Settled in a 36,000-square-foot store in Sharon, Pa., Reyers has been serving the steel belt region of Ohio and Pennsylvania for more than a century by promising quality, service, and comfort. From its founding in 1885 by John Reyer to its incorporation by the Jubelirer family in the early 1950s, the world’s largest shoe store has kept its promise to treat each customer with respect so they leave the store with happy feet.
“We do business in a fair way,” said Mark Jubelirer, president and one of two brothers running Reyers. “You can have a pleasant shoe shopping experience at Reyers and walk out with a smile.”
Jubelirer’s father took over Reyers when John’s son, Karl Reyer, decided to retire at the young age of 80. At the time, Reyers was located in a 1,200-square-foot store, and there were six other family shoe stores in Sharon. Reyers differentiated itself by selling only narrow women’s shoes.
When Jubelirer’s father took over, he decided to begin stocking medium-width women’s shoes, and his business started to grow. Eventually, news of Reyers traveled across the nearby Pennsylvania/Ohio border, and the store began seeing customers from Youngstown.
Inspired by the new business, the elder Jubelirer started offering a $2 Youngstown Discount to patrons traveling from beyond the borders of Sharon. “My father was the first discounter,” said Jubelirer.
By the mid-’60s, Reyers had outgrown its space and moved to a location abandoned by a larger retailer. With a selection that now included men’s, women’s, and children’s shoes, a bigger location enabled Jubelirer’s father to continue expanding. “My father handled all the advertising, payroll, and scheduling, and he’d often be doing his homework until 2 a.m. in the kitchen,” said Jubelirer. “We grew up having discussions about the business at the dinner table.”
Over the years, other shoe stores in Sharon closed down. Jubelirer’s father often hired the owners and managers of those stores to work for him as he transitioned to an 18,000-square-foot store. With the expertise of those “shoe dogs,” the business continued to improve.
In the ’70s, when Jubelirer and his brother Steven got into the business after college, they brought with them a new idea on how to spread the Reyers concept beyond the Pennsylvania and Ohio borders—television. When their father told them to check out the possibilities, the brothers were met with a nice surprise.
“Because of competition among NBC, ABC, and CBS, we found advertising costs extremely reasonable,” said Jubelirer. “We cut some TV ads that were rather basic but that were a little out of the box and separated ourselves from the crowd.”
The ads were successful. Throughout the mid-’80s, Reyers grew at an average annual rate of 25%. As a result, it moved again, this time to a 36,000-square-foot location vacated by a Giant Eagle supermarket. The store’s size gave the company the ability to stock an even wider variety of styles and sizes to match any customer need. And with the inhouse expertise of employees with between 20 and 35 years of experience, Reyers became a destination for avid shoe hounds.
“We have 1,000 years of experience here on the selling floor,” said Jubelirer. “But the main thing that brought us to the dance is the fact that we have your size.”
Reyers carries women’s sizes from four to 14, men’s up to size 22, and widths measuring super slim to super wide. The lessons the elder Jubelirer taught his sons about how to treat vendors enables the store to stock exactly what customers want. “If the vendor asks to bring in particular merchandise and be a test location for them, that promotes good will,” said Jubelirer. “If we turn around and ask them to make something for us, maybe they’ll do that too. It’s always been a two-way street with vendors.”
The relationship Reyers maintains with its vendors also enables the company to provide the latest fashions. By listening to their vendors, the Jubelirer brothers know what is selling well across the US, but also in Europe and other areas their vendors touch.
“Part of the mystique Reyers has developed over the years includes having styles that aren’t readily available in the market,” said Jubelirer. “Because we have such a broad vendor matrix, we buy from certain factories and have an opportunity to help design the shoes so we’re the only ones carrying them.”
Bigger is better
The city of Sharon, Pa. isn’t known for much, but two other businesses, alongside the Reyers, are working to change that with a marketing campaign focused on the world’s largest stores.
Half a mile away from Reyers is Daffins, the world’s largest candy store. Across the street is The Winner, the world’s largest off-price women’s fashion store. “We decided to pool our money together and make a 30-second television ad featuring all three companies and advertising to outlying regions such as Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Erie,” said Jubelirer.
Since rolling out the campaign and the Web site, www.theworldslargeststores.com, in March, the company has seen increased traffic to its own Web site. “We’ve always had customers from out of town,” said Jubelirer. “We believe there could be a resurgence of that business via this new marketing plan.”
The added traffic to Reyers could also be a boost for the city of Sharon itself, which has been affected by the downturn in the economy and the collapse of the steel industry. To give back to the community that helped it grow, Reyers has donated 10,000 pairs of shoes to local charity Shoe Our Children since 1998.
“I like giving locally, and this is an immediate need that we have here in Mercer County,” Jubelirer told his local paper. Just another example of Reyers’ ability to provide a service for a need that never goes away.