If all of the shoes that have been given new life at Ardesson’s Shoe Repair & New Shoes could talk, they would have nearly 70 years worth of stories to tell.
Of course, shoes can’t talk. Luckily, Alex Bennett can. He can do it well, in fact. He can speak about the intricacies of the shoe repair industry – how most shoes these days are molded directly together, rather than the old days of welts. That’s where the leather rim is sewn around the edge of a shoe top, attaching to the sole.
Bennett - who began working at Ardesson’s in 1970 – has seen the store change, along with the community around it. A lot of the shoes that the store originally sold were more orthopedic in nature, but over the years they began to also emphasize a sense of style.
He can recall generations of families walking through the doors at 9635 Gravelly Lake Dr. SW, in need of a shoe fix. Often, a nice pair of shoes they had purchased was starting to hurt, and that’s where Ardesson’s earned its dollar.
“That’s the misconception – the brand name,” Bennett said on a recent afternoon, as customers he knows on a first-name basis browsed the Ardesson’s shoe collection. “All of these people are buying the name, not the quality. You want your shoe to be quality.”
Today, Alex and Karen (Ardesson) Bennett own the store that began in 1946 as a shoe repair shop owned by Henry Pentimonte, who chose a strip mall called the Lakewood Shops to open his business. It took on its current namesake in 1968 when Ralph “Rip” Ardesson purchased the store. Rip came from an Italian family of shoemakers who immigrated to the U.S. in the early 19th century. Ardesson purchased the store and, shortly thereafter, hired Alex Bennett, a 16-year-old from Lakes High School. After years of learning the trade, Alex and Karen Bennett purchased the store in 1999. Today, it’s Karen - Alex freely admits - who actually runs the business.
Over the years, Alex Bennett “practically raised his family at the store,” including daughter Jennifer and son Jason, as well nieces who helped work the store.
And while Ardesson’s Shoe Repair has changed ownership and seen generations of faces behind its counter, it continues its commitment to quality for customers in front of it.
As Bennett explains, the store is committed to helping people feel painless and comfortable in their shoes, something that’s more common than one might think. “We’re going after the person who’s diabetic or needs arch support,” he said.
Often times, people assume their favorite pair of shoes is beyond repair, but Bennett says that’s usually not the case. “Bring it in and get it looked at, at least,” he said.
Again, it’s this kind commitment and customer service that has attracted customers from as far away as Olympia, Graham and beyond. “We don’t want to make you fit into your shoe. We want to make your shoe fit you.”
For its decades of doing business and finding success in our community, the City of Lakewood would like to recognize Ardesson’s Shoe Repair as its April 2016 Business Showcase.