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Ready for a new chapter: After 40 years of running downtown shoe store, owners are looking to new interests

Owners Bob and Judy Herington and longtime employee Jenni Carroll, left, at Herington’s Shoe Store Friday. The store will be closing soon after 70 years of business and all three agreed that the people they met was the best part of working there. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- After more than half a century of business in Bemidji, Herington’s Shoes is preparing to close its doors.

“We’ve done it for 40 years and we’re ready for a new chapter in our lives,” said Bob Herington, who runs the store with his wife Judy. “We’re closing because we have other interests we want to pursue. The business was very sound, so we’re going out on a high note.”

Before taking over the store in 1977, Herington’s Shoes was owned and operated by Bob’s father of the same name. The business initially started in 1947 and its original location was the building that currently houses the Northwest Minnesota Foundation at 201 Third St. Northwest. The company would later move to its current home at 321 Beltrami Ave. Northwest in 1960.

“My father worked in a shoe store in Redfield (S.D.) when he was growing up in high school,” Bob said. “Then, after World War II he decided that he wanted to get into the shoe business.”

While their products have changed over the decades, Bob said the way the store operates hasn’t.

“Our success was always being able to measure feet properly and align the customer with the proper shoe,” Bob said. “In our industry, the only way to make it is to have repeat business. You can’t make it by selling a person a pair of shoes and not having them come back.”

Not only did the people who stopped in for a pair of shoes become loyal customers, though, they also became friends for the Heringtons.

“The people are what we’re going to remember the most,” Judy said. “We have had so many customers that come back and we’ve become good friends with so many people and their families.”

“We’ve been very lucky with our employees, too,” Bob said. “Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

One of those employees is Jenni Carroll. Like Bob and Judy, Carroll has most appreciated the personalities she gets to encounter at the store.

“I grew up in this store, so I will also miss the people,” Carroll said. “There’s been so many who’ve come in and said how sad they are, too.”

While their store is closing, Bob said that the downtown sector of Bemidji has plenty of business activity that will take its place.

“I think downtown’s future is very good,” Bob said. “I don’t think it will be all retail, but instead a mix of restaurants, offices and retail.”

No specific date has been set for the day the store will completely close, but Bob and Judy are estimating it will be in early July.

Matthew Liedke

Matthew Liedke is the city, county and state government reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He also covers business, politics and financial news.

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