By John Burton |
RED BANK – With a continuing changing marketplace, Dean Ross has decided to get out of the shoe business.
After 17 years in business – first in Fair Haven and then for the past three years at 43 Broad St. in the heart of the downtown – Ross will be closing his Doc Shoppe when his lease expires on March 31.
Ross, 65, lives in Middletown’s Lincroft section, and said this week after thinking long and hard, he decided he’ll end this business, for a couple of reasons. With the lease coming to an end, it certainly helped force his hand, he acknowledged. (His landlord is Tenco – the Ten Company – which has quite a few downtown real estate holdings and one of its principals, William Himelman, who was the Red Bank Municipal Court judge for many years, died last week.).
The primary reason for closing the doors is “the town has changed its flavor,” Ross said.
Ross explained that Red Bank’s business district has been shifting away from traditional retail and shopping. The emphasis now in the business district, he observed, is for Red Bank as a dining and entertainment destination.
“The internet has impacted it tremendously,” as well, he said, affecting brick and mortar retail outlets, especially shoe stores, which convinced Ross it was time to call it quits.
Another factor in his decision making is the continuing issue of the vehicle parking shortfall, which has plagued business owners in the downtown commercial districts for decades. “You know, consumers want convenience … shoppers want less stress.”
Ross has other local business interests – he’s a part owner of the Bagel Oven, 72 Monmouth St., for about 38 years, and he’s a partner in the recently opened Shapiro’s New York Style Delicatessen, at 51 Broad St. He plans to remain busy with those operations. He smiled and quipped, “Maybe I’ll get a bicycle and make lunch deliveries.”
The Doc Shoppe has been a vendor on Amazon.com (where he’s been selling more shoes than in his shop) and Ross is mulling over continuing with that while he sells down his existing stock in the store.
Ross grew up in Red Bank, graduating from the Red Bank High School (now the middle school, 101 Harding Road) in 1969. Later he moved first to Shrewsbury and then Lincroft. For him, though, Red Bank is still the place to be. “I love the diversity of Red Bank,” he said. “It just offers a lot.”
After years of getting up at 2 a.m. to bake bagels for the Bagel Oven, Ross was looking for something else. At the time he took his two daughters, Dee and Melanie, to England and Ross’ mother bought the girls pairs of Doc Marten Mary Jane-style shoes, a flat with buckles, “which were very popular” at the time but not necessarily well known in the U.S. Ross decided to go into the shoe business primarily selling the Doc Marten brand for men and women, as well as other styles and manufacturers, such as Crocs, “when nobody was selling them,” back in 2002. He first opened in Fair Haven, in the River Road business district, relocating the business to Red Bank in 2014.
When he moved to Red Bank he discontinued selling children’s shoes. But with hundreds of pairs left over, Ross decided to offer them to the Red Bank school children. He gave away about 629 pairs to needy children over a couple of weekends; and any child he couldn’t find a pair for, he made sure those kids got shoes, buying the additional pairs for them.
Along with his business dealings, Ross has been very involved in community activities. He has worked with the Monmouth Reform Temple, a Jewish synagogue in Tinton Falls, where Ross is a member and works with the community outreach program. One of the programs is “Shine a Light,” conducted in cooperation with St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church, Bridge Avenue, to provide free bicycle lights and helmets to improve safety for those relying on the bikes for transportation.
He has also been involved with the Family Resource Associates, Shrewsbury, which works with the developmentally disabled and their families to improve the quality of their lives.
“Of course, I want to make some money, to pay the bills, but I get more pleasure from that than selling shoes,” he acknowledged.
And he plans on staying involved in those activities. “You’ll still see me around town, whether you want to or not,” he said, offering another smile.
This story was originally published in the Feb. 2-9, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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