Richmond-area mainstay Saxon Shoes moves onto its next step
Family-owned business sells after 70 years to Alexandria shoe retailer
When Gary Weiner’s parents, Jack and Gloria, opened Saxon Shoes in Richmond in 1953, they mostly carried shoes for children with orthopedic needs. Now, 70 years later, the store has something for everyone and is about 10 times the size of the average shoe store and operates in Henrico County’s Short Pump area. It’s become a greater Richmond mainstay.
But the local retailer is taking another new step. After running the family business since 1979, Gary Weiner announced this week he is retiring and has sold Saxon Shoes for an undisclosed amount to Alexandria-based Comfort One Shoes. Established in 1993, Comfort One has several stores in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. The sale was finalized Wednesday and the new owners do not plan to change Saxon’s name.
Weiner, his wife, Beth, and other family members, including two of his three adult children, Amanda and Evan, have been running the store, with about 25 to 30 employees.
Talking about how he got into the family shoe business, Weiner recalls that his parents “kept me in the stockroom because they couldn’t afford a babysitter and here we are today.” He’s seen the shoe industry evolve, with the boom of online shopping, vendors selling directly to consumers and other changes. Now he’s ready to hand over the keys.
“I feel like it’s been very good to us and the timing was just right,” he said. “Our business was on a pretty nice uptick,” he notes. “The trend was positive.”
He said he’s been approached multiple times over the years by many companies, but the timing wasn’t right then, and now it makes a lot of sense to sell. One of his children, Amanda Weiner, will stay on to work for the new owners, but the rest of the family will depart. The other employees, who are not family members, will also stay on.
The original Saxon opened at 410 E. Grace St. in downtown Richmond. Then, the Weiners had a “big shoe concept store” in 1989 in an old grocery store that was about 18,000 square feet. Saxon moved to Short Pump in 2004. The store is currently about 22,000 square feet, while most shoe stores are 2,000 to 3,000 square feet.
“We do it all under one roof. You don’t need to go to multiple places to get everything you need, whether it’s Ugg boots or Birkenstocks,” Gary Weiner said.
He feels good about his decision to sell and said the new owners will keep the focus on good shoes, good quality, good service and attention to detail — “all the things we stood for.” He said he thinks Comfort One will “create the new and improved Saxon Shoes.”
Gary Weiner said his mother, Gloria, a native of Casablanca, Morocco, came up with “Saxon” after visiting London and seeing a small department store called “Saxone.” When her husband said he wanted to open a shoe store, that’s the name she suggested.
What he’ll miss about running a shoe store — aside from being able to work with so much family and learning from them — is the people and seeing customers happy in the store.
“They [the Richmond community] were good to us for a long time,” he said. “We tried to be a good patron of Richmond and Henrico and give back.”