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Dave Levy, circa age 16, on the cusp of entering into his family’s Connecticut shoe business.

One Pair at a Time

Dave Levy, owner of Hawley Lane Shoes, looks back on a rewarding career of changing customers’ lives through the art of fitting them properly.

Dave Levy, circa age 16, on the cusp of entering into his family’s Connecticut shoe business.
Dave Levy, circa age 16, on the cusp of entering into his family’s Connecticut shoe business.

Dear Young Dave, as I sit down to write this letter to you, I can’t help but reflect on the incredible journey that lies ahead. You’re about to embark on a path that’s been paved by three generations of our family, a rich legacy of shoe store owners in Connecticut. I want to share some insights and advice that I hope will guide you along the way.

First and foremost, I want you to understand the deep importance of our family’s values. We take immense pride in our commitment to customer service and the art of fitting shoes properly. It’s not just about selling footwear; it’s about changing lives, one pair at a time. Never forget that a well-fitted shoe can make a world of difference to someone.

Growing up in our store, you’re going to learn invaluable lessons. Pay close attention to the way we build relationships with our customers. Our (now five) stores aren’t just a place of transactions; it’s a haven where people come for personalized attention. Take the time to understand each customer’s unique needs and preferences. Remember, it’s not just about selling what looks good, but what feels good.

You’ll witness the magic of our small-town communities. We’re not just selling shoes; we’re an integral part of our hometowns of Stamford, Norwalk, Shelton, Orange, and Danbury. Get involved, support local events, and give back to these wonderful towns. A thriving community is the foundation of our success. Be a force of change, especially for young kids who want to go to summer camp. Mom, for one, will relish the results.

In the world of retail, you’ll face numerous challenges. Fashion trends come and go, and economic downturns will test your resilience. During those tough times, remember the generations before you who weathered similar storms. They’ve left a legacy of resilience and adaptability. On that note, embrace technology to enhance the shopping experience. Explore online reservations and virtual fittings. The world changes rapidly, and we must change with it while staying true to our core sit-and-fit values. Just be careful of what may seem too good to be true, like Amazon. To you that’s the world’s largest river, but in the future it’s also the world’s largest retailer. Hawley Lane we’ll even be a business partner for a time. That is until their definition of a partnership doesn’t align with our family’s values. Live and learn—always.

One of the proudest moments you’ll experience is helping a customer who has faced a life-altering accident. She’ll walk into the store feeling self-conscious about her changed appearance. It’s your opportunity to shine. Work tirelessly to find the perfect pair of shoes that not only accommodate her needs but also help restore her confidence. This is another reminder that our work goes beyond selling shoes; it’s about making a positive impact on people’s lives.

Now, let’s talk a bit about personal growth. You’re going to face plenty of adversity and, at times, you’ll doubt yourself. But always remember that hard work and discipline can overcome almost anything. That drive is what will get you through Clark University and earning a M.A. degree in Economics from the University of Kent. It’s what gets your foot into the shoe industry, first as a product director for Keds, followed by stops at Converse, and Tommy Hilfiger. It’s also what leads to back to our family’s roots when you become owner of Hawley Lane Shoes in 2000.

Along your journey, you’ll encounter moments when you’ll want to speak your mind passionately. While it’s essential to have a voice, be cautious about doing so in public. Sometimes, it’s wiser to be strategic and less reactive. I wish I could be more specific about what to avoid, but this lesson will become clear as you grow as a person. So when you attend that Tony Robbins seminar, absorb every piece of wisdom he shares. Confidence and the belief that you can achieve anything will become your greatest assets.

Finally, never stop believing in yourself. Your determination and dedication will take you far in life. I mean, who would’ve thought we’d own a successful, five-store chain and online business? With regard to the latter, embrace those shoppers who want to buy shoes through a computer! It may sound crazy to you now, but it will happen—a lot.

Of course, you’ll face some setbacks. (Who doesn’t working in retail?) But never give up on your dreams for the many rewards that will come by fulfilling them. Stay focused, be strong, and keep striving to make a difference in the lives of others. That’s your greatest reward. You can do it!

With respect and best wishes,

Dave

The March 2024 Issue

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