After A Half Century On Main Street, The Shoe Salon Closes Its Doors

By: Debra Lawless

The Shoe Salon closes its doors Friday after nearly half a century on Chatham's Main Street. DEBRA LAWLESS PHOTO

CHATHAM – The Shoe Salon, an iconic business that has been a familiar presence on Main Street for over a half century, will close its doors this Friday after a sale offering discounts of 80 percent and more on merchandise and on all store fixtures including chairs, clothing racks and lights.

“It’s a sad time for everybody,” says manager Patty Garber of Eastham, who has worked at the store at 521 Main St. for 16 years. “I will miss the customers. We’ve had some very loyal customers—I’ve waited on the same people for 16 years.”

Hymie and Angela Rimer of Centerville became the third owners of the store, which has locations in Osterville and Mashpee as well as Chatham, about 20 years ago. Rimer said during a telephone interview last week that he wants to retire because his back bothers him and also because “the internet began to make life a little difficult.” He prefers to retire while the store is still profitable, rather than watching it run into the ground. While he tried to sell the store, “there are not many buyers for brick and mortar,” he added.

Last Friday afternoon the store was a hive of activity. With outdoor temperatures hovering at about 12 degrees, two days before First Night the crowds on Main Street and in its overflowing parking lots gave the illusion that it might be July. Despite the prominent signs on the windows advertising a 60 to 80 percent sale with “Nothing Held Back,” and a smaller sign that reads “We Are Retiring,” some customers did not know the store was closing for good on Jan. 5.

“I’m distraught,” one customer told Garber.

One part-time Chatham resident said she has been coming to the store regularly for 25 or 30 years.

“The best thing about the store is that lady right there,” she says, pointing to Garber’s co-manager Crystal Macara of Chatham.

The woman says that several years ago, when her daughter married, she came in for a pair of shoes but the ones she liked were a full size too large. Yet somehow the store made the shoes fit. She has never forgotten that.

“I’m going to miss them terribly.”

Even today the store is stocked with plenty of shoes—heels and flats, tie shoes, leather flip flops and sandals. This is known as a high-end shoe shoe boutique, carrying labels such as Stuart Weitzman, Donald Pliner, the French line Saint James, and the Israeli lines BeautiFeel and Naot. The store also carries “select vendors” for jackets, sweaters and handbags. Still, “there’s something for everyone in this store,” Garber says.

The Rimers, both natives of South Africa, served as the store’s buyers. “We spent a lot of time traveling Europe and elsewhere we could, buying for the store,” Hymie Rimer said.

The store’s original location was on the other side of Main Street, in the Brick Building on the corner of Main Street and Chatham Bars Avenue. The store’s current building, which has a sign on it saying “Marcus Howard, Tailor, c. 1848,” was once a liquor store owned by John Nickerson. The shelves in the back room are still hand-labeled with the names of liquors and sodas.

In the beginning the store was an annex to a larger store in Florida and was open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Garber says. At some point the store began to stay open year-round, and was no longer affiliated with a Florida store. In recent years the Chatham store has been the most profitable of the three stores, Rimer said.

For everyone involved, the most poignant thing about the store closing revolves around the people they will no longer see regularly.

“One of the most important aspects of the business is the people I’ve worked with,” Rimer said.

Garber will miss the customers—ranging in age from one to 103—as well as her co-workers. She mentions her long-time co-worker Gwen Sheppard, who worked in the store for 30 years until she retired four years ago at age 87. Sheppard still refers customers to the store.

Everyone—owners, employees, and customers—will have their memories of the Shoe Salon. Outside, two white wrought-iron chairs flank a matching table. Here brides, outfitted with new shoes, have posed with their grooms. For them, it will be sad to see the familiar gingerbread-trimmed building without the elegant black oval sign that reads “The Shoe Salon.”

The final sale day at the Shoe Salon will be Friday, Jan. 5, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Osterville store will close in January, and the Mashpee store closes in March.