles like passing your driver’s test to being dealt unforeseen and devastating blows that can threaten to knock you down for the count. It’s how you respond to the inevitable blows that determines whether you’ll survive over the long haul. Can you pick yourself up off the mat, get your legs back under you, and keep pressing forward in the pursuit of your dreams? Austrian writer Rainer Maria Rilke captured the idea perfectly in the quote above, from his classic poem “Go to the Limits of Your Longing.”

Samuel Hubbard got hit with just such a blow when the premium comfort company unexpectedly lost its founder—shoe industry legend, Bruce Katz—in June 2022. As CEO Noah Wheeler discusses in our Q&A (p. 10), the initial shock of Katz’s passing knocked the company off its collective feet. Katz was the soul of the brand, and while he had already passed the reins to newly appointed CEO Wheeler six months prior in order to focus on his passion for product development, no one was fully prepared for such a loss. It’s as if the E Street Band suddenly had to continue a tour without Bruce Springsteen. Samuel Hubbard’s brand leader—its spark and guiding light—suddenly went dark. The way the company has responded since is an inspiring example of resilience and determination to press forward and honor Katz’s vision. Wheeler, a former professional musician who joined Samuel Hubbard as controller during its start-up phase in 2015, has kept the band together, and added a few industry rock stars. It’s exactly what the maverick entrepreneur would have wanted.

Next up in this issue’s never surrender theme is our profile (p. 26) of Stanley Eisenman, owner of the eponymous Fort Worth, TX-based boutique chain. Over the course of Eisenman’s 50-plus years in shoe retailing, he has overcome all kinds of adversity. But he admits to being knocked off his feet by a first-of-its-kind blow a few months ago. It came in the form of a Dear John letter: Eisenman’s top-selling account of the past five years told him the partnership was over. They cited no specific reasons, such as late payments. (There were none, Eisenman assures.) When he reached out directly, the rep gave him a vague statement about the company going in a different direction. The

brand even offered to buy back Eisenman’s remaining inventory—and to cover the freight costs.

Initially, Eisenman was overcome with fear that Stanley Eisenman Shoes would not survive the divorce, which he expects will be completed by early fall, once he clears out remaining inventory. Finding a replacement is one thing; having to fill the sales vacuum left by a runaway (hint, hint) top-selling brand is next level adversity. But Eisenman hasn’t survived this long by picking losers. His track record for getting behind the industry’s up-and-coming winners is impressive. And there’s more to his retail longevity than that. It’s Eisenman’s genuine love of all things shoe retailing—specifically his passion for delivering top-notch, old-school customer service—that fuels his long-term success. At age 72, he can still be found in his two stores six days a week, spending the majority of his time on the floor doing what he loves most: presenting his unique assortment of brands and styles (“my babies,” as he calls them) to a loyal clientele that spans generations. Eisenman has no intention of quitting any time soon. He still has “some fight in him” and “some good ideas.” It’s an inspiring story.

Brad Gebhard, CEO of Propét Footwear and the latest participant in our A Note to My Younger Self series (p. 32), and Lori Andre, who is celebrating her 40th anniversary as owner of the boutique chain Lori’s Shoes, based in the Chicago area (p. 9), are two more examples of refusing to surrender in the face of adversity. Gebhard, a former member of the U.S. National Cycling Team, recalls the moment when Olympic hopefuls among his teammates were dealt a soul-crushing blow by President Carter’s decision to boycott the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow. It taught Gebhard a key life lesson in survival. (Read the letter to find out more.) Meanwhile, Andre reflects on myriad factors that have contributed to her stores’ longevity. Essentially, she says it boils down to stubbornness: “I hate losing.”

The fact is, everyone featured in our pages, in every issue, has overcome adversity. As we all know, the shoe business is tough. It’s not for the meek of heart. The pace is relentless and the competition fierce. I admire the tremendous resilience that resides deep within all of you and drives you to persevere in the face of formidable odds. To quote the modern-day poet Bono: And you can dream/So dream out loud/ And don’t let the bastards grind you down. —Acrobat

4 • august 2023 EDITOR’S NOTE Poetic Justice

Paris Potpourri

A mélange of styles reflects a casual but trés chic sensibility.

Photography by Melodie Jeng

6 • august 2023

If You Build It…

America’s first sneaker business and culture academy opens in Brooklyn.

IT’S BEEN FIVE YEARS in the making, delayed by Covid, but not denied. The SOLEcial Studies CommUNITY Academy (SSCA) dream has finally come true for founders Sean Williams and DeJongh “Dee” Wells of Obsessive Sneaker Disorder (OSD), a multi-media and marketing company that works with clients in the footwear and fashion industries. The academy’s two other founding partners are DJ, music producer, and composer Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest, Lucy Pearl, and Midnight Hour fame, and Heeling Soles, a 501c3 charitable organization that collects donated new and used sneakers, coats, and living supplies to those in need as well as works in local communities to address bullying, gang affiliation, crime, and food insecurities.

Williams says it’s a dream team fulfilling their collective dream in the heart of sneaker culture, the Dumbo section of Brooklyn. The academy will serve as the community-based headquarters for OSD’s SOLEcial Studies sneaker education program, launched in 2011, and its mission to educate and empower people to learn about and actively seek out careers in the athletic footwear industry, particularly in non-creative areas. OSD has expanded its in-person and online curriculum to include courses about intellectual property, business networking, Web 3 technology, and NIL (Name, Image, and Likeness). The academy will also serve as a content creation studio where sneaker- and music-themed programming will be recorded in audio and video formats, as well as a certified donation point on behalf of Heeling Soles.

“We want to give people of all ages in our community a chance to tap into this $100-billion industry, and we want to give back as often as we can,” says Williams, noting that the initial response has been great. “It’s been a ‘build it and they will come’ scenario. We built it, our partners are standing with us, and people are already making the pilgrimage.”

As for academy highlights, Williams starts with the Web 3 technology-enabled Library of Laces. All the books are managed in a blockchain with NFTs tied to them. “We also have an artist feature wall, which will allow

us to feature a new artist every two months,” he says. “There’s a sneaker exhibition wall that will change themes each month, as well. The SSCA is also a content creator space where we’ll be producing sneaker-themed podcasts [OSD launched the industry’s first sneaker talk show podcast in 2007] and masterclass style content.” Williams adds that students can also take a course on networking and building business relationships for success. “People generally really need that one, especially after what Covid did to social interaction,” he says, noting that more than 100 alumni of the SOLEcial Studies program have found work in the sneaker and fashion industries since its launching. “Everything OSD endeavors to achieve in the sneaker industry is directly tied to our mantra: Appreciate, Educate, Elevate.”

