Pitt Street will never be the same.
Clark’s Shoe Store, the venerable family-owned small business that has called the same location on Pitt Street home since 1896 is closing its doors forever June 23.
The sinking of the Titanic. The First World War. The Great Depression. The Second World War. The Cuban Missile Crisis. The terror attacks of 9/11.
Clark’s has seen it all and kept on going – until now.
Ross McDonald, the grandson of Louis Herbert Clark who started the store 116 years ago, said it’s time to retire and enjoy life.
And who could blame him? The face of small business life is changing. Big Box stores are taking their toll on small operations like Clark’s and McDonald said that, combined with age, has helped him make the decision to hang ‘em up.
“We’ve had a lot of fun with this,” said McDonald of the only business he has ever known. “People are creatures of habit. You used to go to one place for shoes, another place for something else. But today it’s different. Young people are in the big box stores and they shop all over the place.”
McDonald’s father took over from Clark in the 1940s. Ross followed in 1969.
“Generations of people have been coming through here,” said McDonald. And they’re still coming through. It was wall-to-wall people during an interview Friday.
McDonald began working at the store at age 13. His job was to wash windows and sweep. McDonald went on to help run the store at age 16 and remembers vividly the changes in shoe styles and size measurements, the stores along Pitt Street and the way the cars looked.
He suggested in his time on Pitt Street most, if not all, of the storefronts have changed.
“We’re the last of the dinosaurs,” McDonald said, pointing to former institutions like Snetsinger’s Hardware and Ford’s Jewellers among others that used to call downtown home, but have since closed.
“I decided last fall that this was enough,” said McDonald. “You know, when you own business, it really owns you. You work when the business tells you that you have to work.
“Now we want to travel.”