Customer service sees shoe store through 75 years

In a day and age of online footwear sellers, Heim’s Shoe Store in Grafton maintains a loyal following of customers.

HEIM’S SHOE STORE owners Arlene and Jim McDaniel (top photo) celebrated 75 years in business on Dec. 1. Far left, the Heim’s storefront is at 1215 Bridge St. in downtown Grafton. Left, Jim McDaniel, who handles repairs and custom fittings, worked on a shoe in the repair shop. Photos by Sam Arendt
By 
CONNOR CARYNSKI
Ozaukee Press Staff

Family operated Heim’s Shoe Store celebrated 75 years of operation in Grafton Dec. 1, giving owners a special oppurtunity to take a moment and look back on their many years in business.

Arlene McDaniel, Heim’s operator and the daughter of founder Art Heim, said when her father built the shoe shop and repair building at 1215 Bridge St., Grafton was different than it is today.

“Grafton was small then,” she said. “The downtown was a place where everything was within two blocks.”

Before coming to Grafton, Heim operated a shoe store in Lomira but wanted a new space to expand his operations. He found a barn for sale in the Village of Grafton and purchased the property.

Helping out with construction crews when he could, Heim tore down the barn and used panels from the structure to construct his shoe shop.

He opened his door for business on Dec. 1, 1946.

Over the years, Heim’s has gotten plenty of help from high school students and retirees, but ownership has always stayed within the family.

McDaniel started working in the shop around 1975 as a bookkeeper then assumed other front-of-house responsibilities. She worked up front while her sister manned repairs with Heim in the back. McDaniel’s brother also worked in the shop for about three years after finishing his term with the Marines before going on to open his own shoe shop.

McDaniel’s son Jim later joined the staff after graduating high school and learned the shoe repair craft from Heim.

He would go on to become the sole repairman after Heim passed away in 1986. Jim continues to work alongside his mother in the shop to this day.

McDaniel said it was difficult when her father died unexpectedly but that she and her son naturally continued to man the store.

 “We really didn’t even talk about it,” she said. “Jim continued to do what he was doing and I kept doing what I was doing.”

 In their younger days, McDaniel said her grandchildren would also help out in the shop, but with all of them away at school, they can only work the store during holiday breaks.

While Heim’s has stayed in the same location under family ownership through the years, it has had to make changes to its operations to stay current and viable.

McDaniel said the shop has phased out some of its offerings over the years, including dance shoes and gear and snowmobile suits and gloves. With such products being offered at other stores and locations, she said, it no longer made sense for the store to stock the items.

Children’s shoes are another item the store no longer stocks. McDaniel said parents often purchase those shoes at big-box stores while doing other shopping rather than come to a dedicated shoe shop.

“We just got out of it. There’s wasn’t enough (demand) anymore and you can’t keep ordering things in new styles when you have the old ones sitting there,” she said.

Nowadays, McDaniel said the shop’s big business is in work and comfort shoes, custom fittings and repairs. Heim’s also stocks a large selection of moccasins.

With so few shoe shops left in the age of big-box stores, McDaniel said, it is the customer service offered at Heim’s that has cemented it as a Grafton cornerstone for generations.

“Customer service to me is number one. People come in and appreciate what we do,” she said.

A warm greeting at the door and ready assistance can go a long way. McDaniel said the shop frequently sees repeat customers, some of whom still mail their shoes to have work done on them after moving from the village.

While the pandemic caused shoe sales in the shop to cease for more than two months, McDaniel said customers are returning and business is good.

After working in the shop for more than 40 years, McDaniel said, she still enjoys chatting with customers too much to step away.

“We’re happy where we are,” she said. “People in Grafton are great. I just so appreciate the customers who come through the door. Without them we would not be here.”

 

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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