Now about SCAA’s Dumbo digs. Williams says the location and the facilities are ideal. “We’re based in one of the best neighborhoods in all of New York for food, art, fashion, and film,” he says. “We’ll be taking full advantage of that by doing photo shoots for small fashion and footwear brands to help them with their look

books. We also have an event space that will allow us to hold small conventions and award shows.” There’s also a hometown factor for the founders. “I was born and raised in Brooklyn, Dee has family here, and Ali Shaheed is also from Brooklyn,” he says. “Steve Muir (president/ cofounder) of Heeling Soles also does a lot of work in Brooklyn, so this is really important for us to do this for the ‘home team.’”

On that note, Williams says one of the initial goals for the SSCA is to become the hub for area schools and organizations that, for years, have been elusive to SOLEcial Studies. “We’ve always been a ‘have sneakers will travel’ kind of program, and there is an urgent need to be centralized and serve people in our beloved New York,” he says. As for looking further out, Williams says the goal, in five years, is to offer classes for free to anyone. That means securing financial sponsors. Until then, the SCAA’s work is self-financed and available for a fee to the public. “Removing the fiscal barrier for everyone would take us to heights we’ve been dreaming of since we started SOLEcial Studies,” Williams says. Adds Muhammad, “There’s no better place to establish a facility of opportunity, a place where people can learn and have access to the global sneaker industry. This school will be the jump off to transforming lives.”

8 • august 2023 SCENE & HEARD
Clockwise from top left: Dee Wells, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Steve Muir, and Sean Williams. Below: The Dumbo digs.

Lori’s Shoes Celebrates 40th Anniversary

LORI ANDRE, FOUNDER and owner Lori’s Shoes, is having a moment. Well, a month of many, to be precise. The three-store chain (one in Chicago and two in surrounding suburbs) is commemorating its 40th anniversary in style this August with a series of events and initiatives to engage with customers and express gratitude for their longstanding support. The festivities include exclusive anniversary discounts on a wide range of shoes, accessories, and clothing, allowing customers to embrace their personal style without breaking the bank; giveaways; and partnering with local organizations and charities that align with Lori’s Shoes’ values and enable the business to give back to the community that has supported it over the years.

Andre describes her 40-year run as a journey of entrepreneurship, tons of cool shoes, and thousands of loyal customers. The pulse of Chicago and incredible employees are a key part of that journey, as well. Asked what she is most proud of, Andre says it’s of being in business for 40 years. “It’s no easy feat, given that over the last 40 years there have been many hurdles that have stood in our way,” she says. “Yet, we’ve been able to get around those and maintain our success.” In fact, Andre attributes Lori’s Shoes longevity most to her stubbornness—in a good way. “I think my personality is such that I hate losing,” she says. “Seriously, my entrepreneurial spirit has helped me tremendously along the way. I also believe that our curated product assortment and shopping environment have definitely helped contribute to our success and longevity.”

Lori’s Shoes has established itself as a destination for fashionable footwear, accessories, and clothing. The chain has built a reputation for being a step ahead in what its customers—who span women of all ages—want next. A recipient of a Plus Award for retail excellence in the Boutique category this year, Andre credited the recognition to being so in tune with the pulse of its business. “We’re in a unique position because we can be proactive as well as reactive,” she says. “We know how to manage the

business from costs and margins perspectives, we have capital to buy merchandise, we react quickly to trends, we have a unique selection, and we provide great customer service.” Andre adds, “Just living, breathing, and eating this business every day is what’s made us successful over the years.”

Flashback to 1983, however, and Andre had no expectations that she’d still be at it 40 years later. The thought never even entered her mind then. “At the time, I was 23 years old

and didn’t know what to expect!” she says. “I bet, though, that I was thinking I’d still have the rest of my life to earn a living. So I wasn’t opposed to taking the risk.”

An optimist by nature, Andre believes Lori’s Shoes will continue its successful journey. The company remains committed to its founding principles of quality, style, and exceptional customer service in its stores and online. “As long as I seek out great product that I know our customers want, I’ll remain optimistic,” she says, adding, “I continue to love what I do, and have a strong passion for it. I’m just as motivated and enthusiastic today as I was 40 years ago.”

The Chicago-based women’s boutique chain is holding a month-long party for loyal customers.
Sitting pretty: Lori Andre and a few of her dear friends.



IT WAS SUDDEN. It was shocking. The passing of Samuel Hubbard founder Bruce Katz in June of last year, following a fall in his home, could have spelled the end of the premium comfort brand. Katz, for all intents and purposes, was Samuel Hubbard, the company he founded in 2014 and which marked his triumphant reentry into the footwear industry decades after he cofounded The Rockport Company with his father. Katz, a thirdgeneration shoemaker, was an industry legend. He was a visionary entrepreneur, a category creator (fitness walking), a marketing maverick, and, perhaps above all, a product genius whose resume includes Rockport’s iconic RocSport and Pro Walker styles.

Katz possessed boundless enthusiasm for launching companies from the soles up, including The Well, an online community, and The Republic of Tea, makers and sellers of more than 350 varieties, during his 25-year shoe industry hiatus. He innovated, broke industry norms, inspired thousands, sailed around the world, and succeeded enormously. Few would have been surprised if the company had packed it in with his passing.

Not so fast. Katz had a knack for attracting people with a similar entrepreneurial spirit. They are dreamers, passionate about the company and filled with can-do spirit. They don’t cower in the face of adversity. Katz encouraged them to get involved in all aspects of the business, if so inclined. As a result, many are as experienced as they are talented. Above all, they have deep ownership stakes in Samuel Hubbard, just like Katz did. They weren’t willing to pack it in. Nor would Katz have wanted them to.

Take CEO Noah Wheeler, for example. The exec joined Samuel Hubbard in early 2016 as Controller. The previous year, Wheeler had been working for an accounting firm in San Francisco and was assigned to help Katz manage his personal finances. The shoe guru took a liking to Wheeler, so he offered him the position and, equally enticing, the opportunity to join his fast-growing start-up.

“I didn’t know anything about shoes at the time, but the company

10 • august 2023
Noah Wheeler, CEO of Samuel Hubbard, on how the company hasn’t missed a beat since the sudden passing of its legendary founder.

wasn’t your average start-up [Katz was a known industry leader with solid funding], and in getting to know Bruce, I thought he was a really good person and what he was building seemed very exciting,” Wheeler says. “So I just went for it. It was an exciting opportunity to get in on the ground and grow with the company. Plus, I didn’t want to work in tech; I liked the idea of working with consumer products—something real.”

Wheeler has done just that. In early 2018, he was promoted to Vice President of Finance and then, in January of 2022, to CEO. Along the way, he got his hands in a lot of different buckets. “That’s one of the things that was so great about Bruce,” he says. “I got to learn about all the different aspects of the business, including marketing, technology, finance, and product.” It’s been a wild ride, Wheeler adds. “Early on, there was a lot of fast growth, because Bruce knew exactly what he wanted to do and wasn’t hindered by financing,” he says. “We invested millions in marketing to get our brand out there, which included print advertising and catalogs, digital advertising, building up our marketing team, and multi-channel distribution. To be a part of all that has been really fun.”

