The Supreme Shoedog of North Jersey
Before strip malls and e-commerce made shoe shopping mundane, one fast-talking, chain-smoking, small-town salesman elevated footwear hustling to an art form.
Illustrations by Chris Russell
Too many years ago, my father owned a hole-in-the-wall store called Townley Shoes in Cranford, New Jersey, a whistle-stop along the Erie Lackawanna train tracks in Union County. Working-class Cranford may have been flatlining at the time, but Townley was a shimmering, neon-swathed palace of platforms, penny loafers, wingtips, wedgies, saddles, slingbacks, sandals, sneakers, Mary Janes, ripple-soled bluchers, bucks (dirty and white) and steel-toe boots.
We carried a shoe lover’s feast of makes and models — Life Strides, Cobbies, Stride Rites, Buster Browns, Converse, Keds, PF Flyers, Miss Americas, French Shriners, Hush Puppies, Freemen, Walkovers, Red Wings, Welcos, Daniel Greens, Footjoy and Florsheims.
My father started out as chiropodist, an archaic name for what today is called podiatry, at a walk-up office in Orange, New Jersey. But when massaging bunions and shaving off corns and calluses wasn’t paying the bills, he opened his first shoe store in Broo…
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