Richard Liscombe, the owner of Footgear, thought about retiring years ago, once he’d reached that age.
“But the hardest thing,” Liscombe told me, on what will be the last Black Friday of his shop, “is that I’m from the working class, and when you grow up with working class people, they never think of retiring. They work until they just fall over. I realized even when I hit my sixties that I wanted always to get up and do something – to go to work and provide a service.”
The pandemic made the decision for him this year.
“When they said we could reopen in May, I still thought better of it and realized I don’t want to come in contact with too many people,” given the dangers of Covid-19.
Given his own age, given how East Lansing has emptied out, given that his mother was a nurse, and in college he himself worked in a hospital – so he knows he doesn’t want to end up in one – he decided a few months ago that the time has come to stop struggling and close up.
Now, he’s selling out his stock of socks, sandals, boots, and shoes at steep discounts. He is looking for buyers for the wood furnishings, too – many of them handmade for the shop.
Liscombe has always made a point of trying to bring goods that are well-made – particularly goods that are American-made – and of helping customers find what they love. This reporter will confess that she has put about a thousand miles of walking on her favorite pair of boots sold to her by Liscombe (a dark red leather with a handsome wooden heel, made by Think).
Being a footwear merchant with a small shop has been, Liscombe told me, the perfect profession for him.
“I like people, and I like being my own boss,” he said, with tears in his eyes.
He knows he’s not alone in this experience as a shopkeeper. He mentioned economic estimates that say that more than half of small businesses that are shops and restaurants will close permanently because of the pandemic.
In East Lansing, unless people decide to spend more locally, the numbers could be even higher because of the continued shut down of MSU, which normally brings tens of thousands of people to and near downtown for nine months of the year.
If you’d like to stop by the shop, located at 108 Division St., there’s plenty of parking nearby along Albert Ave. and in the Bailey Street lot. Liscombe is happy to show you what he has in your size, and he’s happy to hear from long-time customers, especially.
ELi is running a special series called Spend Locally, in an attempt to save local businesses. Find the series here.
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