Wheeler’s extensive experience helped prepare him for the enormous shock that was to come, as did the fact that he already had six months under his belt as CEO. Nonetheless, Katz was still very involved in the company, especially on the design and product sides, so when he passed, the company faced a crisis. “Initially, the biggest challenge was all of us grieving the loss of Bruce. We’re a small company, and he was just so near and dear to all of us, and his presence was huge,” Wheeler says. “Our next biggest challenge was to fill in the gaps of what he was doing in design and development.”

Fortunately, the industry came through with numerous offers to help Samuel Hubbard in its hour of need. During the brand’s first post-pandemic show last August in Atlanta, Wheeler was touched by the outpouring of support. “We had so many retailers and brand execs come to offer their condolences and support,” he says. “They were excited to see us. I felt like everybody was—and still is—rooting for us.” That includes direct competitors, which may seem surprising, but not to Wheeler. “The one thing I’ve learned about the shoe business is it’s pretty small, relatively. So there’s this overall attitude that we’re all in this together.”

One person in particular has been a lifeline for Samuel Hubbard: Bob Infantino, a close friend of Katz and former CEO of Clarks Companies, N.A. and, more recently, headed The Rockport Company. Infantino, who had consulted on women’s product for Samuel Hubbard in 2018, immediately reached out to Wheeler. This led to

a series of conversations during which Infantino offered advice. A few weeks later, he joined the company as a strategic advisor, focusing on product development. Then, early this year, Infantino helped bring in former Clarks colleagues Steve Mahoney, as senior vice president of sales, and Sally Murphy to head design. “I’m just so grateful to have Bob on board,” Wheeler says. “His product experience coupled with Steve’s focus on rebuilding our retail channels and Sally designing our fall line, which includes our new women’s launch, have been huge. But none of this would have happened without Bob first coming forward to offer his help to get us through this difficult period.” Wheeler is confident the new team will lead Samuel Hubbard to much greater heights. “With our product and sales teams now in place, I’m surrounded by all-stars,” he says. The team has come out swinging. Wheeler reports that Samuel Hubbard is up, year-over-year, in both its wholesale and DTC channels. “We’re persevering and, honestly, we’re stronger than ever,” he says. One of the biggest avenues of growth, he says, is the reestablishment of wholesale relationships as well as opening some new accounts. “Now our

eyes are on fall. We’re offering more new styles for this season than we’ve had before and women’s, in particular, presents a huge opportunity for us. Overall, we’re really optimistic heading into the second half of this year.”

To be up for the year in spite of a challenging environment for the entire industry is impressive. To be up for the year just after losing the heart and soul of the company takes this story to another level. Still, Wheeler isn’t surprised by the company’s ability to absorb the blow and move forward. Rather, he feels a huge sense of accomplishment in the face of extreme and sudden challenges. It gives him confidence about the company’s future. “Every day, every quarter, and every year are going to be challenging,” he says. “Trying to build a brand is never a sure thing, so this accomplishment is just more motivation that we can survive going into another season.”

What are the biggest growth opportunities for Samuel Hubbard going forward?

First off, we’re going to stick to our roots of offering the most comfortable, premium footwear for men and women. That said, the biggest opportunity for


What are you reading? I just finished The Autobiography of Malcolm X. It’s incredible how relevant his story is even today.

What was the last movie you saw? The new Indiana Jones flick with my family, which definitely didn’t disappoint.

What might people be surprised to know about you? That I was a professional musician before I got into business. I played stand-up bass in jazz and rock groups in New York, and I also taught music. It was a lot of grinding and DIY, playing with a lot of different people.

Exactly how did a musician cross over into the business world? Well, after earning my bachelor’s degree in music studies from William Patterson

University, followed by doing the music thing in New York during my early twenties and working various day jobs to get by, I thought about becoming an accountant, which my mom was. I had a knack for numbers and eventually went back to school, attending San Francisco State University, where I earned my master’s in accounting and then got my CPA license. That was my segue into the business world, because I didn’t want to stay just in accounting.

What is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received? To make mistakes often and fast.

Who is your most coveted dinner guest? Continuing on my music background, Miles Davis.

What is inspiring you right now? My two kids, who are seven and 11 years old.

What was your first-ever paying job? I was 14 and I was a busboy in a Chinese restaurant in St. Louis, where I grew up.

What was your first concert and best concert? First was Béla Fleck and the Flecktones. The best was Radiohead on its OK Computer tour when I was in high school.

What do you want to be remembered for most? Being a kind, honest, and inspiring person.

What is your motto? I don’t have a personal one, but our company motto is “making friends one pair at a time.”

What is your favorite hometown memory? Catching fireflies in my backyard.

12 • august 2023 Q&A
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growth is definitely on the women’s side. With men’s, it’s just continuing to make sure that we’re filling all aspects of his wardrobe. A lot of brands, including us, went really casual during and post-Covid, but now we’re seeing a resurgence of dress and hybrid dress-comfort shoes. So we’re going to continue to make sure we are fulfilling every need in his closet. Retail distribution is going to be key for us to growing the brand over the next few years, as well. For starters, not everybody wants to buy shoes online. I do not believe stores will dry up entirely. We’re going through a massive reorganization—more of an evolution, really—of what retail will look like, so we must continue to be a part of that evolution and make sure that we’re meeting all of our customers, wherever they’re shopping, be that at local mom and pop shops, Zappos, Nordstrom, or on our site. We’ve got to make sure that we’re in all those key places and that our brand experience is congruent throughout all those channels. It’s a big challenge, but it’s also a big opportunity.

You noted an emphasis on reestablishing as well as opening new wholesale accounts. Does that mark a shift from the company’s more recent focus on DTC?

First, I don’t think we ever intentionally turned our backs on our wholesale business, but I do think we lacked a consistent strategy over the years. Secondly, I think that for our brand, just like many other brands, the DTC business can be very deceptive. On the one hand, the margins are big and you’re dealing with customers directly, so there has been this notion that some wholesale channels are competing with our DTC. But that is just the most incorrect way to think about it. Our new approach is to not see them as separate channels. It’s all about

growing our brand in these channels together. So we’re now approaching these wholesale partnerships as the opposite of competing with our DTC channel. We view our retail partnerships moving forward as helping to strengthen all the channels. At the end of the day, we need to get shoes on people’s feet, and we want to spread awareness of our brand and keep our customers happy. As long as we’re partnering with retailers who share that philosophy and want to work with us to present the brand in the right way and offer the right customer service, then that’s going to help all our businesses grow.

Most retailers are resigned to brands’ DTC efforts, but having to compete on price and, worse, potentially coming across like the bad guy with their customers is what really—and rightfully—ticks them off. They can lose a customer forever over such a scenario.

