ADDRESS: 301 SW Madison Avenue, Corvallis, OR 97333
PHONE NUMBER: 541-754-5021
WEBSITES: www.footwise.com and www.birkenstockexpress.com
OWNERS: Dee Mooney and Peter Wendel
YEARS IN BUSINESS: 30 years this February
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 40, which includes all four stores (Hood River, Portland, Eugene and, of course, Corvallis)
WHAT THEY SELL: Shoes, shoe care, shoe repair, hats, handbags, and lots of socks!
WHY YOU SHOULD GO: For shoes that offer style combined with foot health and foot comfort
Treat your feet to a truly blissful experience with comfort and style while you enjoy interacting with the friendly employees. Footwise has been offering all of this for nearly 30 years. There is plenty to choose from at Footwise: slippers, boots, sandals, dress shoes, work shoes, outdoor shoes and boots, soft socks, and much more. They make it their business to help you into a comfortable fit.
When and why did you decide to start your business? It happens that the business started us. My partner, Peter Wendel, and I owned Stained Glass Mystery on 11th Street here in Corvallis many years ago. Some good friends owned the local Birkenstock store at the time, but they needed to sell. So we cleared out a storage closet next to our stained glass store, added a door buzzer, and became the new owners of Footwise. Our goal at that time was to sell a pair of Birkenstocks a day. Not long after, we were selling 10 pairs a day with demand for more increasing constantly. We started offering mail-order to assist with the demand for the variety of Birkenstock footwear that we sell. We then moved to our current location in 1991, and added our online presence in 1995.
Tell us more about your products/services, specialties and favorites? We sell shoes with a passion, and with passion for quality shoes. Birkenstocks are our heritage and remain a favorite. Margo Fraser, the founder of Birkenstock Footprint Sandals, Inc., who I respect greatly, inspired us to stay focused on shoes that are good for us and to work with shoe companies who are committed to sustainable business practices. Over the years, we have broadened our scope to offer many brands of shoes that meet the style and functional needs of the communities we serve. Birkenstock is still our biggest brand, especially on our website, Birkenstock Express.
What does being featured as the Local Business of the Week mean to you? I am extremely honored to be recognized by CIBA and the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition, who dedicate their time and energy for these great goals.
What are some challenges you have faced, and what is the impact of independent businesses in Corvallis? We face many of the same challenges that any other business faces. Our desire for perfection and always having more things we can do to improve are personal challenges that we try to accomplish with a positive, collective approach. One major impact of local independent businesses on Corvallis is the number of people who we employ. Also, having a solid downtown has offered a center to this community which has been extremely beneficial. Selling online and bringing business to the community beyond the boundaries of the city limits has been a big plus, as well.
What is your relationship to the community? What nonprofits/civic groups do you support? Our large display windows are a community asset. Forty-eight to 50 non-profits use the Madison Avenue side display every year. The art community has benefited from the Third Street side display case. When we first moved into this space, we realized that filling that much window space with shoes was going to be a big responsibility, and the idea of offering it up in this way came to us pretty quickly. Our first display was with the artist Louie Gizyn and her wonderful marionettes. We interspersed some of our Birkenstock shoes and away we went. We donate to local organizations throughout the area with an emphasis on supporting families, health, and the arts. I sit on the boards of the Downtown Corvallis Commission and the Corvallis Public Schools Foundation.
Please give us your one-sentence take-away message about your business. We at Footwise value our customers, and we continue to look for shoes that meet their needs for style and keep their feet healthy.
Life is better when your feet don’t hurt. — Anonymous
(Interview and article by Debra Hascall – January 20, 2013)
The Local Business of the Week program is designed to help the Corvallis community identify our locally-owned independent businesses by featuring one business each week. The program is part of the Buy Local First campaign co-sponsored by the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition and the Corvallis Independent Business Alliance.