Teddy Shoes fights to stay open in Cambridge after six decades

Article by Amy Saltzman, Wicked Local, published on June 29th. You can see the original article here.

It’s an all-too-familiar story these days. But for Steven Adelson, owner of Teddy Shoes in Central Square, the possible loss of his 62-year-old business due to the COVID-19 shutdown hits particularly close to home.

Adelson started working for the family business straight out of college in 1978, taking it over 21 years ago after his father retired. Over the years, he’s helped morph the shop to serve niche markets, like becoming the go-to place for dance footwear and offering large lady shoe sizes for transgender patrons.

But with dance studios closed for months during the pandemic and retail shops only recently reopening, Adelson has found himself drowning in bills.

“We’re in month three of COVID and things are very bleak here,” said Adelson whose shop has been open by appointment only.

Between paying off rent, loans, insurance and outstanding bills on merchandise, Adelson, who just turned 65, said he simply does not have the money to stay afloat, and with his wife’s business on hold, the family has no income, he said.

Adelson’s youngest son suggested starting a GoFundMe page with a goal of $62,000 in honor of the 62 years the store has been open. As of Monday morning, they had raised $14,835. But donations are slowing down.

“I didn’t expect I would ever have to do this,” said Adelson. “I knew if I didn’t come up with something, there would be no way for me to survive. I felt I had no other choice; my back was against the wall.”

Adelson said he’s also applied for several grants. Theodora Skeadas, executive director of Cambridge Local First, helped him get a Paycheck Protection Program loan and he received a $6,000 COVID-19 grant for small businesses through the city of Cambridge. He applied for a second, but was denied.

“Now I’m sitting with nothing,” said Adelson.

Skeadas said Adelson has been “incredibly resourceful” and is doing everything he can to keep his store open. In addition to applying for numerous grants, Adelson is taking advantage of other support, including the COVID Biz Link, a clearinghouse for volunteer support for local businesses, and Localisity, an organization providing retail shops with the tools to increase their visibility as part of the Buy Local movement, she said.

Money from the building’s sale

The Adelson family used to own the three-story building at 544-550 Massachusetts Ave. where Teddy Shoes is housed. In 2018, the family sold the building to Central Square Redevelopment LLC to help pay for outstanding bills, including medical care for Adelson’s father who died in January 2019. 

Clifford Schorer, managing member of Central Square Redevelopment LLC, told the Chronicle in January 2019 that the company’s hope was to add three floors to make the building six stories. The ground floor would be retail and the rest residential — 29 micro-studio apartments.

As for the money, it’s all in Adelson’s father’s estate, he said, which is now in his mother’s name and cannot be accessed. As part of the sale, Teddy Shoes was to remain in the building. But with the lack of business over the last three months, Adelson is afraid Central Square Redevelopment LLC won’t give him a break.

This is a common problem for local businesses as the pandemic eases its clenches on the region.

“Steve’s situation is incredibly common these days in Cambridge,” said Skeadas. “Numerous businesses, like Inman Oasis, Cafe Pamplona and Brit Bakery, are beginning to close their doors permanently. This is a dire moment for our small businesses, which constitute the bedrock of our economy.”

Skeadas said estimates suggest 40% of Cambridge’s local businesses will fail to reopen following the crisis and an additional 25% within the year.

Adelson doesn’t want to be a part of that statistic.

“I am not ready to give it up,” said Adelson. “If the economy is there, I feel the business will be there. People love the store and have been very uplifting with their contributions and feedback and energy. We are a throwback. We are one of the last of the Mohicans.”

Teddy Shoes, located at 548 Massachusetts Ave. in Central Square, is currently open by appointment only. Delivery and curbside pickup is also available.

For information, call 617-547-0443 or visit teddyshoes.com.

To donate to the store’s GoFundMe, visit gofundme.com/f/keep-62-year-old-teddy-shoes-from-having-to-close.

Cambridge Local First