A lot of it comes down to communication, and that’s what we’re working really hard on now. For example, if we put anything on our site on closeout or a markdown, we let our retailers know in advance. We’ll also offer margin assistance on their remaining stock and will work with them to make sure that they sell through their inventory. It’s about making sure we’re being fair and extra-communicative with anything that can impact our retailers. On that note, we believe there’s a huge opportunity for us to compete for shelf space, not just in regard to having better product but also on the service that we offer our retail partners. And that includes being fair and honest, paying attention to their needs, making sure that they have good margins, maintaining MAP, making sure our product is up to date, creating marketing programs that drive customers into their stores…just making sure we’re doing everything in


our power to help them succeed. That we’re going above and beyond to make sure that we are all succeeding.

Even Nike has seemed to pull back on its DTC focus of late. Perhaps brands aren’t better off trying to go it entirely alone.

Exactly. I think a lot of brands are realizing that. In hindsight, it was foolish for them to turn their back on brick-and-mortar partners. I don’t know what they were thinking. That, in three years, 90 percent of consumers would be buying shoes strictly online? It’s not happening. But now it’s about who’s going to actually walk the walk. Are they going to actually implement the right policies and philosophies to actually partner with retailers in the way that’s needed to be successful? Also, will they stand by them? I guess we’ll find out.

Still, numerous retailers have been receiving Dear John letters of late from brands announcing the end of their partnership without much explanation other than the decision to move in another direction.

That’s insanity! It’s also a great example of not meeting all your customers where they’re shopping. In addition, it’s continuing this fallacy that the business will come straight to your DTC if you cut out other channels. That’s really, really rare. Even DTC brands that started online have been opening stores.

How is the new women’s collection different than previous efforts by Samuel Hubbard?

approach overall. Right now, we’re trying to find who our women’s customer is. Some of that involves experimentation and releasing a range of styles. So over the next couple of seasons, we’ll be trying different things to see what gains traction. That said, overall, she’s going to be very similar to our men’s customer, which is a 35-plus person who lives an active lifestyle and is looking for superior quality and comfort.

You basically described what 30 other comfort brands would have. I know! (Laughs) We’re just going to have to do it better—just like we’ve done in men’s. We’ve proven to those loyal customers that our shoes are simply better. They’re more comfortable, supportive, longer-lasting, and better crafted. Now we’ve got to prove that to our future women’s customers. The difference there, though, is we have to be slightly more on-trend. While we’re going to stay rooted in classics, we’ve got to push a little bit more on making sure we’re on-trend in colors, materials, etc. And just like with the men’s closet, we need to make sure we’re meeting all her wardrobe needs, whether is just a versatile dress-up/dress-down clog, like we’re working on for early next spring, or classic boots made in the Hubbard fashion of being super lightweight, comfortable, and supportive.

Might the brand have more receptiveness to women because it’s largely unknown among that demographic?

It could be an advantage. We’ll see. I know Steve and I are super-excited to show the collection this month in Atlanta. The feedback, so far, has been really >46



The new black lives on to tell its cheerful tale.

Diba 16 • august 2023
2023 august • 17
Javi Remonte


Thick around the middle never looked so good.

TREND SPOTTING 18 • august 2023
S P R I N G 2 0 2 4 for wholesale inquiries, please contact 800.775.7852, ATLANTA SHOE MARKET | AUG 12-14 | BOOTHS 1217-1320


Barbiecore pink’s second cousin makes the scene.

Alegria Lamo
20 • august 2023


Deep side grooves add textural appeal.

2023 august • 21
Azura Cougar 4cccccees


Deck shoes and loafers for the easy, breezy seasons.

TREND SPOTTING 22 • august 2023
Florsheim Propét Twisted X Ambitious Allen Edmonds Clarks

Bold flatforms for that sturdy lift.

2023 august • 23
Alegria Naot Remonte


The prim and proper classic slingback is on the menu.

TREND SPOTTING 24 • august 2023
NeroGiardini Stivali Brunate Fly London

Stud details lend a little ’tude and toughness.

2023 august • 25
Beautiisoles Dingo Naot Black Star

Stan the Man

HAT DOES it take to stick in the rough-and-tumble shoe retail business for 50-plus years? In addition to all the obvious capabilities and talents, perhaps above all it’s a genuine love of the game that leads to longevity.

For Stanley Eisenman, running a women’s boutique chain isn’t just a job. This is what he loves to do. It’s a way of life for him that began in the early ’70s when he joined his father’s leased shoe departments out of college. They were housed inside local Monnig’s department stores. Then, in the late ’80s, the duo graduated to eponymous locations, eventually expanding to four in the Fort Worth area, along with a Dallas outpost for a 10-year stretch in the ’90s. Now at a more manageable two locations, Stanley Eisenman Shoes continues to thrive, thanks in large part to Eisenman’s absolute passion for product, his adherence to the lost art of attentive customer service, and his never-ending drive to create meaningful relationships with customers. His enthusiasm for all aspects of shoe retailing is contagious. It’s also the reason Eisenman, 72, can still be found in his stores six days a week. He spends most of that time on the selling floor, doing what he loves most: catering to his loyal clientele, many of whom are on a first-name basis with him.

“We’re like Cheers ,” Eisenman says. “It’s just easy to park in front, stroll in, be greeted by your name, shop an amazing selection, and be fitted properly.”

Eisenman and Richard Marsh, an employee of more than 40 years and manager of the main store, know 90 percent of their customers personally. “It’s more than just a retail transaction,” he says. “Our customers are shopping with friends who they trust and know will have great merchandise and service.” He adds, “Our curated assortment is tailored specifically to their tastes and end-use needs. There’s noplace like our stores—what we call the ‘Stanley Eisenman Shoes difference.’”

With more than 100 seasons of buying under his belt, Eisenman has a gut instinct about what shoes will hit for a high average in his stores. It’s more of an old-school process than modern-day analytics. “I first look to see if a design has eye appeal,” he explains. “Then I’ll look at the construction to see if the cushioning, lining, and materials are of good quality.” He adds, “It’s second nature by now; I’m a fan of well-constructed shoes.” But it goes deeper

26 • august 2023
For more than 50 years, Stanley Eisenman, owner of the eponymous boutique chain based in Fort Worth, TX, has been hitting it out of the park with top-notch service and an unbeatable selection.
By Greg Dutter
Stanley Eisenman

than that. For Eisenman, choosing the merchandise mix is a passion play. “These are like my babies; I give birth to these shoes,” he says. “When I put a pair on a customer, they can feel my enthusiasm, which generates interest and excitement.”

Take the recent addition of Paul Green sneakers to the mix. “They’re the perfect brand for us right now,” Eisenman offers. “They’re easy on the eyes, they have a nice built-in arch support, and the linings are made of terrycloth, so they feel great as soon as you try them on.”

