Small Business of the Year: Chiappetta Shoes

2018 Ovation Awards

Tony, Fred, Lori and Nick Chiappetta.

Chiappetta Shoes

6821 39th Ave., Kenosha

Industry: Footwear retail

Employees: 12

Tony, Fred, Lori and Nick Chiappetta.

Tony and Nick Chiapetta spent much of their childhood helping out at their family’s longtime shoe store, Chiappetta Shoes. Now, the two brothers serve as chief executive officer and chief operating officer of the Kenosha-based company, currently in its third and fourth generations of family ownership and leadership.

The retailer sells premium men’s and women’s footwear, pedorthics and custom orthotics, and offers shoe repair services at its 6,500-square-foot storefront.

It carries almost 50 brands of footwear, including Birkenstock, Dansko, Pikolinos and Saucony, available both in-store and on the company’s newly redesigned e-commerce site, which launched in June.

Chiappetta Shoes was founded in 1921 by Tony and Nick’s great-grandfather, Pasquale Chiappetta, an Italian immigrant. He opened a small shoe repair shop right next to his home in a Kenosha neighborhood about five miles away from the company’s current location, and a few years later, the cobbler began selling shoes.

Today, Chiappetta Shoes is owned by the family’s third generation, Fred Chiappetta and his wife, Lori. Fred, who is a certified pedorthist, took over in 1985. He succeeded his mother, who had run the company since 1970, when her husband unexpectedly passed away.

The retailer operated out of its original location until 1990, but since then has relocated twice, each time quadrupling in operational size. It moved into its current storefront in 2000, which allowed the company to increase its pedorthic and orthotic production and hire more employees. It currently has 13 full-time employees, including the four family members.

Tony and Nick each officially joined the company after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2008 and 2010.

“It’s cool to be a part of something that has been around for so long,” Tony said. “I’m grateful for that, but I know it can also go away in a season, so you have to keep working at it.”

Despite the recent launch of its new e-commerce site, the company continues to rely on its brick-and-mortar sales as its main revenue source, he said.

“From a local standpoint, (e-commerce) hasn’t drawn a lot of sales, but we joined Google Shop, and it’s nice because we’re selling products all over the country,” Tony said. “It offers opportunities to expand.”

Developing a digital presence for the store was one of Tony’s main focuses upon joining the company full-time, he said, but it’s been a slow process. It took about three years just to convert the company’s informational website to e-commerce.

In the meantime, Chiappetta Shoes used, and still uses, e-commerce platform Amazon Marketplace to sell products that are discontinued.

The company aims to expand its offerings on Amazon as it sets its sights on continued online growth, Tony said, but he knows that growth is limited by big name e-commerce competition such as Zappos and

Tony and Nick also plan to launch a YouTube channel this winter to post product reviews and information and offer their podiatry expertise.

“We are banking on online to be an important part of the puzzle,” Tony said.

Chiappetta Shoes also plans to relocate again to a larger space. Details are not yet finalized, Tony said, but plans include an expanded sales floor and experiential amenities, including a wine and coffee bar and a runway for fashion shows. Its shoe repair area will be situated in the front of the store and will be more visible to customers.

The Chiappetta family with company employees.

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