That's just one of the reasons why the company, founded in 1911, is still in business. The Montrose store has been open on Main Street for more than 30 years, and while some stores in the neighborhood closed and a few new ones opened over that time, Brown’s has a loyal customer base that maintains the store year after year, said co-owner and manager Ray Marcha.
The store rewards loyal customers by giving them a deep discount or a free pair of shoes for every 10 pairs they buy, and the store lets the customer know when their reward is about to come due, Marcha said, pulling open a drawer with hundreds of paper slips, each with a customer’s name, phone number and record of purchases.
Most people are looking for quality and comfort, and some have orthopedic or other problems with their feet, he said.
“We get a lot of plantar fasciitis and we are very knowledgeable about bunions and blisters,” he said. “We are trained to provide service, and we still measure the feet.”
Giving individual service is a hallmark of Brown’s business model, Marcha said, and that goes beyond just a good fit. With a wide selection of running and athletic shoes, the store has a high-tech treadmill that can measure anyone’s running style to make sure they have the best shoe possible, and there’s no charge for the consultation.
The “best” shoes don’t come cheap, and most of the shoes on display at Brown’s have a price tag of $75 to $100 or more. But it’s quality and personal service that make Brown’s shoes worth it, Marcha said.
Customers can have their shoes stretched or have their feet re-measured if they have a problem, Marcha said. All Brown employees are trained as footwear specialists, but the buck stops with Marcha.
“They deal with me,” Marcha said. “And if something is wrong, we take full responsibility.
Marcha bought the business in 2006 from Ed Walker, who had the store for 25 years.
Brown’s Shoe Fit Company was started 100 years ago by Winn Brown, who opened the first store in Shenandoah, Ia. Brown’s also has stores several other Western states.
Marcha plans to observe the 100th anniversary of Brown’s with specials that he says he hopes will include giving away pairs of shoes.
People in this area are into the outdoors and need good shoes, but they also want comfort, Marcha said.
“The most popular shoes for everyday comfort are Dansko and Keen,” Marcha said. “Our customers come from all over, from Telluride, Grand Junction, Rifle, and we have a lot of the same customers and regulars.” Other name brands include Clarks, Rockport, Basics, New Balance, Red Wing, Merrell, Asics, Nike, Ugg and more.
Marcha and his wife moved here from Bakersfield, Calif., and only had a week to decide whether to invest in the store. But once they saw the Montrose area, their minds were made up. Their son Daniel, a filmmaker, stayed in California, where he has an unusual business: He makes professional movies of people’s weddings, complete with credits at the end.
One thing Marcha has learned since moving to Montrose is that hiking, biking and rock climbing are big here, and he also caters to that market.
“We have an angle board to make sure they fit correctly in hiking boots,” he said.
Another free service for runners is a specialized treadmill called the Foot BioMetrics Evaluator.
“It sees how you run and helps pick the best running shoe for you,” he said.
Brown’s shoes last for years, but runners and athletes should change their shoes about every eight months, Marcha said.
Rock climbers will be glad to know that Brown’s will soon stock Vibram’s FiveFingers, the “minimal footwear” shoe with gloved toes. The shoes are so popular that Marcha has had them on order for more than a year, he said.
Business has been steady over the years, and while the current economy has taken its toll, Marcha says it’s picked up lately.
“It’s been up and down, but recently, it feels like it’s going up,” he said.
The current sale will continue through mid-August, with discounts from 20 to 40 percent off. Brown’s is located at 427 East Main and can be reached at 240-6101.