Every shoe that makes the cut has gone under the Eisenman microscope. The result is what he considers an all-star lineup of about 25 brands, which includes Brunate, Mephisto, Cecelia, Flex, Munro, P448, Robert Zur, NeroGiardini, Pedro Garcia, and, the stores’ top-seller of the past five years, On. The latter might not be expected to set the pace in a women’s boutique that leans dressy. But On hit the ground running and has picked up steam since. “We’ve sold about 10,000 pairs over the past five years,” Eisenman says, noting that the two stores combined sell 10 to 12 pairs daily on average. “It became, by far, our No. 1 vendor within the first year.”


On’s tremendous success, however, is now bittersweet. That’s because Eisenman recently received a Dear John letter from the brand abruptly ending the partnership. There was no mention of late payments (there weren’t any) or of selling too few pairs. “It was a shock,” he says. “I don’t think I ever lost a line of shoes in 50 years for no apparent reason.”

Why did On turn off Stanley Eisenman Shoes? Word on the street is it wants to focus on being a performance athletic brand. There are also well-traveled rumors that small retail operations—and their relatively small orders—just aren’t worth the hassle. When Eisenman reached out for an explanation, the response was vague. “They said they’re taking the company in a different direction,” he says. “They even offered me the opportunity to return the inventory—and pay the freight, if you can believe that.” Instead, Eisenman is selling his remaining stock of 300 to 400 pairs, which should be completed by September.

For what it’s worth, Eisenman believes On is making a mistake, and he cites the brand’s success in his stores as proof. “Contrary to the owners who think On is a performance brand, it’s a lifestyle brand,” he says. “Ninety percent of the people who choose to wear the brand do so because the shoes are currently the best-looking athletic shoes on the market, they’re lightweight, and they’re comfortable.” He adds, “They’re

just great lifestyle shoes. People often wear them when traveling—the airports are full of people wearing On. It’s people of all ages, too. And I can assure you, we don’t have ultra-marathoners coming into our stores to buy these shoes.”

Whatever On is or wants to be, losing the brand in the near-term creates a sales vacuum for Stanley Eisenman Shoes. On has been a steady traffic draw for regular customers as well as new ones. “People come in regularly looking for the brand specifically, while many others want to replace their old pairs,” Eisenman says. “It’s also given us the opportunity to sell all these customers additional styles to meet their wardrobe needs.”

Like any retailer worth their salt, it’s on (pun intended) Eisenman to find the next big brand. He’s been doing that for decades. For example, in the ’90s, his business was built around three

mainstays: Donald J Pliner, Stuart Weitzman, and Cole Haan. In fact, Stanley Eisenman Shoes was one of the first retailers to feature a Stuart Weitzman shop-in-shop, and it once held a red carpet event for Pliner, who signed shoes for customers as part of the festivities. But Eisenman has long since moved on from those brands, replacing them with new

ones. Indeed, Stanley Eisenman Shoes has served as a launch pad for many industry success stories. That includes being early adopters of Taryn Rose as well as home to one of the first shop-in-shops for Mephisto. The fact is, Eisenman has long been training customers to embrace the latest and greatest newcomers. “We’ll just steer our customers to the next great brand we carry,” he says. “I’ll just keeping looking and asking around, like I always do. It’s in my DNA to find great shoes.”


Eisenman started cutting his retailing teeth at the tender age of 13, working in his father’s warehouse. Little did he know then that it would become a lifelong career, but he’s thankful it has.

“I loved the guy who ran our warehouse; he was a real character,” Eisenman recalls. “He was a country

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Industry colleagues offer perspectives on what makes Stanley run.

Marta McKay, North American sales agent, Thierry Rabotin

First Met: I first started working with Stanley as the sales director for Taryn Rose in 1998, then with AGL and, the past three years, with Thierry Rabotin.

Survivor Traits: While many owners leave the day-to-day to their staffs, Stanley remains hands-on. On any given day, he’s on the floor. He loves working with customers. He’s an excellent listener and keeps in mind what he learns from his clientele at market. In addition, Stanley’s mission has remained unchanged for 50-plus years. He’s always looking for what’s new, whether it’s product or a business model that he can incorporate and enhance his business. Lastly, he’s dedicated and passionate about maintaining a smart work-life balance. Family and friends come first. He’s a regular at the yoga studio and can be found on the tennis court during his off hours.

Power of the Partnership: Stanley and Thierry share the same philosophy that fashion must be luxurious and comfortable. Similarly, Stanley is a delightful combination of old-school sensibility and astute business savvy. He’s got great vision. He’s able to take something as simple as a black ankle boot and reimagine it for his customers, be it adding leopard print and vibrant colors, like purple for his local Texas Christian University boosters. That exposes our brand to an untapped customer base. His connection with his customers is unparalleled. He’s got his finger on the pulse of what his clientele desires. Stanley is an industry icon.

The Stanley Eisenman Shoes Difference: Customer service is number one. Stanley wouldn’t have it any other way. Customers are guests. When you walk through the doors, be prepared to immerse yourself in shoe heaven. Whether it’s a summer holiday or a charity gala, the staff will assist you in finding not only the perfect shoe, but also the perfect fit.

Parting Shot: While email and texting play major roles in how business is conducted today, Stanley still believes in the power of the phone call. After a long day, it’s not unusual for us to have a drive time call to catch up. I remember one instance where Stanley was attending a tennis tournament. He wanted to make sure he had his sizes straight on a reorder. In mid conversation, we paused so he could cheer on his favorite player, who’d just made a great shot. After the cheers, the conversation resumed to how many size 38s he needed. He then listed off customers by name to make sure he didn’t miss anyone.

Rusty Hall, president and CEO, Mephisto USA First Met: I was introduced to Stanley in 1999 by Frisco Arriziga, who sold Selby to him. Even then, Stanley was focused on better fashion footwear.

Survival Traits: Patience and perseverance. Stanley has seen it all, and uses that experience to his success.

Power of the Partnership: Stanley has always been a great partner to Mephisto. He has a great eye for fashion and quality. I always want to hear his feedback on our line—good or bad—so I can understand how the collection will fit in similar stores. I also respect his being on the fitting stool and communicating that knowledge back to me as a vendor.

The Stanley Eisenman Shoes Difference: I believe Stanley has been successful all these years largely due to his being on the fitting stool. His customers gravitate to him because they know he’s going to be honest and fit them personally with shoes that answer their needs regarding comfort and style.

Parting Shot: Stanley’s best trait is his calm demeanor and his way of making you feel as though you’ve known him all your life. He does this with his customers on a daily basis.

Gail Marback, US sales representative, Brunate First Met: Stanley and I have been working together for a little over a year and have developed a wonderful relationship. My predecessor, Ursula Besch, worked with Stanley for over 10 years.

Survival Traits: His high standards, know-how of the industry, and desire to please each client. Above all, it’s his love of the business.

