Snyder’s Shoes celebrating 75 years of business

Dan Bathrick is one of the owners of Snyder’s Shoes, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this week. (Dave Yarnell/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — Seventy-five years is a good life expectancy for a person, but most small, family-owned, downtown business don’t last anywhere near that long.

But Snyder’s Shoes, with stores in Manistee and Ludington, is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the business.

C.R. “Bud” Snyder opened the Manistee store in 1938, and as stated in the store’s history, “Bud loved to share and have fun with the community, and that passion and dedication was carried on by owners Jim and Susan Snyder from 1978 to 2006.”

The business is currently operated by Jim and Susan’s son Kip, his wife Jill, and Dan and Jerel Bathrick.

“Seventy-five years is a great testimony to retail perseverance,” Dan Bathrick said. “And I’ve been here 40 percent of the time, for 30 years.”

Bathrick said the secret to keeping a business going that long is to have a genuine care for the people that come through the front door.

“If you’re having a bad day, you can’t take that out on the sales floor,” he said. You have to leave that in the back room and go out there and treat that customer with the kind of genuine respect that they deserve. That’s one of the reasons why we’re still there.”

He said another key is that the business has focused on quality service and a quality product, not necessarily low prices.

Kip Snyder is a captain on the police department of the Grand Rapids suburb of Wyoming, so Jill Snyder works more with the day-to-day operation of the business.

“I love being involved with the business,” Jill Snyder said. “It’s been an honor. My husband’s grandfather opened the stores honestly and then it went to my father-in-law Jim. It’s always been about the customers and customer service.”

She noted that there have been some changes in the business — like computers and trying to promote the business through things like social media.

“But the most important thing hasn’t changed, and that’s customer care,” she said.

Manistee Catholic Central Schools art teacher Mary Wahr paints shoes Saturday at the Manistee location of Snyder’s Shoes to raise money for the MCC art program as a part of the store’s 75th anniversary celebration. (Dave Yarnell/News Advocate)

Melissa Reed, executive director of the Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce, said Snyder’s is one of her favorite stores because she loves shoes.

“I buy a lot of shoes from them,” she said. “I am a shoe lover and if I’m having a hectic or challenging day, I can walk in that store and I find it’s soothing to look at what they have. It’s clear to me that the reason they have done well is the service they provide.

“Certainly they offer a good product, but that’s never enough,” Reed continued. “It has to do with knowing the community and knowing the customers. It has to do with treating the customers, each of them, as the most important customer they have.”

Reed said she was impressed with how Snyder’s helped her work out a problem recently.

“About six months ago, I had some discomfort wearing high heels,” she said. “I know they aren’t good for your feet, but I love them and I’m going to wear them as long as I can walk. So, I went to Snyder’s and they worked with me to find orthotics that provided me with some comfort. For weeks after that virtually every employee of Snyder’s would say, ‘How are you doing?’ ‘How is your foot doing?’ That just doesn’t happen at a big box store and it darned sure doesn’t happen online.”

Jill Snyder talked about tourists buying shoes at both stores.

“We get a lot of people who vacation here at the same time every year and they will wait to buy their shoes from us,” she said. “It’s a joy to see them every year. And we hear from them that our selection is really good and they can’t find that where they live. I think, ‘jeeze, they live in Chicago or Detroit and they come up here to buy shoes from us.”

Both Snyder and Bathrick said they appreciate Manistee and Ludington.

“We’re thankful for the communities because if it weren’t for them we wouldn’t be here,” Snyder said. “They’ve supported us and allowed us to be here for this length of time. And that’s a pretty big deal. One of the best things for me with the stores is the giving and being involved with the communities and be able to give back.”

“Manistee’s a pretty cool town,” Bathrick said. “When you take good care of people, it’s more than just their feet — you’re developing relationships.”

Bathrick gets emotional when thinking about the community’s reaction to the bicycle accident five years ago when he suffered a serious neck injury.

“The outpouring of love from our community when I hurt myself was pretty huge,” Bathrick said. “Small towns are pretty cool. Manistee’s awesome. River Street’s beautiful. I love being there, and I love giving back to our community.”

Jill Snyder was busy helping customers in Snyder’s Shoes Ludington store on Saturday. (Dave Yarnell/News Advocate)

avatar

Posted by Dave Yarnell

Dave was formerly the News Advocate features writer and retired in November 2013.

Leave a Reply