One foot out the door: Ted’s Boot Shop, Northampton’s oldest Main St. business, closing at the end of the month

By ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

Staff Writer

Published: 05-01-2023 5:00 PM

NORTHAMPTON — When Pam Ledoux walks into Ted’s Boot Shop, she already has an idea of how the experience is going to go.

“Every time I come in and see a shoe I like, they tell me it won’t fit,” said Ledoux, who lives in Amherst and has been shopping at the store since moving to the area 25 years ago. “Then they’ll say what shoes are actually the best for me. And then of course I end up buying them.”

That individualized care every customer receives has resulted in a loyal customer base at the store, the oldest of Northampton’s Main Street businesses, current owner Kathy Hudson says. But now facing health issues six years after becoming the sole proprietor, Hudson is retiring and closing up shop at the end of May, the latest business to cease operations in the city.

The store, often referred to as just Ted’s Boots, was founded in 1946 in Easthampton by Fred and Isabel Dumas, named after Fred’s brother Ted Dumas, who was killed in a kamikaze attack in World War II. The store moved to Northampton in 1964. The business remained in the family, being passed down to their son, John Dumas Sr.

Hudson, Fred and Isabel’s granddaughter, is now the sole owner of the store, after her father retired and her brother, John Dumas Jr., died in 2017.

“I was just here helping my father and then I was going to be off, but then my brother passed away,” Hudson said. “So then my dad says, you know what, I don’t want to be here anymore. So he said, ‘Here you go.’”

The store continued to thrive, even after the advent of online shopping, thanks to the specialized care and expertise the store was able to provide. Customers walking into Ted’s Boots receive attention to their unique footwear needs, ensuring they would find an exact fit. Old tools to assist in shoe-fitting, such as a ball and circle shoe stretcher, are still used at the store.

“Everybody coming through the door has orthotics, and we have to fit the shoes for these people,” Hudson said. “It’s challenging, but we love doing it.”

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It’s because of that expertise and specialization on individual needs that Hudson has never set up an online ordering system for the store — there’s simply no need.

“I don’t like to do online, because everything runs different,” she said. “If you have a certain shoe and a certain size, it doesn’t mean the one I ordered for you is going to fit the same. And plus, people’s feet change all of the time.”

But Hudson, following the advice of her doctor, believes the time has come to retire. She said she had tried to sell the business and even had an interested buyer, but the deal ultimately fell through due to the cost of rent for the store’s 158 Main St. location.

“I feel really bad because of the customers who have orthotics,” Hudson said. “I don’t know what they’re going to do, but they’re going to have to figure something else out.”

Until its doors close at the end of the month, the store is selling everything at a 50% discount. Longtime customers continue to walk into the store to browse its collection of Clarks, Merrell, New Balance and SAS footwear.

Barbara Curtis, who has been shopping at the store for more than 40 years, was one such customer browsing its wares recently for what could be the last time.

“They carry the brand of sandals I like,” said Curtis, who lives in Williamsburg. “I feel like I’m going to cry.”

Other longtime businesses that have closed recently in Northampton include Pleasant Journey Used Cars and Mama Iguana’s, both of which closed last month.

Alexander MacDougall can be reached at amacdougall@gazettenet.com.

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