Power of the Partnership: Stanley Eisenman Shoes has been an invaluable business partner to Brunate. His stores create a perfect setting for luxury brands alongside beautiful décor. Stanley is also a most ardent supporter of Brunate. He shares his wins and has introduced us to many fellow key retailers, which is so appreciated. Lastly, his opinion is credible and treasured.

The Stanley Eisenman Shoes Difference: Stanley, his wife Barbi, and their qualified staff provide excellent service to their clients. They’re true merchants who understand quality and hand-craftsmanship, anticipate new trends, and provide an expert fit. Stanley knows his customers’ feet! He also understands every nuance of the industry.

Parting Shot: Stanley personally delivered shoes to clients’ homes during the pandemic. It’s an example of his dedication and sincerity. Another example: I called him recently on a Friday night almost in tears, as there was a chance Brunate wouldn’t get its desired booth in Atlanta. His response: “Don’t worry, we’ll find you wherever you are.” He couldn’t have been more empathetic. He knew just what to say to make me feel better. That’s Stanley Eisenman! He’s an extraordinary businessman whose relationships are genuine and paramount to him. He’s charming, pleasant, and has a very caring demeanor. Lastly, Stanley answers his phone!

2023 august • 29
Stanley Eisenman poses with the customer who once purchased 41 pairs and 17 handbags for her and three family members. It was the stores’ largest single sales ticket to date.

boy who used to say there were two words not in his vocabulary: can’t—pronounced cain’t in his thick Texas twang—and impossible. That was a pretty good early life lesson.”

By age 15, Eisenman graduated to the sales floor of his father’s leased departments and was hooked for life. “It was good, steady work that wasn’t outside during the blazing hot summers,” he says. “I thought, I could do this for a living. I’ve always been a decent salesman.”

Eisenman graduated college in 1972, married his wife, Barbi, soon after, and then joined his father’s business full-time. The young buck dove into all aspects of the business, becoming adept at buying, merchandising, you name it. Along the way, he honed his sales skills. “Being on the floor six days a

week, you get a lot of insights into what works merchandise-wise—what you need and what you don’t,” he says. “You get to know customers, too—what they like and how to engage them properly.”

The rest, you could say, is Stanley Eisenman shoe history. After Monnig’s was sold to investors, the company asked the younger Eisenman to stay on as buyer, but it was an easy pass. Instead, the Eisenmans made the decision to open freestanding stores. “I never worked for anybody except myself and my dad, and in 1987 I was 37 and decided to stick with that approach,” he says. It was the smart move, given that Monnig’s closed within six months of changing hands. Meanwhile, the Eisenmans opened three locations in just three months and have never looked back.

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Brad Gebhard, CEO of Propét Footwear, looks back on a career of perpetual motion.

DEAR BRAD, If we knew now what we knew then, we would have done many of the same things—starting with our passionate pursuit of bike racing, which took us all the way to being a member of the U.S. National Team! We loved cycling. (Still do, in fact.) The freedom, the mental and physical benefits, and the competitive fire that the sport ignites took us out of our hometown of Eugene, OR, to places around the world. Cycling showed us that the road ahead is filled with opportunities, so long as we put the required training in and give it our all. It also delivered, early on, one of life’s valuable lessons, which followed the decision by the U.S. government to boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. We were 14 and saw dedicated athletes at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs have their dreams vanish in an instant. Many collapsed in grief. Right then and there we learned that we had better have a backup plan.

To that end, our love of running small businesses—like mowing lawns, washing cars, and delivering newspapers—will serve us well in our career. It teaches us the value of hard work and discipline, not to mention fulfills another one of our passions: always finding ways to make money. There is no sin in that, as it helps fulfill another one of our early dreams: to own a snazzy sports car. Mission accomplished! And while we’re never the type to look in the rearview mirror much, it is important to reflect on life now and then. Assessing the twists and turns in the roads that got us to this point are no guarantees for future success, but they can help navigate a smoother ride for you going forward.

Set Goals and have that Backup Plan: We’ll never forget that day in March 1980 when we were summoned to a meeting at the Olympic Training Center. The president of the U.S. Olympic Committee read a message aloud from President Carter stating the U.S. would boycott the Moscow games. World-class athletes of various pursuits burst into tears as their lifelong dreams to represent our country on the highest athletic stage were dashed. It left an indelible mark on our psyche and ingrained a core life principle to always have a backup plan. We’ve lived by that rule since. Of course, stuff happens beyond our control. That’s why you need to be prepared for change. The fact is you will experience many setbacks personally and professionally, which is just part of life. And while change and adversity can disappoint and be painful, if you commit yourself to perseverance and personal improvement, you’ll find opportunities to continue to grow and be successful.

Build a Solid Foundation of Knowledge and Skills: Our footwear career starts in 1990 at Nike in costing and then product development. We are extremely fortunate to be learning from some of the best product and business minds in the industry. Specifically, Phil Knight’s relentless pursuit of excellence instills in us to always dream big, be disciplined, and don’t be afraid to fail. That training ground leads us to Adidas, where we lead product teams across multiple categories and countries. We learn to lead multi-cultural teams, solve complex problems, and to

relentlessly seek out ways to grow the business. We also volunteer to lead additional projects, which gives us exposure to different aspects of the business and further hones our skills to solve problems and identify new areas for growth.

Listen and Learn: The road of life has its share of unexpected sharp turns. One of ours comes following Adidas’ acquisition of Salomon. In 2002, we are asked to uproot our family and move to France to lead the integration of Salomon’s Arcteryx, Taylor Made Golf, and Mavic cycling businesses into the fold. It’s during this time we learn about the power of a strong corporate culture. Namely, Salomon’s dedication to creating world-class hardgoods. It’s a revelation. The only way to be successful is to really listen to the people in operations to learn how these brands became leaders in their fields. The amazing products and cultures of these brands serve as blueprints for the executive positions that await us as Vice President Footwear for Columbia Sportswear, Senior Vice President Product Merchandising and Ecommerce for Speedo and Calvin Klein Swim, CEO of Hi-Tec Sports USA, President of American Apparel, General Manager DTC for Castelli Cycling, Senior Vice President of The Walking Company, and now, celebrating our oneyear anniversary, as CEO of Propét Footwear. Each stint, like the mileage accumulated in cycling, has only made us smarter and stronger. That collective strength is enabling us to lead Propét to new heights. The company is already setting a killer growth pace, and the road ahead is wide open.

Focus, Focus, Focus: “That’s a distraction,” snapped Helen McCluskey, then CEO of Speedo/Calvin Klein, following our presentation of a new bag line. Specifically, it was a distraction from our responsibilities to lead the core business of swim and ecommerce. Helen is crack-whip smart and teaches us the importance of staying focused on the areas that have the greatest impact on a business. While it’s easy to be attracted to shiny objects—and sometimes those tests can lead to great results—never take our eye off the areas that drive growth. Every organization has personnel and resource limits, so remember to be disciplined and stay focused.

