"We do not sell shoes, we sell foot comfort."
Benjamin M. Kershaw
Part 1: The Beginning
following is a letter to Julian Kershaw, President of The Walk Shop,
from his uncle Solomon Kershaw, relating the details of his grandfather
Benjamin Kershaw's Jamaica, Long Island shoe store, the first Kershaw-run
We will be interested in seeing your web site and how it incorporates
some of the early details of the Jamaica store. In my newest manifestation
as repository of family memories, I will summon up some remembrances
of things past .
Natural Bridge Shoe Shop, 8963 164th St, Jamaica, NY 1932
From the time Poppa opened the store in 1930 until well into the
mid 40's he dressed quite formally. Each day he wore a starched
shirt and serious, dark business suit; never a sport coat and unmatched
trousers. In addition, the well dressed businessman always wore
spats, the usually pearl gray cloth ankle covering that went from
mid-instep to just above the ankle, which protected one against
drafts and the improper glances of women other than Momma.
hours were self-imposed slavery; the store was open six days a week
from 9 A.M. until 10 in the evening. That lasted, for him, until your
father and your Uncle Lou came into the store and, together with other
generation sons in the other shoe stores, made hours somewhat
more humane. Unless Poppa had a business meeting or a Chamber of Commerce
or Lions Club lunch, he always brought lunch with him, prepared by
my mother. Dinner was frequently brought to the store by Momma, or
your father or Bea and, when I was old enough not to get lost, by
In the back of the store, starting some time in the late 1930's,
an x-ray machine was installed to allow customers to view the bones
of their feet in the shoes they were about to buy.
It was the ultimate convincer.
Many a customer went back several times, while deciding, to view
each pair of shoes individually. God knows, I used it innumerable
times, as did my friends whenever in the store, until the novelty
wore off. Who knew?
The store was one of six shoe stores on that stretch of 164th street,
just north of Jamaica Avenue. (All the stores) worked together as
if they were a family. They established hours, holidays, and mutually
convenient practices with such amity that they became more than
neighbors. They were each others friends, with knowledge of one
another's families, life events and a good deal of help for whoever
may need it. Poppa was considered by all the Elder Statesman whose
advise and counsel was frequently sought and freely given, with
great consideration for feelings and needs. He was the ultimate
It was a time and a place that is gone.
Love to all,
(The following is taken from an article in The Boot & Shoe
Recorder, a trade publication, circa 1940's)
A New Store...A Side Street...A Depression
"You are eleven miles from New York; eight miles from Brooklyn;
you are two hundred feet off the main street; within three blocks
there are thirty stores where shoes are sold; and this is 1930 -
a depression year... Man, are you mad!?"
But Benjamin M. Kershaw wasn't "mad." Young, with an early
training at Krupp & Tuffy's, a number of years with other shoe
concerns and in business for himself; with courage - and ideas...
well, why not?
Fitting... The Keynote
Two ideas were uppermost in Kershaw's mind: The right shoe; The
right fit. As he puts it, "The objective was to specialize
on the basic proposition of fitting shoes comfortably and correctly,
giving unquestionable quality at a fair price
The idea was successful from the beginning. Quoting from an article
in Boot and Shoe Recorder, "The secret of the success of this
store may be wrapped in a mighty small package. Boiled down, it
consists of three vital factors:
Kershaw does not sell shoes. He sells foot comfort.
Eighty percent of his business is done on a small number of very
Customers are not sold. They buy the shoes they should wear.
Part Two: The Legacy
The year is 1945. With the end of World War Two, Maury Kershaw,
the elder son and dashing young B29 pilot, returned from the Pacific
Theatre. After receiving his Master's degree in economics from Columbia
University, Maury worked for a time as an economist, and in 1948
he joined his father Benjamin in the store in Jamaica, Long Island.
When Benjamin retired, Maury and his brother in law Lou took over
the business, continuing the established traditions.
The store prospered under Maury's leadership, and the Natural Bridge
Shoe Shop maintains it's position as the largest independent distributor
of Craddock Terry footwear in the New York Metropolitan area. Maury
is very active in the community, and through his extensive community
action work helped to bring much needed improvements to Jamaica.
By the mid 1970's, with his children having grown and moved to the
San Francisco Bay Area, Maury moved to the west coast.
In 1978, a third generation was attracted by the same ideals as
his grandfather Ben. The concept of providing an important service,
and helping people in a concrete way, held great appeal for Maury's
Walk Shop, 2120 Vine Street, Berkeley, CA 1998
Bringing the same originality, creativity and initiative to bear,
Julian and Maury teamed up to create the first store in America
specializing in comfortable yet attractive walking shoes. In a familiar
refrain many industry observers thought Maury and Julian crazy to
embark on such an unusual venture, and many were skeptical that
a shoe store could operate with such a specialized concept. But
The Walk Shop was an instant success. Standing room only was quickly
the norm on Saturdays, and the skeptics became converts.
Maury and Julian pioneered many unique and original concepts at
The Walk Shop.In the early '80's they were the first in the U.S.
to offer traditional ladies pumps with rubber soles, arch support,
soft nappa leathers and cushioning. Dubbed the "Comf Pump",
it was an immediate success with their customers. Maury and Julian
proselytized the need for such a category of shoes to manufacturers,
but again most scoffed at the idea that women would wear a dress
shoe with a rubber sole. So Maury and Julian had the shoes custom
made for the store, first in the U.S. and later in Europe, until
they had a whole collection of career comfort shoes...pumps, t-straps,
tailored slip-ons, and Mary Janes.
The Walk Shop also pioneered many of the European comfort lines
which have become so popular in America today. For example, they
were the first to introduce the Ecco brand of shoes to the U.S.
The rich history of the Kershaw family continues today at The Walk
Shop as they pass their 40th year. The words of grandfather
Benjamin still resonate within the store today: "We do not
sell shoes. We sell foot comfort." And today, they can add
to this better still, "We sell fashionable foot comfort."