By J.B. Hyppolite
Ed. Note: Local Life editor Len Lear assigned freelance writer J.B. Hyppolite to interview Robert Klausman three weeks ago for a feature story on his 33-year-old family-owned business and on Klausman’s charitable work. Last Friday, when Lear called the store to indicate that he would be stopping at the store that afternoon to take photos of Klausman, a store employee told Lear that Klausman had suddenly died a few days earlier. Another source later told the Local that Klausman was walking his dog when he had a heart attack on Monday, July 16. He was buried Thursday, July 19, at Roosevelt Memorial Park in Trevose. The Whitemarsh Business Association issued a statement that said in part: “Robert will be remembered for his kind heart and generosity, not only in the Whitemarsh business community but also in the global community.” As a tribute to Klausman’s charitable endeavors, here is the article we had planned to run this week:
Robert Klausman, 46, is a third-generation owner of The Shoe Bar, which has been at 535 Germantown Pike in Lafayette Hill for 33 years. Klausman and his family, who once owned seven Shoe Bars from Philadelphia to Trenton, N.J., but now just have the Lafayette Hill outlet, have established relationships and gained the trust of many repeat customers by being much more than just salespeople. “I’ve been very blessed,” said Mr. Klausman.
The Shoe Bar specializes in bridal and evening shoewear. Klausman has been dyeing shoes since he was a child and has received a fair amount of business due to the fact that there are not many other shoe dyers around. “I think when it comes to retail, you need to over-service a customer … When people come in my store, anything that I can do for free, I will do,” said Klausman.
The Lafayette Hiller also runs a presently unnamed foundation that will most likely be called “A Shoe for Every Soul.” The mission of the foundation is to empower troubled women by giving the gift of fashionable shoes. Two women’s shoe brands, J. Renee and Me Too, have been supporting the foundation’s efforts. Since starting it six years ago, Klausman estimated that the foundation has given away more than 6,000 pairs of shoes, with an average value of well over $100.
Some churches in the area have worked with Robert to make sure impoverished people get shoes from Robert, as well as people in faraway countries. One of the places Robert gives to is Laurel House, an abuse shelter in Norristown. The foundation has also given shoes to a group of children in Africa who couldn’t go to school unless they each had a pair of shoes.
“We sent a hundred pairs of shoes to Africa. They took these videos of the girls with their shoes, and because they had a pair of shoes, they could attend school,” said Klausman, who attended Upper Dublin High School and went to the University of Arizona to major in business. Robert essentially knows everything about shoes, especially how to fix them: tightening, stretching, identifying if there may have been a manufacturing error and more. “If a woman’s trying on shoes, I might take her shoe, put a pad in it without her even knowing, and she puts her shoe on, and it feels so much better,” said Klausman.
“We will order from any company under the sun. I will pick up the phone and call anybody and just do anything to make a sale. We really want to earn a customer’s business. It’s a beautiful thing when somebody comes and spends $5 or $1,000 in the store. In fact, I’d rather have 10 people buying $100 shoes than one person dropping $1,000 because I’d rather have the 10 people walking out of the store fully satisfied instead of just one.”
Why does The Shoe Bar focus only on women shoes? Klausman proceeded to explain the difference between how a man and woman buy a pair of shoes. “A man can wear black and brown shoes. You put on a suit and tie, but you’re wearing the same shoes over and over and over again. A woman? It makes her feel good to buy a new pair of shoes. Every dress, everything she has, she’s buying a new pair of shoes to match. When she gets pissed off at her husband, she goes out shopping. When she’s bummed out, she goes out shopping. There’s something about instant gratification that I still can’t figure out (he laughed), you know; women just love to shop.”
Klausman went on to point out that there are so many beautiful and distinctive styles of shoes for woman during all four seasons. Women wear sandals, boots, high heels, etc. He insisted that a simple thing like high heels can change the appearance and confidence of a woman. “If a woman’s in a high heel shoe, it’s like a man in a three-piece suit.”
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