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Vancouver shoe store owner greeting customers with a new safety tool for shoe fitting

When The Shoe Fits prides itself in getting the size right. Now, as it slowly reopens, the owner is building a shield that makes customer interaction safer.

VANCOUVER, Wash. — It was a tough time, back on March 24. When The Shoe Fits had just closed its four stores, and laid off nearly 25 employees.

"We had to figure out what our best moves were to be," said owner Alan O'Hara at the time.

O'hara and his wife worked hard to build the business. And it was all in jeopardy. But they survived. 

"The good news is we're loaded for bear, we've got all these shoes," said O'Hara, who has a lot of product to sell to make up for lost time. Sales are happening on the sidewalk, outside his Clark County stores. Shoes are displayed on shelves made from wood O'Hara cut from trees on his property.

Credit: Alan O'Hara

"It keeps my sanity to be able to do things like that people say 'what projects did you do?' I say, 'Well I kept the show store alive.' My wife and I have just been killing it trying to get everything going so it's such a relief right now to be able to actually do something."

O'Hara also designed something else to make trying on shoes safer. He's been building them in his garage. The Fit Checker 5000, as O'Hara calls it, brings the plexiglass shield to shoe fitting, allowing a closer customer experience.

"I think it will make people feel comfortable as they start to get out and do shopping again I know a lot of people are missing that and I think this will make them ease into that," said Kristi Porterfield, whose husband Ron bought a pair of shoes.

Of course, the shoe fitting shield also keeps store employees safe, as they come back to work.

"When we locked down we had 23 people that we had to set aside and say, 'hang in there we're coming back', and right now we've got everybody but maybe two or three back," said O'Hara.

When The Shoe Fits is making a comeback, with a new tool that will be needed, even as they slowly open inside the stores.

"We're just gonna adapt and figure out who we need to sell shoes in the times of Covid."

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