By John Grossi
Tenni-Moc’s Shoe Store is, in my opinion, both a place to go and a person to see in Long Beach. “A shoe store?” you might ask. Yes, a shoe store.
See… 60 years ago, when current owner Alex Maltezos’ grandpa Sam started the store, it was likely just another retail spot doing its best to serve customers and stay in business.
The early 1960s were a different time - a time when small retailers were the norm. In 2022, however, there is nothing around quite like this store. Or Alex, who is as authentic a character as you will find. Still fitting a fourth generation of loyal neighborhood customers, she just found out she’s the youngest independent shoe store owner/operator in Southern California. Now at age 34, this is her seventh year in that role. And her 21st year in the shoe business… counting back to when she first started helping Grandpa Sam out part-time at the store.
For 60 years combined, Sam and now Alex have watched as the industry slowly changed around them; independent shoe stores being bought out or going under; and the new age of internet “buying/returning/buying/keeping but disliking” cycle of shoe shopping the new norm. Well, that silly cycle may have become the norm for most of the population… but somehow, someway that is not the case for Tenni-Moc’s clientele.
Investing in Customer Service
Tenni-Moc’s moved to a bigger space on Spring St. in 2019; made it through the pandemic by building an awesome website (that is still a great resource) offering home deliveries; and has forged into 2022, as good if not better than ever!
Sit down in a chair at Tenni-Moc’s Shoes and you’ll see a slice of retail magic from an era gone-by, displayed by two young women with more personality and energy than most entertainers. Alex and her cousin Alyssa, the store manager, scurry around the retail space, helping customer after customer after customer. All the while, laughter, conversation, and the sounds of true service fill the air. The customers don’t stop pouring in, pretty much anytime that they’re open.
The traditional “bread and butter” customer for Tenni-Moc’s is anyone with foot problems, abnormalities, or specialty sizing requests. Alex’s expertise is in fitting a shoe that will alleviate foot pain while still looking fashionable.
“It’s a shame that there aren’t more owner/operators anymore, because what I learn on the floor each day is invaluable! I’m always ordering based on the trends I’m hearing from customers. But I also have been doing this for so long, I know what small idiosyncrasies to look for in a shoe design that makes it comfortable or uncomfortable.” Since moving into her bigger space on Spring St., Alex has also seen more young adults come into the store as well, looking for that pampered shopping experience they can’t find duplicated anywhere else.
A True Fitting
A true fitting. A shoe fitting with a salesperson who not only measures your entire foot, but takes into account your lifestyle, medical history, and future.
“We’re very into preventative care and a lot of the younger generation is realizing how important that is. We’re going to put you in a shoe that actually feels good on your feet AND looks good.”
It’s hard to describe Alex, but let’s just say she’s a ball of energy and passion, with way more knowledge about shoes than is probably socially acceptable. This summer, at a nationwide shoe show convention, several shoe brands were asking Alex questions and filming her answers to take as input back to their design teams. She is also currently helping to develop and design a shoe brand with one of her major vendors. Doctors and podiatrists routinely refer patients to Alex, because they know she has put in the work and has the knowledge and products to make a person’s foot feel better.
Knowledge and passion aside, Alex will be the first to tell you there is only one word that truly sums up why this store is still going strong after 60 years in business. Another S-word: Service.
If you’re looking for new shoes, or even if you just want to experience an old-school fitting with new school passion, head to Tenni-Moc’s and see Alex or Alyssa. You’ll walk around feeling much better on your feet, and maybe enjoy a renewed faith in both the future of human interaction and retail!