The story of Sole Provisions is a story about the power of American small business and the families that dedicate their lives to creating and growing them.
In the fall of 1991, when founder Holden Nagelberg was a 21 year old music education grad student at New York’s Queens College, he needed a part time job that would work around his busy student teaching schedule. After learning about a job posting at his school’s employment center, he walked into family owned Turnpike Orthopedic Shoes and his life was changed forever.
Founded in 1979 by Cuban immigrant Ernesto Rueda and managed along with his sons Steve and Ernie, the store was a savior for people with the worst foot problems imaginable, but the dynamic of the family running it made it the opposite of the serious medical environment you would imagine it to be. Decades of experience, genuine empathy, and thrilled customers made it an incredibly engaging environment to work in, and the warmth of the Rueda family made Holden fall in love with a business he could have never imagined himself being a part of.
In the following few years comfort footwear had become increasingly more mainstream, and Holden had the idea of opening a new store that catered to this emerging customer who valued style and comfort. After presenting his plan to the Rueda family, Steve and Ernie decided to support the idea, and in August of 1997 the three partners opened Sole Provisions in Long Island’s Huntington Village.
After several years of successful business and partnership, Steve and Ernie gracefully allowed Holden to buy out their share of the company, and Sole Provisions became the Nagelberg family’s small business. Then in 2007, Holden opened the company’s first website, and everything changed.
The website business was explosive, and Sole Provisions went from a small local business to a company selling shoes nationally. Soon Holden decided to open his own fulfillment center to ensure control of our customers’ experience, and that’s when Steve’s son Jared Rueda joined the business. Holden had known Jared since he was 4, was familiar with his work ethic as a successful high school wrestler, and couldn’t be more thrilled to have someone in the family working at the warehouse.
Economic times started getting tough in 2008, and although the website was still performing well, the store was suffering. Business was shrinking every year, and in 2012 Holden made the difficult decision to close the wonderful store that had given him and his family so much, and moved his office to the fulfillment center.
By now Jared’s tenacious work ethic and valuable input had vaulted him to becoming warehouse manager, and more importantly, Holden’s go-to source to discuss all things entrepreneurial. The company was branching out into additional websites, manufacturing, and even ecommerce consulting for the iconic Philadelphia comfort footwear chain Benjamin Lovell Shoes. Needless to say there was no shortage of exciting things to brainstorm on.
During their conversations, Holden and Jared were becoming increasingly aware that the company needed to open stores again in order to stay relevant. Locally minded brick and mortar stores were the soul of what started their family business in the first place, and it just felt right that face to face customer service would once again be at the core of what made the business special. In early 2015, plans were made to open their first Sole Provisions store of this new era, and Jared suggested his close friend Dave Casamassa as the person to manage it.
What has followed in the years since those initial plans to get back into the brick and mortar business could only be described as incredible….and probably a little crazy. Dave spent a full year training at the Rueda’s family store in Queens, and learned to love the business much the same way Holden had. After several months of construction delays at the Wading River, NY shopping center slated as the new location, the opportunity came in early 2016 to acquire Allen’s Shoes in Northfield, NJ, another iconic family business that had been in the area since 1906. Since the acquisition was set to take place before the new store would be ready, Dave was quickly reassigned to run this larger and already established location.
Before Dave could even start his new position running Allen’s, a new opportunity came up to acquire the three Benjamin Lovell stores we had been consulting for, and with the acquisition came that company’s merchandiser extraordinaire John Holden. John was already an important figure in the comfort footwear world, and his eye for trends and a balanced product mix was a fantastic new addition to the growing management team. Jared’s older brother Steven was soon recruited to take Dave’s place running the new Wading River Sole Provisions store, and when it opened in August of 2016 the company had gone from zero to five stores in only six short months. Soon it became obvious that Dave’s management talents should be utilized beyond the one store, and he became the general manager for all of the brick and mortar businesses. Holden’s sister Jilleyn was brought in as marketing coordinator, and our growing family business included more and more family.
Since then, eight new store openings and the acquisitions of Hudson Valley New York’s Pegasus Footwear, Lancaster Pennsylvania’s R.B. Shap Shoes, Austin, Texas’s Instep and Alan's Shoes in Tucson, Arizona has brought our store count to 20, and along with it amazing new people and skills we welcomed into our ever growing family. Our love of operating local shoe stores that are dedicated to providing incredible service has only gotten stronger, and our commitment to supporting our local communities through several annual fundraising events has grown along with it. Making people’s lives better by making their feet more comfortable has always been our mission, and we enthusiastically embrace every opportunity we get to thrill new customers and expand our community.
Holden, Jared, Dave and John are now all partners in the business, and spend their time making each other laugh and making sure our company is growing without losing our local small business feel. We love the family we have created with our employees, our customers, and our communities, and protecting that will always be at the core of our culture.