Feet First: Laurie’s Shoes Turns 70
Not many retailers can say they’ve spent seven decades in business, but the owners of Laurie’s Shoes have hit the noteworthy milestone by constantly staying in step with trends, says president Mark Waldman. “The company was founded in 1951 by my parents, Wally and Joan Waldman, and my maternal grandfather, Morris Goldman,” he says. “They began with our Glendale store and another in Wellston, which was a big shopping district back then. The idea was that if they offered a greater selection of sizes and widths than other stores, people would come. And they did.”
Over the years, the family built up the company to include eight St. Louis-area locations. Now, its brick-and-mortar presence consists of the Manchester Road location and a Birkenstock & More shop in Creve Coeur, both of which serve customers of all ages. “There also is a division called Shoe Roads Productions that sells footwear to medical staff in hospitals,” Waldman says. “We work with 165 hospitals in four states.” Laurie’s is run by Waldman, his brother Scott and sister Patty Baker, whose son Sam recently joined as the company’s fourth generation.
Altogether, the business offers 40,000 different styles of shoes in a wide range of sizes, and there are pedorthists on staff to ensure patrons get the right pair. If customers request a style that isn’t in stock, Laurie’s will track it down for them, Waldman says. “We really stay on top of what is popular,” he notes. “Our staff buys shoes all over the world, in places like New York and Paris. People are amazed when they find their perfect style and then realize they can get it in several different colors.”
Waldman says the company has stayed in business because its leadership understands what the community needs—not just from a consumer perspective, but from a philanthropic one as well. He says Laurie’s supports organizations like Friends of Kids with Cancer and the St. Louis County Library system, with a special focus on helping young people.
“We also have a wonderful relationship with SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital,” he says. “It treats young patients from all over the world with bone and muscle problems in their legs and feet who often are unable to wear regular shoes. We fit them with shoes for their special needs, in all kinds of colors and styles. Often, it’s the first time these kids have worn shoes they can actually enjoy. In some cases, with the right pair, they are able to walk for the first time.”
Another reason for the company’s success is its dedication to staff, Waldman says. Some employees have been with Laurie’s for decades, and there are plans to expand its online and storefront presence with a team effort.
“We all prefer to be hands-on when serving our customers, but the pandemic necessitated some changes,” Waldman says. “Last summer, we set up large tents so people could shop outside, and we offered pickup and delivery. We shipped quite a bit, too—online sales actually rose 320% last year. Our staff was willing and able to adapt, and that’s a big reason why we are still here after 70 years.”
Pictured at top: A newspaper shot from the early days of Laurie’s Shoe and a 2021 store interior
Photos courtesy of Laurie’s Shoes