Remain Humble: No matter how successful we become, remain humble and recognize the contributions from our teams. Their talents, insights, and dedication make us better—always. Appreciate them. Respect them. Acknowledge them. Along those lines, we’ll work for some amazing leaders, and the best ones lead their teams with purpose and vision. What’s more, they never use their platforms to self-promote.

Ok, it’s time to roll. Just keep pedaling and enjoy the ride! See you down the road.

32 • august 2023
Brad Gebhard at the 1993 U.S. National Championships in Trexlertown, PA.


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Jessica Bédard, designer and founder of Maison Bédard, defines Canadian luxury and its far broader appeal. By Greg

ROWING UP IN Quebec, Canada, Jessica Bédard was never interested in toys that much. All she ever really wanted was shoes! The more, the merrier, in fact. Thus, the seeds to becoming a shoe designer were taking root early on.

Pitch Perfect G

“My childhood pictures are basically me modeling shoes at every special occasion,” Bédard says. “I’d save every penny to purchase another pair, and as a teenager, if I couldn’t choose between two colors, I’d buy them both! I remember skipping meals to afford buy more shoes!”

Bédard’s love of shoes turned into a profession with the launch of Maison Bédard in 2016. The 2019 Canadian Artists and Fashion Awards nominee learned her craft studying design in New York and Milan, working at the latter alongside masters at the Arsutoria School of Design. Her overall approach reflects a Canadian design sensibility, eh. Think materials and silhouettes that can brave the elements. “Because of our four seasons climate, we select materials that are durable and can adapt to various weather conditions,” she says, adding that the collection blends European craftsmanship with contemporary design so women can “live their real lives.” The Reschio boot is a perfect example. “It’s a combat boot made of different textures and colors,” Bédard explains. “The texturized raffia combined with black calf leather and organic cotton laces is a style that can be worn every season of the year.”

All Maison Bédard shoes are handcrafted in Italy in the same factories of leading European luxury brands. The collection features the finest materials and components combined with the latest technical constructions and engineering techniques. It’s a blend of the best of the best, which is what Bédard believes her customers deserve. “As women, we’ve been conditioned to comprise comfort for style and beauty. My goal is to change this,” she says. “I believe in being able to wear beautiful and comfortable shoes—styles you can put on in the morning and take off at night without feeling them.” Bédard adds, “Enough with having flip-flops in your car to change shoes after meetings! Enough with taking off your shoes on the dance floor at a wedding because you can’t stand the pain anymore!”

To that end, every pair of Maison Bédard shoes is tested to meet the highest standards for fit and comfort. “I want to make sure our customers can stand and walk for hours without feeling their shoes,” Bédard says.

Perhaps Bédard’s determination for perfection is driven, in part, by her husband and former Major League ace, Erik Bédard. The southpaw was heralded for his nasty curveball, especially during his four years with the Baltimore Orioles. “My husband has the strongest mindset I’ve ever seen,” Bédard says. “Nothing breaks him mentally. He believes that’s just as important as talent.” She notes that her husband was told that he was too short, not strong enough, and that he’d never make it in the big leagues. “It pushed him to work extra hard,

and he made it. This character trait definitely reflects on my work ethic,” Bédard says.

Does your husband “pitch” any design or business advice? Ha ha. Definitely not ones involving design! We’re completely the opposite when it comes to fashion. On the other hand, I truly respect his business advice. When Erik retired from baseball, he asked me what would be my biggest dream? I told him I’ve always dreamed of my own shoe brand. He supported this dream by allowing me to leave pretty much everything and go back to school at 35 years old. Erik is always really encouraging and reminds me every day to focus and block out the noise. If it’s hard, try harder!

In what ways is Maison Bédard unique among designer labels? What sets us apart is our meticulous attention to detail and unwavering commitment to quality. Each shoe is handcrafted by master artisans, using the finest materials ethically sourced from Italy. From sumptuous Italian leathers to hand-embellished accents, every aspect of our designs exude luxury at its finest. Our shoes are made of genuine leather through and through. The collections offer a mix of different textures, such as patent, nappa, and texturized leathers as well as luxurious textiles, including wool and raffia. I love our unexpected mixes of color and eye-catching details. Above all, our designs are always very elegant and timeless.

What are some signature design aspects? Each pair features genuine leather linings to ensure the best comfort. No blisters and no sweating! You’ll also often see details like a weaved or patent toe tip on a boot, or on laces to finish off the look. Our designs also feature a lot of pointed toes for an elongated and feminine look.

Who is the Maison Bédard woman? She’s between 35 and 50, loves her career, and has given most of her time to her family over the previous decades. Her kids are likely teenagers, and she’s concentrating on herself again. She’s not willing to compromise on comfort to look good anymore. She knows she deserves

44 • august 2023

Maison Bédard is all about the textures for its Canadian chic aesthetic.

both! I also feel women are ready for colorful, fun shoes again! Specifically, bold silhouettes, texturized materials, and bright colors—done timelessly.

Do you have a favorite in the collection? Our Barolo boot is my favorite, at the moment. I love its tubular style, which is very current. I also designed it without zippers, buckles, or laces, which makes it very unique. I also love the lower heel, which makes it extra comfortable. You don’t feel like you’re wearing heels.

Has your overall approach to design changed since the pandemic? Back then, I was designing and selling mostly flats. People just weren’t going out much, and that was definitely hard on us. But we readjusted by producing less styles and in smaller quantities. The good news is that we were able to survive. I’m truly grateful for everyone’s support.

What is your retail distribution strategy? We’ve been a DTC online brand, and after selling thousands of pairs in six countries, we’re now celebrating our growth by expending to stores around the world. In three years, we envision Maison Bédard to be a luxury brand that’s renowned worldwide.

What is the best design advice you’ve ever received? To always come back to my why. It’s easy to get lost between everyone’s ideas and recommendations. I consistently remind myself that I am the soul of Maison Bédard.

Who are some designers you admire and why? Isabel Marant has always been my true inspiration for staying true to herself.

What shoe must every woman have in her closet? Our Elsa ballerina. I’ve never reproduced the same style in the same color, except for this one. It’s the most unique, elegant, and timeless ballerina you’ll ever wear! The lining feels like butter and the backing is seamless. Carrie Underwood was spotted wearing it in L.A., and that kicked off its popularity. We keep reordering and each time, we sell out.

What do you love most about designing? Definitely the materials selection. That is when a shoe comes to life. I feel that it accounts for 80 percent of the master piece. It gives true character to a shoe.

LIFTING LIVES in footwear.

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and tie a bow on it and then wait to see what people like and what sells. We’re holding our breath in anticipation.

At the same time, might there be an advantage that Samuel Hubbard isn’t entirely new?

