My first “work” session at was light duty. I shadowed Eric Michelson around the store, which meant extra work for him.
Eric explained the importance of customer care and comfort and the store's history, while intermittently working with customers.
He seemed to socialize with everyone who walked in, putting them at ease as he went back and forth getting different sized boots and shoes.
I took notes and a few pictures and will get back there for the real workout – after I make sandwiches at sometime this week.
Selling shoes seems woven through Eric’s DNA as tightly as the laces on the footwear displayed throughout the store.
They weave back to Isadore Michelson, Eric’s great grandfather. He worked in a harness and shoe factory and in 1919 decided he wanted out. He bought a shop near the current Michelson’s and started doing business.
Eric said Lexington was agrarian community in 1919 and Isadore, known to everyone as IJ, fixed and repaired harnesses and shoes and probably even made them. His son Harold worked there and his grandson Richard helped too. (Obviously Dick stayed…)
Next time you’re in Michelson’s, take a look at the pictures in the back of the store. You’ll see IJ, Harold and a younger version of Richard.
Years past and IJ’s son Harold took over. Richard did the same. In 1965 the shop moved to its current location, not too far from the first store.
In fact, Eric pointed to the painted white bricks behind the store in what is now and said that’s the location of the original repair shop.
At some point they began selling shoes and never stopped. There’s a reason people from other cities and towns make their way to the Massachusetts Avenue store.
Eric said they go to a few shoe conventions every year to see the latest in casual comfort.
That’s probably something we all love about Michelson’s. You won’t find stilettos or four-inch heels on the shelves. They aren’t comfortable and certainly not good for anyone’s foot.
As I watched and talked to Eric I learned that comfort, good fit and customer care are paramount – and that the Michelson’s speak to each other without talking.
While Eric and I chatted someone walked in. There’s a different bell for the front and back door, but we missed the sound. Richard, who was having lunch in the small office in the back, noticed and lifted his head ever so slightly. Eric smiled, turned around and walked toward the gentleman.
The customer was holding one lone, odd-looking yet sturdy boot that had golf shoe nubs on its bottom. As Eric went for the catalogues the man explained that he reads meters and uses these overshoes during the winter months, because they keep him warm and have traction.
Eric came back with a catalogue and the promise of the same pair in the size he needed. One catch – he’d have to wait.
Considering the heat index, the man was wearing shorts and that we’re only on the other side of July, the man was unconcerned and left happier than when he walked in with one boot. Next time, he’ll leave carrying a beige Michelson’s bag with a new pair of odd-looking extra-large overshoes.
Eric helped a young woman find a pair of camping boots and spent quite a bit of time helping her find the best fit for her narrow feet. He suggested certain brands and told them one brand ran too wide for her foot.
As he rang up the boots, I watched as Dick helped a customer try on a pair of shoes. He gently bent the front of the shoe to ease the leather.
I asked Eric about the move and he showed me another, one that helps as people try on the shoe, yet doesn’t hurt the newness of the footwear. I bet there are even more.
I’ll find out during my next visit. And don’t worry about me. If I don’t sell a pair of shoes, there’s a gorgeous pair of black flats that are calling my name…