A second-generation shoe store in western Iowa is marking 80 years in the sole-ful business. Keith Bauer, owner of Bauer’s Shoes in Harlan, says his father bought the business in 1926 and the store has been on the square in downtown Harlan ever since.
Bauer says he had no intention of spending much of his life selling shoes. He was about 20 or 21 years old and was attending Iowa State University to become a teacher when his father died in 1958. Bauer finished school but decided to come back home and “hit the shoe business.”
Bauer has seen many changes in the shoe industry over the decades, with one big change being an increase in the sale of athletic shoes. Bauer says athletic shoes used to be just a small section of Keds in the corner, accounting for only about five-percent of the business. Now, he says, athletic shoes account for about 40-percent of the business.
Bauer says styles have changed too, and people are more concerned about how a shoe feels than how it looks. He says people are much less interested in “dressy” shoes with a big shift toward casual shoes, with the emphasis on comfort.
Bauer says the modern foot is also different — it’s bigger. They almost never carried 11s for women or 14s and 15s for men, but now those sizes are necessities. Also, feet have become much wider over the years. Aside from celebrating 80 years in business, Maude Bauer — Keith’s mother — turned 99 years old on July 30th. Maude has been a part of Bauer’s Shoes from day one, and still makes appearances at the store.