BusinessThe Northern Westchester Examiner

Final Steps for Family-Owned Mohegan Lake Shoe Store After 51 Years

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The sign currently outside The Rugged Boot & Shoe Co. in Mohegan Lake, which has served the community for 51 years. The shoe store will permanently close Apr. 30.

When a popular local store shutters its doors after 51 years, it’s a significant loss to the community.

That loss will soon be experienced when The Rugged Boot & Shoe Co. in Mohegan Lake permanently closes next week. The family-owned store has been known for being the go-to quality shoe store attracting customers from throughout the area.

“We decided to close about a month ago,” co-owner Barrie Katz said last week. “We originally planned to close the store and retire when approaching the store’s 50th business year but somehow kept the doors open. It was when my mother passed away a month ago that we finally decided to close.”

Katz and her husband, Barry, are co-owners with her sister, Nancy Reinstein, and her husband, Robert Reinstein. The building was originally purchased by their parents, Herb and Rita Hirshan, in 1972.

“My parents originally owned a clothing store on the other side of Brodie’s,” an Irish pub and restaurant located on the adjacent parcel, Barrie Katz recalled. “When they bought the schoolhouse, they mainly sold clothes.”

The white building on Route 6 near Lexington Avenue was originally a two-room schoolhouse, which opened in 1911. Above the tall columns that grace the front door is the original bell tower that still houses the bell. Below that the portico sign still says “Mohegan Lake School District No. 13.”

Notable is the store’s signature red caboose anchored on heavily rusted rail tracks, which is annexed to the building. It was where children’s clothes had been sold and was a fun attraction.

“My father bought the caboose in Altoona, Pa. in the mid-1970s,” Katz said. “Lately it’s used for some storage.”

As teens, Nancy Reinstein recalled the store being a focal point in her life.

“All of our high school friends came to work at the store,” she said. “It was really great.”

The store stopped selling kids’ clothes by 2008, strictly selling footwear, necessitated by a change in the market, Robert Reinstein explained.

Barrie and Barry Katz, co-owners of The Rugged Boot & Shoe Co. in Mohegan Lake standing inside the 51-year-old store that will permanently close next week.

The Rugged Boot was known for its personal service. The store specialized in large sizes and widths and carried work boots, hiking boots, sneakers, walking shoes, casual shoes, dress shoes, sandals and clogs, as well as socks and accessories for men and women. The interior has natural pine walls as a backdrop to shoes and boots displayed on small wooden platforms. Dotting the room are antiques, including an old barber’s chair (for sale for $600) and an early 20th century sewing machine.

DSW Shoe Warehouse, which opened in 2021 less than a mile away, did not impact business at The Rugged Boot.

“We sold different products than DSW so we were not affected,” Katz said. “We did have a rough time during COVID with the online ordering, but so did every store.”

Before publicly announcing that they were closing, regular customers were contacted.

“We wanted to give them first dibs on the remaining merchandise before we put out our closing sign,” Katz said.

On Apr. 15 a large sign announcing the store’s pending closure was posted outside the building. There was an uptick in business shortly thereafter, customers filling the store to make final purchases.

Plans to sell the building haven’t been finalized.

Customers continue to stop by and buy shoes and say goodbye. Paying for his last purchase last week was Jerry Anzalone who said he was going to miss The Rugged Boot.

“It’s a family-run business and they personally know their customers,” Anzalone said. “That’s rare.”

Anzalone said he came to The Rugged Boot years ago when his son was in elementary school and was having orthopedic problems.

“The folks at The Rugged Boot were so accommodating and helped my son so much, and that was 25 years ago,” he said. “Now my son is a chiropractor and has been recommending his patients to buy footwear here.”

As merchandise has dwindled, there seemed to be a sweet sadness in the old schoolhouse.

“We feel we have made a real difference being here, and it’s bittersweet and heartwarming to see all our loyal customers wish us well,” Katz said. “But we are all ready for a change.”


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