November 27, 2021 10:40 pm

Wayne shoe business calls it quits after 90 years

RADNOR –  Lou and Bob D’Amicantonio will finally have a Saturday off.

After more than 45 years selling and repairing shoes on the Main Line, the brothers took the difficult step of announcing they were closing their third-generation shoe store.

The store has been a staple of Wayne since 1932 when their grandfather Angelo opened a shoe repair shop in the Lyceum Hall building at the corner of 2021Sneakers  North Wayne and Lancaster avenues.  It was the height of the Depression and he was one of six shoe repair shops in town.

The Angelo D’Amicantonio & Son is a throwback to a time when customer service, quality and fair prices could compete with the mall or now the internet.

“We were going six days a week, no vacations, it’s just tough,” Bob said as he took a minute to speak with a reporter between the many customers who had been stopping in to congratulate them and find one last pair of Sebago Classics.  “I’m 65, my brother is 69. We need to cash out and spend some money.”

The brothers have been amazed at the response their closing has gotten.

“We came in that Sunday put out that sign in the window and on Monday I couldn’t believe it, all hell broke loose,” Bob said.

Despite being in a small community they’ve always kept their prices competitive and customer service top notch.  They’ve sold shoes and repairs from everybody on the Main Line from Hope Scott to the cop on the beat.

Their family is an American success story. Their grandfather Angelo learned the craft as a teen in Naples,ouththen emigrated from the Provence of Campobasso Italy in 1912.  He worked in a shoe factory in New York City, then Scranton and Bristol before making it to Wayne just before the start of World War I in which he served and was injured in France. Following the war he returned to work in the small shoe store on South Wayne Avenue for Robert McCraig, taking a break only to return to Italy where he married his bride, Nazzerena.

According to family lore, in 1932, the height of the Depression when McCraig took “the gas pipe” one morning above his store and it was Angelo who found him. It was then the young D’Amicantonio decided to open a shoe repair store in Lyceum Hall.

The family business brought young Phil – Bob and Lou’s father – into the store starting at a young age with a shoe shine stand.   He continued to work there through New Drop Jordans  school and graduated from Radnor High School in 1941. He served in World War II and was back in the shop a week after returning home.

In 1950 their lease in the Lyceum Hall, also known as Colonial building, expired and they bought the store where they are presently located, 157 W. Lancaster Ave., for $10,000.

Lou and Bob entered the business in the mid-’70s when the shop was still mainly a shoe repair business. Lou was the one who suggested the business should expand the retail shoes business. He had been working for Thom Mcan shoe stores as a college co-op and in 1974 brought that knowledge of retail to the family business while Bob went to Pierce Junior College for accounting.

“I said, ‘Hey if I can sell shoes (at Thom McCan), I can sell them in our own store,’” Lou recalled in a 2009 Oral History presented by The Radnor Historical Society.

During that interview Lou also recalled dealing with the old Main Line families.

“Mrs. Scott she would bring in stuff to get fixed that even paupers would throw out,” Lou said. “She wanted it fixed and my dad fixed anything she wanted and I mean anything.”

Lou also talked about how a local shop like theirs has the ability to bring out a variety of samples for a customer until the right one “clicks” something that many internet shoppers now realize requires many returns.

“A size ten is not always a ten, which is probably a good thing. Service is the kind of thing that keeps it going,” Lou said,

Lou also recalled his fathers’ annoyance when President Nixon visited town.  He was excited to see him but one customer held him up and he missed the historic visit.

“Having a very patriotic family, my Dad and grandfather were dying to leave the store and run down and see Nixon in the center of Wayne, but according to my Dad, my Grandfather got tied up with some old biddy who kept coming in with her shoes for repair, she tied him up and he never got the chance to get down there. He was so mad,” Lou said. “Dad brought that story up a million times, he was so mad she held him up over a pair of shoes.”

The brothers aren’t just businessmen in Radnor; they are residents of the community. Both graduated from Radnor High School and they are active with the Wayne Business Association, on Radnor Township boards and involved in the Main Line Chamber of Commerce.

A business profile  with the Main Line Chamber of Commerce quoted the brothers as saying the best part of the business has been the relationships formed with families , some over four generations.  They know 75 percent of them on a first-name basis.

One customer described it well.

“What’s amazing, I’m here probably once a year and they know my name and where all my kids are,” said David Boath, who was one of the many customers  Favnikeoutlet visiting this week.  “He asks how’s Max  (my son) is doing out in Eugene. How does he know that, but he just knows. They must take notes in the back, because they just know.”

“What is really important is remembering their shoe size and style,” said Bob D’Amicantonio when asked about his ability to remember names.

“We treat people the way we would like to be treated; we have to count on repeat business. That is what our business has been about,” the brothers said.

As for the possibility of someone in the family taking over the business, Bob never married.  Lou has three sons but they had no interest in the business.

“The whole business climate has changed, they are my nephews but I wouldn’t encourage them to come in,” said Bob. “It’s too hard the grind we went through, the hours.”

“We’re still going to be around town, I’m not leaving,” he added. “It will be a lifestyle change maybe volunteer.”

“I’m looking forward to being able to go to the Radnor Lower Merion game, finally,” said Lou. “After 48 years, six days a week, it’s time for a change of scenery. “

“Time caught up with us, but there is no way a business coming in now would last 90 years,” Bob said.

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