The Boot Pro sells the kind of boots people need on the job
Boot Pros owner Walter Brown, and operations manager Jason Ladwig.
Walter Brown knows what kind of people he’s serving at his new store in Wausau, Boot Pros. “All of our customers work for a living. That’s our audience,” he says.
Shoppers at the Bridge Street Pick ‘n Save might have noticed the colorful Boot Pros sign since September in the nearby former warehouse. Brown doesn’t sell cowboy boots, snow boots or high heel boots—though some heeled boots are for people like linemen to keep them from slipping off the foot pegs of power poles and the like.
This is occupational footwear for those who spend lots of time on their feet or are required to have safety toes. Everything on display is ASTM certified for such things as safety toes, slip resistance and even safety in electrical settings. Lots of his customers are carpenters, electricians and laborers, and Brown makes it a priority to learn what each customer’s needs are likely to be. “I always will ask you what you do for a living,” he says.
He’ll point a forklift driver to a platform boot with a wedge-type sole. Electrician? He’d figure ladders are involved, and recommend something with a heel to catch on the rung. Shelf stocker at a store? He’d suggest a dual-density sole and channels to grip what might be slippery floors. The store even carries footwear made to protect EMT workers from blood-borne pathogens.
His products are the Thorogood line designed and, in most cases, made by the Merrill-based company Weinbrenner. The average American-made boot is $205. On the import side the average price is $120 with a low of $85. He’s aiming for buyers who might spend 10 to 12 hours a day on their feet. For them, footwear is like a tool for which performance trumps price. He figures if he puts someone in the right shoe, they’ll become a repeat customer and will send others.
Brown’s been selling boots online since 2006 at unionbootpro.com. He knew the Weinbrenner Shoe people, and had suggested they begin online sales. Weinbrenner wasn’t interested but said he was welcome to do it. Since they turned the domain name over to him, he’s done $13 million in sales. Even with the online sales success, he wanted a physical store. “They want to try it on,” he says of many customers. A big part of his strategy is to support and work with trade unions whose members want to buy American-made.
The store’s address says Cherry St., but it’s easier to get there via the Pick ‘n Save lot. Open Tues.–Fri. 10 am–6 pm, Sat. 10 am–4 pm. 715-842-2668.