Chiappetta Shoes Goes Big

Located in what was formerly a steakhouse, the new store carries upwards of 2,000 styles of footwear.

Chiappetta Shoes, a mainstay in the Kenosha, Wisconsin retail community for 102 years, moved into a new store location on February 13th after four years of planning for the expansion. The grand opening marked the end of 23 years for the family-owned business at its previous 39th Street store location that the family says served it and the community well but simply lacked the space needed for growth. The new store, which is the fourth ever location the store has occupied in its 100-plus years in business, had its grand opening celebration on March 29.

“We’re going bigger to keep up with the times,” proclaimed co-owner Fred Chiappetta, a third-generation family member, during a recent YouTube video produced by the store’s marketing department. “This is entertainment. This is my stage. I want to feel good. I want the customer to feel good.”

Fred also offered up a lesson learned from his late mother, “If you don’t change, you’ll die,” he recalls her saying.

Today, Chiappetta Shoes customers flock from near and far, including from nearby Illinois. In the new location they will find a 15,000-sq. ft. store on the city’s 75th Street with 4,000-sq.-ft. of selling floor space, versus 1,600-sq.-ft. previously, and upwards of 2,000 styles of footwear, about double what the 39th Street location offered. The store recently added Patrizia, a subrand of Spring Step, and brought back the Fly London label after several years. And there are numerous brands ready to be added to the assortment this year, including Brooks and Oboz this fall.

Located in what was formerly a steakhouse, the new store offers customers an open view of a 500-sq.-ft. pedorthics’ lab, 66 percent larger than the previous store’s area for the work, with a 20-foot window and available space to conduct classes about foot care. 

Tony Chiappetta, the eldest of Fred and Lori’s two sons, and the CEO of the company, wanted the new visible cobbler’s shop to “be like a chocolatier” where customers can peer into the shop and see the work being done.

“I made my bones in this shop,” said Tony, who works in the business with his brother Nick, CFO of the company. “I’m the best pedorthist in the country from a management and patient management standpoint,” he contends, adding the number of certified U.S. pedorthists has dwindled from 4,000 to less than 300 today. 

Tony and Nick’s mom, Lori is insightful about the approach that Chiappetta Shoes has adopted to become hugely successful in the market. “It’s been about finding the right balance between products for foot pain and youthful, cute sandals for the weekend,” she says, adding the store has gradually moved beyond shoes and orthotics to a variety of comfort and fashion products, such as vegan and Italian-made handbags, and away from past perceptions of an ‘old lady store.’

The new Chiappetta Shoes store has a staff of 20, including 15 full-timers. Fred, who said the 75th Street store provides employees and customers alike with “more warmth, more compassion, and more styles,” added, “My family is my customer. My family is my work. The people who work with me are my family, my children, my partners.” 

Tony offered a clear assessment of what makes a small business successful every day, every month, and for a more than a century. “To be a responsible owner and a successful business owner, you need to focus on sustainable growth and working within your means,” he said. “And that’s the beauty of working in a family business. I have a million ideas, but I have my family here to keep the reins on me to make sure we don’t spend too much money and that we still stick to what makes us special.”

“That recipe, the back and forth, sometimes it gets uncomfortable,” he admitted. “But that back and forth weeds out the bad ideas and makes sure the good ideas come to fruition.”