"We do not sell shoes, we sell foot comfort."

Benjamin M. Kershaw



Part 1: The Beginning
(The 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 shoe shop.)

Dear Julian:

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 .


The Natural Bridge Shoe Store The 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.


Store 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 second
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 me.

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 gentleman.

It was a time and a place that is gone.

Love to all,

Solomon


(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 Year

"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:

  1. Kershaw does not sell shoes. He sells foot comfort.
  2. Eighty percent of his business is done on a small number of very successful shoes.
  3. 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 son Julian.


The Walk Shop
The 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 approach their 35th 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 fashion comfort."





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The Walk Shop® | 2120 Vine Street | Berkeley, CA 94709 | (510) 849-3628 
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