“There’s more of a sense of community in Shaker than other places. A lot of people around here like to shop local.”
By Zachary Lewis
The sales staff at New Balance in Shaker Plaza – specialists in athletic footwear, foot analysis, sandals, and shoes in unusual sizes – is trained to address a multitude of issues, including bunions, knee pain, and plantar fasciitis.
“For us, it’s all about the extra steps. We like to keep up on people,” says manager-in-training Kayla Klein.
New Balance is a well-known international brand, but the Shaker Heights store, a transplant from the former La Place in Beachwood, isn’t just part of a chain. It’s locally owned and operated by Fairlawnbased Lucky Shoes. When the nearly 100-year-old company gathers for meetings or other events, Klein says, everyone knows her name.
“We’re really small,” she says. “There’s more of a sense of community in Shaker than other places. A lot of people around here like to shop local, and they don’t always realize we’re not really corporate-owned.”
One problem, though, remains vexing for an operation that considers itself central to the Shaker Heights fitness
scene. After two years in business at the end of the RTA Blue Line, the store remains somewhat shrouded behind Van Aken District construction.
Other New Balance locations are able to hold events and organize running clubs. The Shaker store, meanwhile, can’t wait for the dust to settle, so the staff there can get down to serving customers the way they know best.
These are marketing challenges, of course. The problems Klein and crew really enjoy solving are podiatric in nature.
When they’re on the clock, they love nothing more than outfitting people with the exact right shoe, the footwear that will keep someone running, speed her up, or alleviate that nagging pain in her foot or knee.
Most of these boil down to a misunderstanding. In addition to pronation or supination – the inward or outward roll of the foot commonly responsible for running injuries – many people, Klein says, are simply unaware of their feet’s true dimensions. They haven’t been measured properly in years, or are wearing shoes that only exacerbate their problems.
“You’d be amazed how many people are wearing the wrong shoe, or the wrong size,” Klein says.
Despite all the construction, Klein says the store has its regular customers and is prone to surges at unpredictable hours. The store may be a bit hidden, but that isn’t keeping its devotees from getting fresh pairs of New Balance’s classic walking shoe or browsing the company’s several lines of high-end running sneakers.
Now the store is poised for a surge. In a short while, the reward for sitting in relative quiet for two years will be a stream of traffic, courtesy of the new Van Aken District and the active, health-conscious crowd the area is certain to attract.