Our Town: Eric Comfort Shoes provides a very valuable service

Our Town: Eric Comfort Shoes provides a very valuable service
Abraham Thomas and his busy staff of shoe fitters

I played golf last weekend and noticed that one of the topics of conversation/joking/ridicule related to golf shoes.

One of my partners talked about how inexpensive his new shoes were while the other remarked about how white his were. Banter about odd subjects goes on endlessly during a round of golf and I suppose I was more aware of the shoe subject since I was about to write a column about shoes. It was as if the writing gods were giving me a bit of encouragement.

I first became aware of the importance of shoes many years ago while standing in line in CVS in Garden City.

I was observing two teenage girls in front of me who were, in turn, watching a teenage boy as he paid for his item and walked away. One girl looked at the other and said “bad shoes.” The other nodded in agreement. Up until that moment, I had no idea that people actually were keenly interested in the kind of shoes one wears.

But I could not have been more wrong.

Let’s face it, Nike makes sneakers and the company is presently valued at over $29 billion. Dick’s Sporting Goods store in the mall has a 75-yard-long wall filled with a variety of sneakers and shoes. Today kids regularly buy and sell limited edition sneakers as a way to make money.

Thom McCan made so much money selling shoes that he singlehandedly funded the creation of charming downtown Stony Brook. And I once met Michael Jordan at the Bear’s Club in Florida and what was most striking about him was that he wore really cool shoes.

And now that I have reached the age where ingrown toenails and back pain are my constant companions my priority has shifted from style to comfort. I’ve had to shelve all my gorgeous leather or suede tassel loafers from Brooks Brothers and now seek ease. That’s how I found Eric Comfort Shoes.

Eric Comfort Shoes is located on Hillside Avenue in Williston Park and advertises that “we sell widths sizes from A to triple E.” Now that’s what I call good news.

I honestly don’t know how people manage to squeeze into the standard C width that regular shoe stores always stock, yet hapless customers willingly cooperate with this abuse by squeezing into those skinny puppies.

And why women subject themselves to stiletto heels is beyond me.

The Chinese practiced footbinding for 1,000 years and by so doing crippled millions of young girls. Footbinding was banned at the turn of the century and for good reason. The practice was so grotesque that in fact, 10 percent of the girls who were subjected to that form of torturous beautification died of sepsis before the two-year process was finished. And let’s not forget the Cinderella fairy tale which highlighted how only one girl could slip into that tiny glass slipper.

Thank goodness comfortable shoes are getting more popular. Last night when I was standing in an Italian restaurant someone remarked to me “Hey aren’t those Samuel Hubbard boots? Nice, I’m impressed.”

I stopped into Eric Comfort Shoe store last weekend to interview the owner Abraham Thomas.

On this Saturday the store was packed and all his 10-member sales crew were busy waiting on customers. Abraham and I sat down for a few minutes and he told me that this store is one of a chain of nine stores but is the only one in Nassau County.

He said, “People are getting smart nowadays. They want style, but also insist on comfort. People work long hours and need a shoe they can wear from 9 to 9 without pain.” This guy is speaking my language. He said his most popular shoes include Ecco, Samuel Hubbard, Mephisto, Rockports and Clarks.

I like the salesmen there because not only do they smile and attend to me quickly, but they actually remember what I have bought there in the past. When I asked the owner about their training he told me, “I send them for a one-month training course in Manhattan before they start so they can understand what there is to know about feet and shoe construction.” He told me that they also make custom shoes as well which cater to diabetics and amputees.

I asked him to tell me an interesting shoe story and he smiled and brought over a nice looking pair of women’s sandals with the label Beautifeel.

“These are high-end women’s sandals, which was a huge investment for me initially. My staff met three times prior to us purchasing them and they all told me not to do it. Something told me it was a good investment so I decided to go ahead and this shoe is now our third best seller. Once you put in on, you will buy it.”

Of course, that’s a sign of a good item. It‘s called the wow factor. If a shoe is made extremely well, the moment you slip it on you know immediately that its quality and you will buy it. Quality always sells because people want things that work well.

Abraham Thomas is yet another smart businessman who owns a local store providing our town with a valuable and unique service. Long live downtown storekeepers, long live those brave risk-taking entrepreneurs and most certainly, long live comfortable shoes.

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