Yes, we’re lucky to have built-in retailers that are just waiting for our women’s shoes. They’ve been very receptive. Moving forward, we’re also making sure to get feedback from select retailers during our development phase. Bob and Steve have been showing select Spring ’24 styles to trusted partners to help us land on the final line-up. We did this somewhat before, but we’re finally formalizing that process and making sure that we’re not just talking to each other internally.

Are you sensing a general willingness among retailers to try something new, despite the overall market headwinds?

I think it comes down to working with them. That reminds me of something that Bruce often used to say at the very beginning of building Hubbard, which was it didn’t matter that he was Bruce Katz, that he used to run Rockport, lots of retailers knew him, etc., etc. He basically did whatever it took for retailers to buy Hubbard. If they wanted shoes on wheels, discounts, better margins, marketing support, the right timing...he’d do whatever it took to get their business. We’re going back to that philosophy, because we’re not working on short-term gains. It’s all about building our brand with retailers to be a success, for everybody, over the long term. With most retailers it boils down to product and service. After losing Bruce, some were concerned about the direction of our brand, especially regarding design and product. Would we continue to innovate? I can assure you that our product wave never stops. We’re going to continue to expand on various lines going forward. We’re just going to have to prove that to everybody over time. The same goes for providing the best service possible.

How much bigger do you envision Samuel Hubbard becoming in the years ahead?

I think, over the next three to five years, we could grow five to 10 times our current size. That’s why people like Bob hopped on board, because they can see us being a $100 million company in a few years. It’s super exciting. And while it’s not a sure shot, it’s also a case of we’d be really foolish to mess this great opportunity up. We’ve got this amazing foundation that Bruce and our team have built over the past 10 years, which includes his incredible shoemaking legacy, the core customers that we already have, and the super-dedicated people that we have working here who just believe so much in the company. We’d be foolish to mess this up by not trying our hardest to keep this company going. It won’t be easy, but when has is it ever been easy? And, to be clear, we see that potential amount of growth just in the premium, luxury comfort space, which involves growing our men’s business and establishing our brand in women’s. As we do that, we’ll have a better idea of what the next steps for further growth might be, whether that’s creating more affordable lines to reach more consumers that could grow our business even more. Until then, we’re taking the slow and steady wins the race approach.

There is plenty of runway for growth just in footwear, correct?

Yes. Becoming a lifestyle brand is also something we think about, and we already make belts and a shoe care line, both of which are doing well. But these extensions are less about adding dollars and more about strengthening our brand overall. Shoe care, for example, is a great value-add for our customers. That said, it’s really all about the shoes for now. But we must remember to be cautious and patient with every aspect of our business. That’s been one of the keys to our survival and growth to this point: making calculated invest-

ments across the board. For example, making sure every hire is essential. We can’t take shortcuts, nor fall into the trap of fast growth, because neither is sustainable. Those don’t really exist. The only way we’re going to get to where we want to go is by being cautious and growing organically. If we try to grow too quickly and force it—or spend too much on marketing or hire too many people too quickly—it’ll be game over. So the name of the game is to take it one step,and one pair at a time. Just keep trying to make the right decisions, one season after the next.

What do love most about your job?

I love the challenge and the variety. No one day is the same. I love being able to go to a photo shoot to working on marketing to sitting in on a product development meeting to overlooking finances, etc. I love the people I work with, as well. They’re incredible. We have a core team that has been here for years along with some great new people. I’m lucky to be working with all of them. Sally Murphy, for example, is amazing. She really gets our brand. On top of that, how lucky am I to have had Bruce Katz and now Bob Infantino as mentors in this business. That’s pretty awesome. •

46 • august 2023 Q&A
Q&A continued from page 15
A women’s line presents a huge growth opportunity for Samuel Hubbard going forward.

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“We just had to establish our identity, which we’ve been basically doing ever since,” he says.

Becoming destination stores requires a combination of unsurpassed selection and impeccable service. Or, as Eisenman likes to describe it, the Stanley Eisenman difference. “I had a customer tell me once that you can get everything you need at Stanley Eisenman Shoes, which was very flattering,” he says. “And while it’s not exactly true, it was good for my ego. They’re also going to receive great service, which is now non-existent in department stores, and shopping online is a crapshoot and likely to involve the hassle of returns.”

In contrast, Eisenman says his team educates customers about a world of shoe-related opportunities. That includes people who often come into the stores in ill-fitting shoes. “It’s nothing for us to put in a tongue pad that makes them feel better instantly,” he says. “We’re good at making quick adjustments—like suggesting Aetrex orthotics, so at the very least we’ll send them out in more comfortable shoes than they came in wearing.”

When it comes to getting customers to buy new shoes, Eisenman relishes every opportunity. He estimates 80 percent come in with the intention to buy, so it’s the remaining 20 percent that present the biggest challenge. “It’s the art of seduction, where we seat them and place product on them,” he explains. “We’ll also walk them around the store, show them what’s new, and ask if they ever tried on these…it’s old-fashioned salesmanship and customer service to break the ice, and it still works.”

Eisenman has no immediate plans to retire. He loves the industry, the job, his employees, and his

customers too much to hang ’em up. All of that keeps him coming to work six days a week. “It’s just real gratifying to serve my customers,” he says, noting that his daughter’s godmother has been a regular for almost 50 years. “I’ve waited on generations of families, and it’s a way for me to stay engaged with my local community.”

Of course, it helps that Eisenman has the business running like well-oiled machine. Stress levels are well in check. He still works in regular tennis, pilates, and pickleball times. “I’ve been fortunate that my job hasn’t required a lot of travel and I could be home with my wife and two kids at night,” he says. “My son and daughter always had lots of school activities, and I think I might have missed one. It’s been a healthy work-life balance.”

The merchandise mix appeals to a wide age range.

Word Association

Stanley Eisenman shoots from the hip.

Customers: Lifeblood

Service: Preeminent

Shoes: All-consuming

Texas: Home

Still, the day will come when Eisenman will choose to either sell or close the business. He pegs it at about five years from now. Until then, it’s business as usual at Stanley Eisenman Shoes. “I still have some fight in me, and I still have some good ideas,” he says, adding that Fort Worth is the fastest-growing city in the U.S. and cause for great optimism. “We’re seeing a steady stream of new customers, and so long as we treat them right, they’ll come back.” •

Shoe Dog: I’m just one of many

Comfort: Always a key to our merchandise

DTC: Not my favorite industry development

Partnership: Crucial

On: Good while it lasted

Employees: Everything

Best decision: Hiring great personnel

Remember this: Holding my dad’s 90th birthday party in our store

2023 august • 47
Why buy just one pair? Another satisfied Stanley Eisenman Shoes customer.

The happy hue beams in a range of silhouettes for Spring/Summer ’24.

LAST SHOT Catch Some Rays
48 • august 2023
Hello Sunshine
Dansko Dee Ocleppo Dingo Maison Bédard Propét Remonte
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