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home : lifestyles : lifestyles December 17, 2014

1/8/2014 3:00:00 PM
Family business is being sold after 104 years
If the Shoe Fits
You probably bought it from Bill Hertz
END OF AN ERA: Bill Hertz will retire this month, ending the 104-year Hertz family ownership of a shoe store in downtown Madison. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
END OF AN ERA: Bill Hertz will retire this month, ending the 104-year Hertz family ownership of a shoe store in downtown Madison. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)

For more than 100 years, the Hertz family has sold shoes in Madison.

But that soon will come to an end.

Bill Hertz - the great-grandson of Peter Hertz, who started making men's boots and shoes in a local shop after moving to Madison when the Civil War ended - is going to retire by the end of the month and sell the store that bears his name.

"The last couple years have been hard on me, just thinking about closing," Hertz said. "It's been in the family for 104 years, you know?"

The Hertz Shoes story begins with Peter Hertz who, according to Bill Hertz, married into the Denzer family after the war. He began working for the Denzer Shoe Store, which opened in 1859 at 317 Mulberry St.

Peter's son J.J. Hertz (grandfather to Bill Hertz) bought the store in 1909 and changed the name to Hertz Shoes. J.J. Hertz had started clerking at the store when he was 11-years-old.

In 1924, the store moved to its current location on Main Street.

"He (J.J. Hertz) had it until 1940," Bill Hertz said. "My father took over after that. He was William W."

After college, Bill Hertz moved back home. At the time, he thought returning to Madison would be temporary. He was only coming back to help out his father at the shop.

"My father got ill and I came back to help him out, and just never left."

Bill Hertz got married, settled down and began clerking for his father full time in the early 1970s. By 1975, he took over ownership of the family business.

Since then, he's seen a lot of changes come to the area.

"I've seen the town go from mostly all retail, to mostly empty buildings, to mostly antique shops and now with an influx of quality boutiques and that type of thing," he said.

"People don't realize, but there was hardly a mall in Louisville when I started. There were six shoe stores downtown when I started."

When Madison started offering money to storefronts to revert back to the town's historic aesthetic, Hertz said he could see a change coming to the town that would eventually attract more tourism.

He decided to move most of his merchandise to a second Hertz Shoes location on the hilltop, until 2008 when the lease expired, Hertz said.

"It enabled me to bring in better grade merchandise and we became a comfort store. More outdoor and comfort oriented store, which the tourists just absolutely loved. I had people come from Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Louisville on a regular basis."

After 44 years of working full time at the shoe store, Hertz said he has retirement on his mind.

"I've worked every Saturday but seven since I've been here," he said.

The plan is for the shoe store to keep its name and staff when new owners take over. Hertz said he also plans on helping the new owners through the transition period.

Hertz asked that the names of the prospective new owners not be revealed, because the sale has not been made final.

Even if selling the location weren't an option, Hertz said he would be ready for something else.

"I would have had a retirement sale if I didn't sell it," he said. "You just don't think you're going to sell your small retail business. I'm very fortunate."

He says he plans on playing a lot more golf, now that he won't have the daily responsibilities of owning a store.

"I could play golf every day," he said.

He also said he wants to travel with his wife and work on his garden.

"I've got plenty to keep me busy."

Related Links:
• PHOTOS: If the Shoe Fits





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