After two decades of business, Jeff Seigel says he plans to close the doors of the independent northeast London footwear shop that bears his name.
J. Seigel Footwear has been in operation at the corner of Highbury Avenue and Huron Street since 1998. Seigel, 65, who opened the store with his wife Ruth, said it was time for them to retire.
“Basically, we’re tired,” he said with a laugh. “But we’re working on options where part of our business style may continue, but that’s too early to discuss.”
The Seigel name has a long and storied history in London. Three generations of Seigels have operated a shoe store in the city over the last 89 years, beginning with Seigel’s grandfather, Sam, in 1929.
The downtown store, Seigel’s, located at 129 Dundas St., was later taken over by Seigel’s father, Maurice, in 1954. In addition, a warehouse was later opened at York and Clarence streets.
“I started this when I was 12,” Seigel said of his career in the business. “My father said, ‘Come with me to Montreal, we’re going to buy out the factories,’ and that’s how I got my training.”
Seigel said he worked part-time at the downtown store through university before becoming the store manager in 1975.
Maurice Seigel, who passed away in 2013, operated the location until its closure in 1998.
“When I left the downtown business, and I left because traffic to the downtown had dwindled, I started up a similar business at Huron and Highbury with my wife, myself, and my kids on weekends,” he said of the current location.
After starting with a little more than 2,000-square feet of space, Seigel says the business grew exponentially.
“We added more stockrooms because the business kept growing,” Seigel said. “Let’s just say that for an independent shoe store in Canada, I would say that we’re probably one of the more successful ones.”
The store has undergone several changes in its two-decade history, Seigel says. Initially, the product sold was similar to what was found in his father’s downtown shop. But soon, he says they hit a stride selling shoes with a focus on material quality and fitting.
Over time, the store saw a growth in referrals from foot-care professionals, prompting the business to shift again to focus less on dressy shoes, and more on support, comfort, and business casual, he said.
Since its opening, the shop has attained a loyal customer base, Seigel said. That was evident on Thursday, when a line of more-than-a-dozen people could be seen waiting to get in. Sales over the last couple days, in particular, have been good, he said.
A closing sale is set to start March 6, with an official store closure set for early May, after most inventory has been sold off.
Asked what he planned to do following the store’s closure, Seigel replied that, in addition to enjoying some much-needed leisure time, he may do some consulting work.
“My wife and I are ready to try some different things. Twenty years of working, basically, 50-plus hours a week, it starts to take its toll,” he said.
“What I tell my customers when they’re shopping is, ‘If you’re not sure it fits, it doesn’t fit,'” Seigel said. “But my message is to thank them for their years of support… I thank London and area for their support. My wife and I, we certainly couldn’t have done this without them.”
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