It’s practically a law of nature that women are passionate about shoes. But to hear women talk about a shoe store with the same enthusiasm? That’s when you know you’re on the right track, says Stanley Eisenman, the man behind Stanley Eisenman Fine Shoes, which this month marks its 60th year in business.
With two locations filled with a diverse and growing selection of shoes, handbags and jewelry, business is booming. Eisenman says the focus of the company remains unchanged from the day his father, David Eisenman, set out that first pair of shoes inside a leased space in The Fair Department Store back in May 1950: Combining the “finest products available in the market” with “old-fashioned service.”
That sense of commitment has always been extended to every woman, regardless of the size or shape of her foot. In fact, the company specializes in hard-to-find sizes, from the very small to the ultra-narrow, and that’s resulted in a customer base with a near-matrimonial level of loyalty. These women helped David Eisenman build his business.
Stanley was born the same year his father opened the business, and he grew up working for his dad. “I started in the warehouse as a teenager,” he says; in high school, he moved to the sales floor. In 1964, David moved his merchandise from The Fair to Monnig’s, and when Stanley graduated from college in 1972, he formally joined the business. “I guess it was always in my DNA,” he says.
By the mid-’80s, David was in his 70s and not as active in the business (he passed away in December 2008, at the age of 95). When an ownership change at Monnig’s threatened the store’s independence, the Eisenmans decided to open a free-standing location. Actually, they opened three at once, in Sundance Square, on Camp Bowie Boulevard and in Arlington. “It was a busy summer for us,” Stanley says with a laugh. The Camp Bowie location remains open, and now there’s only a second location, on Hulen Street, which opened in 1999.
Not that staying independent has been easy. To stay ahead of the competition — big box stores, department stores and rival boutiques — Eisenman has had to buckle down even harder to make sure he carries what his customers like, from fashion brands like Stuart Weitzman and Donald J. Pliner to youthful labels like Ugg to elegant comfort lines like Paul Mayer and Anyi Lu. “You can go to some stores and see the 6- inch platforms, but they don’t really fit anyone, they just get a bit of press,” he says. “Because we’re independent, we are really mobile; we can get a special mix of merchandise that others can’t, and we can tailor the mix to our clientele.”
Eisenman meets with designers at markets in Dallas, Las Vegas and New York City and works directly with the sales representatives to buy the right shoes in a range of sizes. “The people who work for us have input on the buy as well,” he adds. The stores even have a cobbler on speed dial so that customers who need a few tweaks — a heel strap removed or an upper section tightened — can get shoes that fit their feet exactly.
Stanley’s wife, Barbi, also plays a vital role in the business, overseeing the selection of accessories and handbags that includes indie designers like New York City’s Rebecca Minkoff, watches from Michael Kors and even jewelry made by local Fort Worth designers. She also provides an extra set of eyes when it comes to purchasing shoes. “She saw a slingback in the Stuart Weitzman showroom in New York after we had finished working the order. We added it, and it turned out to be the bestselling evening shoe we carried that season, it sold so well we had to re-order it,” Stanley says.
Not surprisingly, Eisenman estimates about 90 percent of his business comes from repeat customers. But he’s always looking for ways to build on this success, reaching new customers and continuing to grow. “I obsess about this business,” he says. “After 38 years, it’s still my passion.”
by Jenny B.Davis (courtesy of Indulge Magazine)