Foothills Shoe Company making strides in Margaretville
By Julia Green
Marc Levenshus has been in the footwear business for over 30 years, and he’s bringing that experience to Margaretville.
His business, Foothills Shoe Company, opened its doors about a month ago in the Bussy Building on Main Street in Margaretville, in the former location of the Village Homemaker.
“In conversations with people up here, I realized that there were no stores to buy footwear, socks, thermal underwear, those kind of accessories,” he said. “When this location became available, I thought it might be a good opportunity to offer the goods I had off-price. That’s the concept: to offer brand names off-price.”
Foothills offers a number of name brands, including Champion, Clarks, Hush Puppies, Merrell, Rockport, Timberland and Woolrich, at anywhere from 40 to 70 percent off the retail price.
“We’re trying to recreate a real mercantile atmosphere here, kind of like a junior department store,” Levenshus said. “Kind of like the apparel offerings of the old Margaretville Department Store.”
Levenshus began his career in sales with Procter and Gamble before becoming a sales manager with Converse in the mid-1970s, where he was in charge of distributing discontinued products. Three years later, he began his own company, buying from all manufacturers, and in the mid-1990s he purchased a retail chain of stores in the Pennsylvania and New Jersey area. He continued to operate the stores while simultaneously operating his wholesale business until he relocated to the Catskills, at which point he opted to focus solely on the wholesale business.
Despite the bleak outlook of the American economy, Levenshus was excited to open his doors.
“No area is invulnerable to the current crisis, but sooner or later, business across the country is going to pick up, and I wanted to be positioned for that,” he said. “And stores offering real value, like Wal-Mart and Target, continue to do well. I figured that if I follow their example of the value equation, I might have some success also.”
He added that the feedback thus far has been overwhelmingly positive from patrons who have visited the store.
“People seem to like what we’re offering, and they certainly like the prices,” he said.
And, in a culture where it has become increasingly popular to shop on-line to secure the best possible prices, Levenshus has gone one step further, researching on-line prices and pricing his own merchandise even lower. That way, he says, people have not only the opportunity to save money, but also to try on the shoes.
Levenshus added that he’s also looking into having a dry cleaning service added to the business so that local residents can drop off clothes to be laundered and pick them up a few days later. He hopes to have that in place by the end of the year.
Levenshus had been a part-time resident of the Catskills for 22 years before relocating to the area full time about 14 months ago. He said that all of his other stores were located in urban areas; as a result, he has had to “retool” his product inventory.
“When you open a store, you do a lot of demographic studies,” he said. “But up here, I am the demographic.
“I’m impressed with the collaborative efforts of the other retailers in town,” he added. “We work collaboratively, not competitively. If we see something that would maybe work in someone else’s store, we tell them about it. I think we have the opportunity to make Margaretville a location for destination shopping.
“This is the most fun I’ve had in retail because I like talking to customers and hearing what brought them to Margaretville and talking to visitors to Margaretville. This is a friendly town.”