Robert's Shoe Store, 740 E Lake St, Minneapolis, Minnesota

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Robert's Shoe Store

Address: 740 Lake Street E
Neighborhood/s: Powderhorn Park, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Hennepin County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Country: United States
Historic Function: Business
Current Function: Business

Powderhorn Park Minneapolis Hennepin

Robert's Shoe Store, 740 E Lake St, Minneapolis, Minnesota
(44.948351° N, 93.263002° WLatitude: 44°56′54.064″N
Longitude: 93°15′46.807″W

In 1937 Nathan Roberts was an employee at Kaplans, when it was on Franklin Avenue. A chain store called Minneapolis Shoe Company was going bankrupt, and Roberts had the idea to buy one of their stores, at the corner of Chicago and Lake. The Sears department store and warehouse had been built a few years earlier, and two streetcars passed by the corner, so he figured it would be a good location. Roberts specialized in selling shoes of all sizes. His motto was "Hardly a Foot We Can't Fit." Roberts worked in the store until his death in the late 1990s at age 89.

In 1982, Nate Roberts recruited his son-in-law Mark Simon to work in the store, with the view to taking it over. Simon found he liked retail sales as much as his father-in-law. Simone and his wife bought the business in 2000.

In 2014 Mark Simon closed Robert's Shoe store. He retained ownership of the store and the adjacent buildings. He rented the former store space to Ali Mansour who opened Galaxy Wireless.

Other tenants:

Rene Thompson's Dance Studio 730-Marisqueria Mar Y Tierra Restaurant Michael's hip hop clothing shop and recording studio, (Michael Reese) Pain Relief Center Jackson Hewitt Tax DJ U collective Sean Smuda's Pirsig and Biennale Galleries Film maker Alex Ulrich Artist Joy Spika

The buildings at 700-740 East Lake Street were destroyed by a fire on May 28th 2018.

Walking a Mile in Roberts Shoes
“The average guy in our store has, oh I would say, on average, 30 years in the shoe business. I’ve got one guy that’s got over 50. We practice hands-on management. … It was my father-in-law’s Nathan Roberts philosophy, my philosophy, that’s why I work six days a week at least, sometimes seven.” Mark Simon, owner of Roberts Shoes

One Foot in Front of the Other
Nathan Roberts bought Minneapolis Shoe Store in 1937 after its previous owners went bankrupt during the Great Depression, and changed the name of the business to Robert’s Shoe Store. Lake Street, as a retail shopping area, was second only to downtown Minneapolis because of the lack of suburban shopping at this time.

"In 1937 we were a blue collar, or upwardly mobile neighborhood of working people. Everybody, everyone was working. From secretaries to laborers, the streets were just packed with people that were working. …[In addition,] this has been one of the biggest bus intersections in the city, and before it was busses, it was streetcars, and it was one of the biggest street car intersections.” Mark Simon

Being in a busy retail area didn’t guarantee success. Roberts Shoe Store had to compete for every sale with the 15-20 other retail shoe stores on Lake Street! Things didn’t get easier when, less than five years after the store changed ownership, World War II hit, and “that had a big impact on everything we did. Shoes were rationed, you were given stamps to buy shoes and a lot of footwear was diverted to the military, so it was really hard to get shoes, and my father-in-law was resourceful during those years and was able to find shoes, one way or another, to help grow our business.”

Black Hole, Sucking Energy Out of the Neighborhood
“I came here in 1982 … Lake Street was in a downhill slide. …Once Sears closed, we had a 2 million square foot building across the street from us that was vacant, and one quarter of our intersection was not producing anything valuable. It was like a black hole, sucking energy out of the neighborhood. …I would call [911] every day for something, a few years ago. There would be a traffic accident, or a fight, or a drug dealing. … There were a lot of things going on, out on the street, that were very visible, and were driving people away.”

Fighting to Stay Alive
“…When they started replacing Lake Street, which started about two and a half years ago, that virtually shut down every business on Lake... there was no street and no sidewalk in front of us … Chicago Avenue [was under construction] at the same time … Bus traffic was rerouted.”

“Then there was no handicapped parking. There was no parking. So anybody with any kind of disability couldn’t come here - we were just fighting to stay alive...”

Looking Forward to Good Times Ahead
“Lake Street went through a transition - and I think now, in the year 2007 and ahead, we can really start to shine.”

“We have interesting moments here every day - in Minneapolis, on Lake Street, in the heart of the city. What sets us apart here is the interesting mix of clientele that come from all walks of life, from all areas of the city and they bring with them all sorts of baggage, and perspectives and everyday it’s interesting being on the floor

“… We are in a multicultural part of the city, …we’ve had 10 or 15 customers in the store, and they’re all speaking different languages to their peer group. And if you just stop and listen, it’s like the Tower of Babel. …You can hear different dialects of Spanish, Somali, Nigerian, Norwegian-English, Russian, Chinese. …That noise makes it interesting.”


Memories and stories


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Right on Lake Street

Photo Gallery

Related Links

Michael's Hip Hop Shop

Store closes 2014

Store closing

Fire Damages

No Place Like This

Fire completely destroys

Fire Engulfs

Community Rallies

Building Demolished


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