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Giving your heart and sole Featured

7:16am EDT June 30, 2003
Tom Luck is on his way to a Baltimore conference of the National Shoe Retailers Association, where he serves on the Strategic Planning Committee.

Asked how he has kept his Fairlawn-based Lucky Shoes stores ahead of the competition, he says that is the very topic the retailers would be discussing at the conference.

"My feeling is, for an individual businessperson today to thrive and grow, you have to pay attention to the consumers' needs and wants and offer them value-added services," he says. "You have to ask yourself, 'Who is the consumer coming through my front door?'"

Lucky Shoes' reputation for customer service has helped the family-owned business grow since Luck's English immigrant grandfather opened the first store in 1919. The business was handed down to Luck's father, and Tom became owner of the Fairlawn store in 1973.

Three years later, he tripled the store's size to 17,000 square feet. The business has since grown to 14 locations in Akron, Canton, Cleveland and Columbus, including 10 concept stores -- in conjunction with the Rockport, Stride Rite and New Balance companies -- and an online retail store that offers shoes in sizes 4 to 17 and in widths AAA to 6E.

"Our mission statement and philosophy is the same as my grandfather's was in 1919," Luck says. "We have over 100 employees who have bought into our philosophy. I love it when I get letters from customers about the great service they received and about the employees who helped them. It's what I call the 'wow experience.'"

That experience goes far beyond measuring feet and choosing the perfect shoe. Luck introduced an orthopedic lab to his store in 1998, in which certified pedorthists work with orthopedic specialists and podiatrists to create custom orthotics for patients with hip, knee, back and diabetes-related problems.

Luck believes this is such a valuable service that he pays tuition and expenses for pedorthists-in-training and compensates them for their time while in training.

It's a responsibility Lucky Shoes welcomes, as one more way to empower and retain good employees --some of whom have been with the company for more than 25 years.

Luck recently moved his Canton location to a 9,000-square-foot Lucky Shoes store in Belden Commons. He is also negotiating a lease for a New Balance store to open in October on Cleveland's East Side.

When negotiations are done, he plans to take his employee training program to the next level.

"I already think we do a great job," he says. "But we have to keep thinking about what we can do to be better." How to reach: Lucky Shoes, (330) 836-9542 or www.luckyshoes.com