By John Burton
RED BANK – The shop at 18 Broad St. has been a shoe store for a long time, but as of Tuesday, Aug. 26, the home of If The Shoe Fits will be closing its doors.
The building has housed a shoe store of one type or another since 1883, according to Moses Fahmy, who has worked at the store for more than two years.
Don Strohmenger, who co-owns the business and owns the building, was unavailable this week.
According to Fahmy, Strohmenger has been reticent to discuss the business’s closing. It’s an emotional topic for him because he has worked there much of his life.
Strohmenger marked down his remaining merchandise of men’s, women’s and children’s shoe selections. He is shuttering his doors because of the increased competition, the changing character of Red Bank’s downtown commercial district and the strain of a lack of customer parking put on the business, Fahmy said.
“The nature of the town is changing,” Fahmy said. “The town is becoming more of a restaurant destination” with the downtown business district moving away from traditional retail businesses.
James Scavone, executive director for Red Bank RiverCenter, which oversees the borough’s commercial special improvement district, sees the closing as the natural ebb and flow of businesses in the district.
“It’s just the natural turn of things,” he said, noting that, while the location has been a shoe store for more than a century, it has had changed hands, having been bought and sold over the years.
Strohmenger had expressed an interest in selling the business for some time, Scavone said.
The location has been If The Shoe Fits for 13 years, when Strohmenger partnered with his fellow co-business owner Stu Sackowitz, Fahmy said. Strohmenger has worked there for more than 40 years, starting the business with his father, when the two took over Miller’s Shoes at that location, Fahmy said.
Sackowitz will continue to operate an independent shoe store he owns in Hightstown; Strohmenger will look to sell the building, Fahmy said.
“I’m sorry to see it go,” said Barbara Goldstein, who was looking to get her last pair of shoes there.
A native of Red Bank, Goldstein said she’s been shopping here for “years, years and years.
“My parents used to take me here for school shoes. That was more than 80 years ago,” she said.
Goldstein said she was at a loss as to where she’ll go for her next pair. “Because I have a narrow foot, it’s not so easy to find something that fits.”
Marion Epstein, a Long Branch resident who has been shopping at the store for 10 years, said she was “surprised to see this” when she realized the store was closing shortly. “It’s the only place I can get really, really comfortable shoes … It’s a little pricey but you get what you pay for. I don’t know what I’ll do now.”
Fahmy said he didn’t know what he would do either. He’s been offered a spot at Sackowitz’s Hightstown store, but that would be too far of a commute from his Deal home, he said. “But that’s life.”