FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM APRIL 26, 2018 • THE QUEENS COURIER 21
surviving and thriving small businesses in queens
Fresh Meadows shoe store makes the shopping experience unique
BY SUZANNE MONTEVERDI
email@example.com / @smont76
While “Fit makes the diff erence” is the
motto posted on the front of third-generation
shoemaker Steven Rueda’s Fresh
Meadows store, a unique customer experience
is what makes the mom-and-pop
To customers at the sit-and-fit
Turnpike Comfort Footwear store on
Union Turnpike, football season brings
Sunday hot dogs and game broadcasts.
An upcoming event with Australian shoe
retailer Vionic will feature wine, cheese
and raffl es.
Rueda and longtime store manager
Robert Hauer are still brainstorming
for a May gathering with German
vendor Waldlaufer. Bringing in German
fare, music and lederhosen were among
ideas fl oated, half in jest, by the personable
“As retailers, we have to become entertainers,
” Rueda said. “We have to fi gure
out how to get people into stores and
entertainment is part of that, I think.”
Along with experience events, shoppers
are off ered a free beverage when they walk
into the store. Customers can also request
a free shoe shine, whether they bought the
shoes in the shop or not.
Th ese services bring “an added value” to
the customer experience, Rueda said, and
are a way of ensuring customers enjoy
their experience and return to the store
in the future.
Rueda has owned and operated
Turnpike Comfort Footwear for 39 years.
He was introduced to the business by his
father, who ran a shoe-fi tting business in
another part of the borough.
Like many of today’s brick-and-mortar
store owners, Rueda knows one the greatest
challenges he faces is online retail.
Many of his sales stem from commercial
or big-box footwear from brands like
New Balance and Rockport, he noted.
“Th ese are all brands that not only sell
direct to consumers, but people have
access to these brands through retailers
on Amazon, Zappos and all these major
websites,” Rueda said.
While much of his business is driven by
big-name brands, the business owner also
prides himself on the store’s selection of
unique and private-label brands. Many
products off ered are exclusive to the store
or imported from foreign trade shows.
“Th at helps us because they can’t go
online and fi nd it everywhere. Th ose
things help us and helps our customer
because they’re getting product that’s
not seen anywhere else,” he said. “We
will not put anything in the store that we
don’t feel is delivering quality, value and
Still, Hauer added, it is a challenge
to compete with the selection available
“It’s challenging as a small business
to invest in stock when you don’t really
know how business is going to be,” he
said. “On the internet, it’s just a picture.
People are not necessarily investing in the
stock … Whereas we have to have stock
here so we can try things on.”
Service is the greatest combatant to the
online shops and big-box stores, according
“We sit, fi t and get to know our customers.
We build a relationship with people,”
he said. “You have to be as good as
you could possible be at what you do. You
have to give the best possible service.”
Th e shop is succeeding at delivering
top-notch service, according to Rueda,
who says the vast majority of customers
who come into the store leave satisfi
ed. Th e shop has also received a number
of accolades — including the 2015 Gold
Medal Service Award from Footwear
Insight — and positive customer reviews
Rueda has also embraced the digital
world to compete with the online retailers.
He operates a website and does off er
an online store; however, it is used more
as a marketing tool than as a point of
Th e site off ers a venue to connect
with customers, who can sign up for
email updates, and serves as an online
lookbook. Rueda is also beginning to
maintain a presence on Facebook and
What also helps the mom-and-pop
store thrive is the ability to off er a
unique service from a medical standpoint.
Rueda and Hauer are each certifi
ed pedorthists who are trained in
bio-mechanics, anatomy, footwear construction
and manufacturing and to fi ll
Photos by Suzanne Monteverdi/The Courier
Shoe fi ttings are the norm at this family
owned operation, which also features
a selection of bags, jewelry, socks and
“Most people who come in say, ‘Wow,
I haven’t had my feet measured since I
was 10.’ Or they never have,” Rueda said.
“Anyone can hang up a shingle and say,
‘We’re in the comfort shoe business.’ We
are actually certifi ed in the comfort shoe
Turnpike Comfort Footwear is located
at 184-20 Union Tpke. Visit www.turnpikeshoes.
com or call 718-454-5870 for
store hours or more information.
Editor’s note: Th is is the latest installment
of an open-ended series in Th e
Queens Courier and on QNS about small
businesses across Queens. Th e goal is to
highlight mom-and-pop shops and their
history, as well as their successes despite
facing competition from bigger, wellknown
retailers; and the challenges they
face in the current economic environment.
If you’re a Queens small business
owner and interested in speaking with
our editorial staff about your successes
and challenges, call 718-224-5863, ext.
204, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.