Established in 1922, Florio’s shoe shop has served downtown Greeley for nine decades, becoming Greeley’s only full-service shoe store. BandWagon Magazine sat down with 59-year-old Greeley resident Mark Florio, who runs the family business with his brother Brian, to discuss the Ninth Street store’s history and goals.
Q: What led to you guys to taking over the store?
A: We’re the fourth generation. My family came from Italy – Calabria, which is in northern Italy. They started the business in 1921, but they’ve been here since probably beginning of the 1900s. My great-grandfather used to make shoes by hand in Italy in the 1800s. Probably about 1890 my great-uncle, Leo Florio, decided to come here. And then my uncle Ernest took over the store, then my dad, then Brian and I.
Q: Were you always interested in taking over the family business?
A: Well, I got my education in physical education and health. I got my degree. But I decided at that point, “You know, you got quite a bit of history here.” I’ve been in the business now for 46 years, my brother’s been in the business for 45 years. So when we started back in – it’d be the 1970s, ’73, ’74 – when I was a child, we used to come down here and clean the store for Dad, and just decided, after my education at UNC, I would go into the shoe business. Basically, it’s tradition. Not that we were forced into it, we just decided it was a good business.
Q: Are you just like a normal shoe store, or do you specialize in something?
A: We specialize in comfort shoes, comfort dress or comfort casual. We specialize in fitting people. It’s a full-service shoe store, where you sit down, you get measured, you get waited on, you get your shoes put on, whereas shoe stores today, it’s all self-service. You go in, you pick your shoe out, they don’t even sit you down, and you put it on yourself and you lace it up. We got some young shoes like Keen, but we cater to a lot of older people, 35 and up. You got seniors that aren’t able to find out whether they have the right shoe size on and why their feet hurt. We do a lot of orthopedic work, orthotics and that to fit shoes on them, but it’s a full-service shoe store. You get waited on and that’s very unusual today.
Q: You said you primarily deal with older customers, but you have some “younger” brands of shoes?
A: I’ve got Clark, which is a young line. I’ve got Keen, which is a very young line. But I only go for shoes that are better. There are a lot of young lines out there that I won’t touch because they’re not very good shoes.
Q: Are we talking major brands that get a lot of advertising?
A: Yeah, major brands that are really well advertised, I won’t touch. They’re made for cheap, inexpensive, you’ll find them at a lot of big boxes. I want quality shoes. We carry quality shoes, top lines. I can tell you some of the areas that we buy shoes from that are made in these countries like Germany, Israel, and we got two lines that are still made in the USA. (San Antonio Shoes, Wolverine.)
Q: What would you say to convince someone under 25 to spend money on a quality shoe?
A: I can only tell you what I’ve learned with my own life, which is once you hit 40, you have no idea how things go apart, even though you’ve taken care of yourself. Without good shoes on my feet, I can only tell you, it’d be worse than what it is now. I have to have a hip replacement at age 59, and it shocked the heck out of me this last year; eight months ago I was told this. And the doctor looked at me and he goes, “You’ve been taking really good care of yourself,” and I said, “Yeah, that’s what I do.” And he says, “Well, it has to do with genetics, but if you hadn’t been taking care of yourself, it would have been worse. You’d have to have both of them done.” It just shocked me. How I convince people? That’s the best thing I can tell young people: you walk on them all day long, and if you don’t take care of them they’re going to fall apart.
Those interested in checking out Florio’s can head on over to 820 Ninth Street in Greeley.