Bodell's Shoes Just Turned 60

Steve Propes

When Bodell’s Shoe Store opened at what’s now known as Parkview Village, Ike was president, Alaska had just become a state and Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper had perished in an Iowa field, “the Day the Music Died.”

Contemporary businesses like Thriftimart, Bob Adams, PD Carol Department Store, Rose’s Hardware, Thrifty Drug, Pan American Café, Bergman’s Radio and TV, Benchley’s Gifts, all manner of successful retail store-fronts have come and gone.

Current owner, Richard Bodell said his father, “Lew Bodell worked at a full service gas station in Salt Lake City.” An executive from the company that owned  Leeds Shoes was “so impressed by the service my dad gave him, he offered him a job. The only catch was he’d have to move to California. He decided it was better than washing windows and checking oil.” Bodell made the Leeds store in Long Beach the top producing California store. When they gave him an award, the executive whispered “if you fail to perform, we can replace you.”

At that juncture, March 1, 1959, Bodell opened his own store. Richard Bodell bought the business from him over 20 years ago.

Business was strong for a number of years, but, according to Bodell, “It’s been tough since 2008. At the end of 2007, we were just south of $1 million, but we’ve not been close since.” The dip in the economy in 2008 and online competition have been major factors.

Bodell tried online marketing, but gave that up about four years ago. “Small business, that’s your middle class. People that take a risk, open up a store to show the value of human encounter. It’s nice to have a one and one.” He has one full time, two part time employees and hires young people from both colleges and high schools.

Management of Parkview Village named two routes through the center in honor of Jack’s Shoe Repair’s Richard Brown and Lew Bodell. “It had a historical meaning, a sense of accomplishment,” said Bodell. “It’s hard to stay in here for 60 years.”

Bodell emphasizes good product and customer service. “I try to give the best customer service. We fit and measure feet, all kinds of things,” and offer a product that serves the needs of the customer, be it orthopedic or other specialized service. Follow-up services include everything from repair to shining shoes. “It keeps me on my toes. If the soles split, I’ll resole them.”

The store carries brands made in the U.S., Europe or Israel. Some brands have changed. For instance, Clarks made a quality shoe from 1965 to 1990, but when the family closed their manufacture in England and Ireland, the brand moved to China, which has compromised the quality of the shoe.

“Styles are recycled, so much you can do. Fashion works in a circular fashion, ‘70s platforms for women are back now. It’s a matter of holding on to things long enough.”


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