Sam Lepore has been the owner/operator of Steelton Shoes since October 1987, the business established in 1936 and first owned by Jim Nardi, then Nick Fata before Sam took over.
A St. Mary’s College graduate who studied business at Lake Superior State University (known then as Lake Superior State College), Sam told SooToday “I’ve always wanted to own my own business.”
“My main job is to sell shoes, but people come in here with narrow feet, wide feet, so my satisfaction is fitting these people with a nice pair of shoes they like that fits their feet properly. When they leave the store they’re very happy. That’s satisfying to me.”
Business is always good for Sam, people purchasing their sandals and other summer footwear at Steelton Shoes when the snow is gone, and recently of course, buying new winter boots as the snow returns.
“We’ve been super, super busy. I can’t believe it. It’s been our best winter season in 32 years. The snow came early this year, but that’s very good for us and it’s my goal to sell all my boots and go to Florida in January. That’s always been my plan but it’s never worked out. I keep ordering more boots as the winter goes on,” Sam said with a smile.
“We help people. We work hard. We give them great service and I have a great staff. It feels like a family business.”
“It’s all about service, service, service, satisfying people’s needs, from toddlers to seniors. I like doing that. It’s my personality,” Sam said, again with a smile.
“Every day’s an adventure. A customer comes in with a specific need and we meet that need. People come in looking for a particular type of shoe, and because I get shoes when I go to shoe shows in Toronto, people say ‘wow, you’ve got that?’ That makes me feel good. It’s gratifying having something in stock that people want.”
Sam’s own favourite line of footwear is that made by Rieker, he being the exclusive Rieker salesperson in the Sault.
“They’re very comfortable and fashionable, for young people all the way to seniors. They only sell to independents like us, not the big chains.”
Sam sells workboots to numerous local companies, such as Algoma Steel, GFL, SIS Manufacturing and Arauco.
Steelton Shoes has been located at its current John Street address for the past 15 years (the business formerly situated on Wellington Street West), the store an independent landmark in a world of malls and big box stores.
The building on John Street was, in the past, a post office, then a jewellery store (Steelton Shoes also currently serving as a Canpar Express depot).
“We’re planning an addition to the building in the spring. We’re going to go out 14 feet. Times are good,” Sam added.
Sam values his many regular customers.
“We know each other on a first name basis. It’s really nice. It’s like another family.”