Shoe salesman Frank Smith, 70, once sold $1,300 pairs of shoes in one fell swoop. “It was a new record,” said Smith of Michelson’s Shoes in Lexington, Mass. “The lady had a very narrow foot, and when I brought her a shoe that fit, she asked, ‘How many colors do you have in that style?’ She proceeded to buy them all, as well as boots, and lots of other footwear.” Of course, added Smith, “She didn’t come back for a long time after that, because she had enough shoes to last her a while.”
Smith has been selling shoes at this longtime family business for 31 years and estimates he’s fitted “thousands and thousands of feet” since he first started in 1979. “If I knew the exact amount, I’d probably play the number,” said Smith, who admits that he never aspired to be a shoe salesman. In fact, while a child growing up in Chelsea, Mass., he would go to local shoe stores with his mom and dad, and remembers, “I was never impressed with the shoe salesman job. But here I am.”
With Michelson’s Shoes located near the historic Lexington green, Smith says he’s met visitors from all around the globe when they wander into the store, complaining of sore feet. “Shoe stores draw people,” said Smith. “I’ve met people from Ireland, France, China, Japan, you name it. They’ll start walking and touring, and then their feet will start hurting, and they’ll come in and say, ‘I left my good shoes at home.” Smith said he helps figure out what’s bothering them. “I’m not a doctor but I can usually help,” said Smith.
Q: Women are notorious for shoe therapy shopping – trying shoes on with no intention to buy. Do you get those types?
A: Oh yes, we get those ladies. I try and sell as much as I can, but they’ll try on 10-12 pairs, and then walk out and say, ‘I’ll think about it.’”
Q: This store is 79 feet long, front to back. The sales floor is upstairs and the stock room is down in the cellar. How far do you walk on an average day?
A: I know exactly what I average in a day, because my wife once put a pedometer on me. It said 8.2 miles, minus the mile that I walk during lunchtime. That includes going up and down the stairs and ladders, and walking back and forth. There’s a lot of walking, no doubt about it.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?
A: I like to meet people and help them, and I’ve even sold shoes to some celebrities throughout the years, including Bruins hockey players, TV broadcasters and famous writers.
Q: How common is it to have one foot that’s bigger than the other?
A: I’d say that 80 percent of people have feet that are different sizes. You may not be able to see the difference, but I can measure it. Shoes are usually fitted to the smaller foot, so the other foot can hurt. You need to make sure the width and length are right, and pad the smaller foot with a cushion.
Q: What about customers with smelly feet?
A: Well, I have a sinus problem, so I can’t smell that well, which is sometimes a godsend.