Make us your home page
Instagram

Quality, service are key to independent shoe store's survival

SPRING HILL — Scores of stores across Hernando County sell shoes, says Joshua Hnilica. Among them, a small independent shoe store is tucked into an eight-unit strip plaza, nearly hidden behind a skyline of signs along Spring Hill Drive. This store has not only survived, but this month also celebrates its 10th anniversary.

"It's the quality of our footwear," said Hnilica, 26, manager of Shoe Comfort II.

His father, John Hnilica, is the owner and operator of Ed's Shoe Repair, a Port Richey institution where the family has sold and repaired shoes for 36 years. Joshua's grandfather founded the business when he learned the cobbler's trade in the 1950s.

With its three-generation history, the family knows quality and comfort make a perfect pair of shoes.

"I don't carry a product unless I try it myself," Joshua Hnilica said, "or someone I trust, usually my mother, and she's the hardest person in the world to fit."

Shoe Comfort II stocks fewer than a dozen brands of shoes, manufacturers the Hnilicas know well for their solid materials and detailed construction techniques.

For instance, Naot women's shoes ($90 to $150) are handmade individually in Israel, their sandals with a natural cork insole that molds to the owner's feet.

"So, it's almost like buying an orthopedic shoe," Hnilica said.

The shop carries only U.S.-made New Balance athletic shoes. Its top-of-the-line is the NB 1540 ($150), "one of the best shoes New Balance has ever produced, and it can be repaired," he said.

The New Balance 847 V2 women's athletic shoe ($125) is the store's No. 1 seller among all brands and styles. It's a "medical-grade walking shoe," the result of seven iterations. "It's not only very comfortable, but it's cute," Hnilica said of the snappy white model trimmed in pastel blue.

Otherwise, he acknowledged, some of the best-built shoes look a bit, well, clunky.

"Style is an afterthought," he said.

A shoe's higher purpose is to secure foot health. Many of the shop's customers make their first visit on the recommendation of a doctor.

"We work with doctors to see their needs, and we can adjust our stock accordingly," Hnilica said.

Whether a sandal, casual or dress shoe, every model offers arch support, "which everybody needs," Hnilica emphasized.

To determine fit, Hnilica brandishes the Brannock device, the standard measuring device for the footwear industry since 1926.

"It's an old-school kind of thing," he said, "but a great starting point."

With the customer then shod according to Brannock readings, Hnilica presses thumb to shoe toe, with his hand spanning the instep, feeling for appropriate roominess. He learned the advisable degree "from 16 years of my dad looking over my shoulder and telling me no, that's not the way to do it." Personal preference plays a role, too, he said. Some people want a tight shoe; others prefer a softer fit.

The shop's customers are generally older, those who grew up with a foot on the Brannock. Many come with a recommendation from a podiatrist; others learned of the shop via word from satisfied clients. Some respond to the sign "Shoe Repairs," which are performed at the Port Richey location.

Even if a shopper fails to make a purchase, the person leaves with an education on shoe fitting and perhaps a handout on foot fitness.

Said Hnilica: "I try to help every person who comes through the door. That's why I love my job."

Contact Beth Gray at [email protected]

. fast facts

Shoe Comfort II

What: High-end women's and men's shoes

Where: 10517 Spring Hill Drive, Spring Hill

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and

9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays

Phone: (352) 688-9979

Website: edsshoerepair.com

Quality, service are key to independent shoe store's survival 11/11/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 11, 2015 4:02pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. One of the best places for investing in a rental house is in Tampa Bay

    Real Estate

    Two Tampa Bay ZIP Codes are drawing national attention.

    . If you're looking to invest in a house to rent out, few places are better than  ZIP Code 34607 in Hernando County's Spring Hill area, according to ATTOM Data Solutions.
[LANCE ROTHSTEIN   |  Times
 file photo]

  2. Tampa Chamber of Commerce announces small business winners

    Business

    TAMPA — The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce selected the winners of the 2017 Small Business of the Year Awards at a ceremony Wednesday night at the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. More than 600 attendees celebrated the accomplishments of Tampa Bay's small business community.

    Vincent Cassidy, president and CEO of Majesty Title Services, was named Outstanding Small Business Leader of the Year by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

  3. International array of artists chosen as finalists for pier project

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — A diverse group of six artists will compete for a chance to install their work at the city's multimillion-dollar Pier District, expected to open in early 2019.

  4. Gourmet food fight between top chefs raises $200,000

    News

    ST. PETERSBURG — The chefs came armed with their secret ingredients — pork rinds, truffle butter, pork bellies.

    (From left to right) Chefs Ryan Mitchell, Michael Buttacavoli, Ted Dorsey and Matthew Brennan compete during Tampa Bay Food Fight at The Coliseum in St. Petersburg on Tuesday. The event features chefs from the Tampa Bay area and benefitted Metropolitan Ministries. EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times
  5. HSN star Joy Mangano promotes new book: Inventing Joy

    Retail

    ST. PETERSBURG — After more than 30 years, Joy Mangano knows a thing or two about promoting products. Now she's promoting herself.

    Inventor and entrepreneur Joy Mangano is releasing her first new book, Inventing Joy on Nov. 7. [TIERRA SMITH | Times]