Long before Lauren Golden began working with customers at Golden Shoes three summers ago, her grandfather and great-grandfather were the community’s go-to experts for footwear. And long before that, going all the way back to the 19th century, the building where she helps customers find the right fit for their feet has been a shoe store.
For generations, 122 E. Front St. in Traverse City has been the place people come for quality shoes and excellent customer service.
It’s in the DNA of the place – and the people.
“Locals love to come back because they know the employees,” said Lauren, 17. “We treat them like the family community that we have here. It’s one big community.”
Welcome to Golden Shoes, as pure an example of local, Michigan retailing as there is. Golden Shoes operates in the same building as the business did in 1883 and it plans to be there far into the future, too.
Although you can find shoes in less personal ways in this day and age, Golden Shoes continues to thrive with a family atmosphere that provides the ultimate customer service and expertise.
For example, the store recently welcomed back a customer who moved to New Orleans. Since the family had outfitted each of their first five daughters with a first pair of shoes from Golden Shoes, they wanted to do the same for their new baby girl. So, they came all the way back to Golden Shoes this summer!
“That’s a tradition,” said Bill Golden, Lauren’s dad, who runs the business with his older brother, Craig. “Golden Shoes is a tradition.
“You can go anywhere and buy anything nowadays, but it’s still the experience of walking into the store and somebody recognizing you that brings people back here.”
Like a lot of family-owned local retailers, Golden Shoes has a long history. The store’s heritage goes back to the 1883 founding of Friedrich Shoes at 122 E. Front St. in one of the original buildings in downtown Traverse City.
Lauren’s grandfather, also named Bill, and her great-grandfather, Nathaniel, bought the store in 1954, long before her father was even born. It has been in the Golden family ever since, with Lauren’s dad, Bill, and her uncle, Craig, now running the business.
Through the years, many employees have become part of the family business. Members of the Golden family, for sure, but also many other people who now are part of the Golden Shoes family.
For some, working at Golden Shoes has literally become a family affair. When Tiffany Edge sought a job after 15 years as a stay-at-home mom, she looked to Golden Shoes where her mother, Shelly Edge, has worked since 2004. Even Tiffany’s daughter worked at Golden Shoes until recently moving out of state.
“I’ve stayed at Golden Shoes because of the family and the owners,” Tiffany Edge said. “They’re a good family to work for. They treat us with respect.”
Beyond the employees, the customers, too, are part of the Golden Shoes family. Employees greet customers by name and try to make sure everybody gets welcomed as they come in the door. It’s a more personal experience than shopping at a mall, or online.
“We can measure, and they don’t get that online where they play the shipping game back and forth,” Shelly Edge said. “We’re here to help people find what they need and fit them, and we take the time to do so. It’s not just ‘Here’s your shoes. Help yourself.’ We would never do that.
“We’re here to the do the No. 1 job for you, take care of you step by step. It’s nice to make people happy.”
As a result, Golden Shoes has customers in northern Michigan, New Orleans and all over the country, even from around the world. And they come back, again and again. “We see the same faces over and over,” Shelly Edge said.
“We’re very honest and tell them what they need,” Tiffany Edge said. “They appreciate that. Not only do they love that the business is very family oriented, they’re very appreciative of the service we give.”
Likewise, after nearly 140 years, Golden Shoes is appreciative of the Traverse City community. That’s why the business gives back to the community. Bill Golden, for example, has been a part of the Downtown Development Authority for the past eight years, helping to ensure that downtown Traverse City remains vibrant.
Golden Shoes also sponsors the annual Traverse City Cherry Festival and participates in Boots for Kids, a charitable program that provides winter boots to children. The children get measured to make sure they get a good-fitting pair of boots so they can go outside and play during the winter.
Whether it’s fitting kids from families in need with winter boots or store customers with the latest in footwear fashions, what makes Golden Shoes special is that employees take time to fit their customers and make sure they get the right shoe – whatever the customer’s unique needs may be.
“I love meeting people from all over, and it’s great when they fall in love with a shoe,” Lauren Golden said. “As they put on a really good shoe that is good for their foot, they instantly fall in love.”
Lauren Golden has one more year of high school, then plans to go to college. But whether she ends up in the shoe business long term or not, Golden Shoes is guaranteed to stay in the family.
As Bill Golden likes to say, “everybody that’s here is my family.”