Staying on Her Toes

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Francee Schloesser, CPed, owns at a shoe store that doubles as her yoga studio.

As unlikely as the combination may sound, it reflects her business philosophy.

“We want to help people stay healthy and active,” she said.

The “we” includes her husband and co-owner, Jim Sheridan, CPed. The couple runs Cool Comfort Shoes in Frankfort, Ky.

“When we were talking about a name for the store, we thought, ‘Well, comfort is great, but the name has got to mean more than those beige-colored shoes with the big toe box and Velcro straps,” she said.

Not your typical shoe store

The business, housed in a converted 1970s vintage style auto parts store, features casual, dress and work footwear that blends support and style. The inventory also includes socks, over-the-counter orthotics and athletic shoes for running and walking, according to Schloesser.

“We also have running apparel for women,” she added.

Francee Schloesser, CPed

Francee Schloesser, CPed, helps her patients get back on their feet again by offering wellness services – including yoga – in addition to pedorthic shoe fittings.

Images: Craig B, O&P Business News

The décor is rustic. Schloesser and Sheridan designed the store themselves. The floors are polished concrete, covered here and there with multihued accent rugs. Nailed to the walls are rough planks salvaged from an old building in Colorado and from a barn in Somerset, Ky. Part of the divider screen between the men’s and women’s departments is buttressed with hand-hewn timbers from Schloesser’s home state, Wisconsin.

From dance to pedorthics, a focus on feet

In her youth, Schloesser did not dream of ultimately designing, building and running a shoe store. She wanted to be a dancer. To that end, she earned a master of fine arts degree in dance at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. She danced professionally and gave after-school dance lessons. She also taught dance in public schools where, Schloesser said, “in addition to teaching good alignment habits, much of the focus was on engaging kids’ creative thinking and problem-solving skills.

“But dancing and pedorthics are a lot alike. They are both related to alignment of the foot,” she said.

Yoga also helps with alignment, she said. “Any time you are on your feet, you are practicing alignment – hopefully good alignment. Yoga is related to that.”

Before going into business with her spouse, Schloesser was a sales representative for Helly Hansen sportswear. She said Cool Comfort Shoes fills a local need.

“We are the running store for the area and also a store for folks that have issues with their feet or who just want comfortable shoes,” she said.

Schloesser said she and Sheridan welcome physician referrals, but do not accept Medicare clients because their store is a retail facility.

“If we see somebody who needs more than we can provide, we refer them to doctors,” she said.

Get people on their feet

Schloesser got certified last year because she aimed to be more than just a shoe seller. She wanted expertise in properly mating customers with the shoes and inserts they needed.

Francee Schloesser, CPed
Francee Schloesser, CPed

Francee Schloesser, CPed, has a special method for helping her decide how much arch support a customer might require. “I have them take their shoes off and stand on the concrete. With one hand, I keep their toes flat on the floor while I reach in with the other hand and lift the arch up. That helps me visually determine what the customer needs.” She added, “I do this even more for the benefit of customers so they may begin to understand the corrections that an orthotic can make. Yes, they can work on strengthening their arches through yoga and dance.  I believe it is important to do this, but it is through the use of an orthotic that significant biomechanical changes occur. I just take away the hand and ask them to hold up the arch.”

“My job is to get people on their feet and to be more active, more independent,” she said.

Though Cool Comfort Shoes is a small, family-owned store, it has become a triple-pedorthist operation. Store manager Leesa Unger, CPed, became certified in June 2014. “She is a runner in her 20s who can relate to our younger customers who are runners,” Schloesser said.

Experience taught Schloesser that shoe fitting is a combination of art and science. “It’s not just about pulling a straight size. You look at the depth and the shape of the foot to find the type of shoe that person needs.”

Correctly matching feet and shoes takes time, she said. Schloesser, Sheridan and Unger might spend up to 45 minutes with a customer.

Schloesser said unrushed, personal service brings customers back. “A lot them are repeat customers.”

Many of them reward Schloesser and Sheridan with more than cash in the register. “Sometimes they bring us gifts.”

The presents seem appropriate for the store’s Bluegrass State location. “They’ve brought us bourbon, venison and barbecue,” Schloesser said with a grin.

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