Superior shoes and exemplary customer service keep customers returning to SAS Handcrafted Shoes in Orange. Pictured (from left) are Chuck and Christie Wilson, proprietor Jim Furry, Karen De Soto and Karen King.
When Jim Furry, owner of Roy Step SAS Handcrafted Shoes in Orange, started in shoe sales in the late 1950s, the business was a bit cutthroat.
“At the time there were more department stores like the May Company and the Broadway vying for customers, so the atmosphere often became competitive,” says Furry, who has operated shoe stores in Orange for 30 years.
Furry started in the shoe sales business in Ohio, coming out to Los Angeles to work at the Broadway and eventually opening his own shoe store in Orange at the now defunct City Shopping Center. At one point he had seven stores in the mall, which was razed in 1996 and replaced with the Outlets at Orange (formerly the Block.)
“The last two to three years before they closed the City mall, we had seven stores. Mall management let me operate some of the shoe stores that had been vacated free of rent,” says Furry. “At the time we carried several brands, but the last six months or so at the mall we found that SAS sold the best, so that, coupled with the fact that all of their shoes are made in the U.S., led me to switch to just selling SAS.”
Longtime employee Karen King, who started out as a stock and salesperson and is now general manager of their two stores, which are in Orange and Santa Ana, recalls those busy days at the City Shopping Center and the logistical challenges.
“At times it was comical, like an episode of I Love Lucy,” says King. “A customer would find a shoe and want the mate, which would be in another store, so I’d run down a back hallway to retrieve the shoe. It could take 15-20 minutes to get back. When I returned, customers would say, ‘I thought you went to lunch.’ Sometimes I’d come clean and explain.”
King sprinting from one store to the other highlights the company’s attention to customer service, which they offer by being as accommodating as possible and carrying a wide selection of shoes.
“Customer service is what sets a good business apart,” says King, who notes that SAS employees have even gone to homebound people’s residences to fit and provide shoes. “I don’t think many other shoe stores would offer that kind of support,” she says.
Another thing not offered by many competitor shoe stores is the depth of inventory carried at SAS. “A lot of stores try to have just the minimal sizes and widths on hand, but that doesn’t work when competing with shoes coming from China,” says Furry. “By having a large inventory of sizes, we have the opportunity to show people what a well-fitting shoe really feels like. Sustaining that kind of inventory is expensive, but it enables us to always have on hand just the right shoes for every customer.”
Karen De Soto began buying SAS shoes in 2006 when she started working in retail. “I soon realized that the comfort of my feet was key to a successful day on the job,” she says. “My mother loves her SAS shoes, so I headed there.”
In 2012, De Soto began working at SAS as a sales associate. “I enjoy working for the company, because customers leave satisfied with the product and the personal service,” she says.
Attention to customer service has paid off for SAS, which continues to grow. In June 2014, they moved from their former 3,700-square-foot location next to Walmart to a nearby 7,000-square-foot store at 820 North Tustin St., 714-283-4950. They also have a store at 3313 S. Bristol St., Santa Ana, 714-444-0777.