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Longtime specialty shoe store in Stow closes for good, another pandemic casualty

For many of us, shopping for shoes is a straightforward process. But for some, it can require skilled customer care, old-school know-how, and the type of expertise that Long’s Shoes in Stow had mastered.

But on Aug. 20, Long’s, a local fixture for 53 years, closed its doors forever. 

The business announced the closing date in a Facebook post Aug. 14: “The final day will be Sat. Aug. 20th! Join us for our closing sale! Entire store 50% off including already marked down items.”

The closing was a blow to many in the community who relied on the store’s specialty shoes that were difficult to find elsewhere.

Sue and Gary Poling of Silver Lake were devoted Long’s customers for over 10 years, shopping there for themselves and their son, William, who requires hard-to-find New Balance shoes. But in post-pandemic conditions, getting their hands on William’s shoes has been trying. 

“We have a special-needs son, and he wears special-needs shoes,” Gary said. “When we tried to get them last, I don’t know, a couple months [ago], they had ’em on order. We’ve gotten the shoes since then, but the supply chain, there’s a couple-month delay in getting the shoes.”

The Polings were able to source William’s shoes and were stopping by Long’s on Aug. 23, three days after it went out of business, hoping to find out where they could have modifications done to their son’s shoes.  

“They have a cobbler that they sent our son’s shoes to,” Sue said, “so they could make Velcro straps, because William can’t tie laces. So that’s what I was trying to get, the cobbler’s name and phone number, because he’s going to need that.”

The Polings are just one example of the personal touch Long’s fostered over the decades.

John F. Long opened Long’s Shoes as a family shoe store in 1969. After 27 successful years in business, he handed Long’s Shoes over to his son, John J. Long, in 1986. From then on, Long’s became more focused on selling shoes for the hard-to-fit foot and selling orthopedic shoes tailored to those who suffer from foot problems such as diabetic conditions or plantar fasciitis. 

Jeremy Brown/The Spotlight

Up until 20 years ago, Long’s was located at Stow-Kent Plaza before moving to its current location at 3260 Kent Rd. in Stow. 

In 2015, Andy Logsdon bought the store from John J. Long. Logsdon had a long-standing interest in shoe sales and experience in the occupation, making him the perfect candidate to take over Long’s Shoes. 

Logsdon was the backbone of Long’s Shoes until he passed away in 2020 from non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a condition he had battled since age 12. From then on, his wife, Amy, ran the business until it closed Aug. 20. 

Bill Sackman, owner of the Shoemaker’s Outlet in Ravenna, got to know Logsdon through the cobbler service he performed for Long’s. Sackman said Logsdon would show up at Sackman’s shop in Ravenna about once a week to drop off customers’ shoes that needed repairs or detailed work done to them, picking them up a week later.

After Logsdon’s death, John J. Long would deliver the shoes to Sackman. 

“Andy was in the shoe business for 30 years,” Sackman said. “He started at Nordstrom, and he always wanted his own place, so he made a deal with Long’s.”

While Logsdon didn’t service shoes at Long’s, he did have a vast knowledge of the craft.

“There’s a term for people like this: ‘Shoe Dog,’” Sackman said. “Somebody who’s so into the career that you accumulate so much knowledge, if not wisdom.”

The term “Shoe Dog” gained popularity when Nike co-founder Phil Knight published his memoir titled “Shoe Dog” in 2016. It was also one of Bill Gates' five favorite books of 2016.

The closing of Long’s Shoes came after a struggle to keep up with customer demands, the result of post-pandemic supply chain issues — which, for many stores, began when businesses were forced to shut down for three months starting in March 2020. 

Sackman said he has difficulty getting his hands on products for his store from time to time. He described the cause of the national supply chain issue as a “boondoggle.”

“The big issue is not being able to get inventory from some of these suppliers such as New Balance, SAS,” Sackman said. “Some of these companies just really let down retailers all over the country. I mean, I’ve had some issues in my store for the same reason: the whole supply chain. [Long’s] had customers they couldn’t take care of for months.”

Long’s Shoes carried specialty shoe brands like New Balance, Drew, Clark and SAS, custom fit and tailored to an individual’s needs. Now that Long’s has permanently closed, customers may be able to locate the shoe brands they bought there at another store, but finding the kind of customer care that Long’s was famous for will not be so easy. 

In their search for another shoe store, the Polings haven’t been able to find just the right fit. They said the other popular local shoe store that fits their criteria isn’t as accessible, or friendly. They fear the closing of Long’s is the end of an era where principled customer service was actually a valued asset. 

“We never get the same person to wait on us [at the other store],” Sue said. “The service here [at Long’s] was amazing. They keep a record of what you buy, so they know what fits your foot well, and then they can go from there. But they always measure your feet to see if width or length has changed. 

“And for our son, it’s the same people all the time that work in here, and they knew Will, and he knew them, so it was much easier for him.”

Sue was nearly brought to tears at the thought of having to find another shoe store that would take the extra steps to make shoe shopping a great experience for her son. The type of exemplary service and kind-hearted care that Long’s provided was unparalleled, as far as the Polings are concerned. 

“They were so kind in here, so gracious,” Sue said, “and I’m really crushed that they’ve closed, for us as well as for our son. I’m just crushed. I wished we’d been here longer, but that would have made it even harder.”

If you were a Long’s Shoes customer and would like to know where to get shoes repaired or modified, Long’s recommends the Shoemaker’s Outlet for repairs, located in Ravenna at 257 W. Main St. For your specialty shoe needs, Long’s recommends The Shoe Horn at 2410 State Rd. in Cuyahoga Falls.