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Bair's Shoes grows in past 50 years

| Thursday, Jan. 3, 2002

It's all about comfort.

Bair's Shoes and Fashions, located on Route 819 in Mount Pleasant, started out as a roadside produce stand but now it supplies SAS brand shoes to those who are addicted to comfort.

About 50 years ago, the Bairs got into the produce business, but it turned out that they had more space than they had produce to fill it.

"I didn't know exactly what to put in here besides pop or ice cream or something like that," said Russ Bair. "A gal that married my cousin worked in a discount shoe store and one time when I mentioned that I wish I knew what to do with the rest of the room in the store, she said, 'put shoes in it.'"

The rest is history as they say. Thirty years ago Russ Bair and his wife Gloria Bair started selling discount shoes right along side the produce.

Being the first discount shoe store in the area, their success escalated and soon they were selling more shoes than produce.

"We were the original discount shoe store in the area," said Gloria Bair. "It was before Picway and stores like that. We had shoes for less money and people came from all over to buy shoes here."

But the success story changed about 12 years ago when Picway, the Shoe Department and stores like that made their debut in the area.

"I saw the handwriting," said Russ Bair. "I knew we weren't big enough to compete with the chain stores but I hadn't given up."

One day at a shoe convention a gentleman called the Bairs over to his table and showed them SAS shoes.

"They were beautiful but I knew we couldn't get the money for them that they were selling for," said Russ Bair. "But Gloria said to take some and see how they did. If they didn't do good she said we could sell them at a low rate to get rid of them."

"It turned out that people did love them," he continued. "SAS is now the main label in our store. We're a semi-concept store and we're able to get any style of shoe that they have."

According to Russ Bair, although the shoes are a little more money, a person gets more wear out of them and so they're not really more money in the long run.

"Although they're a little more expensive, they're all made in the USA and a lot of people like that," he said.

The store sees a lot of repeat customers from areas as far away as Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Washington, Pa.

"Our customers travel to get here," said Gloria Bair. "It's not just a Mount Pleasant store."

"SAS shoes are addicting if you're addicted to comfort," added Russ Bair.

Rhoda Cressman, who lives in the area, has visited the store more than once.

"The store has quality shoes and friendly service," said Cressman. "Their SAS shoes are quality comfort. They're well built with the foot in mind and you don't have to worry about sacrificing comfort for class."

The store also sells other brands of shoes and an adjoining store, Gloria's Boutique, sells an array of clothing, jewelry, scarves and handbags.

"It's just a good thing we're here because we've made so many comfortable feet," said Gloria Bair.

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