Turlock residents have walked around the city in comfort for 50 years thanks to Boucher’s Shoes, which in February will celebrate half a century of business.
In February 1967, Ernestine and Ken Boucher were newlyweds, looking for their next big adventure. That adventure came when the downtown Turlock shoe store that Ken worked at went up for sale. Ken and Ernestine, along with Ken’s parents, Ralph and Martha Boucher, decided to purchase the store and called their new endeavor Boucher’s Comfort Shoes.
“It was very scary,” said Ernestine. “We had just been married, and to turn around in February and take on buying a shoe store? It was scary but here we are 50 years later.”
Together, the four Bouchers successfully operated their shoe store on Main Street for 24 years. Eventually, parking issues and transients causing trouble behind their business led the group to relocate Boucher’s Comfort Shoes to their current location at 2505 Geer Rd., where they have been for 26 years.
“We’ve seen a lot of changes,” said Ernestine.
Aside from their location change, the shoe store has seen its fair share of transformations, from the number of shoes they provide to the knowledge both Ernestine and Ken have gained over the years. The pair have navigated their way through multiple recessions, said Ernestine, all of which they were able to ride out through their business-savvy ways.
“After 50 years, you learn a lot,” she said. “We learned to sharpen the pencils and cut back. There used to be so many shoe stores on Main Street and now we’re one of the last ones standing.”
Another change came in the early 80s, as Ralph passed away and Martha was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease shortly after. Ken and Ernestine took on running the business on their own – something that came naturally to the two.
“Ken’s mom and dad were wonderful people; the four of us were able to work well together when they were alive,” said Ernestine. “My husband and I are best friends. We’ve had people ask how we can work together, but it’s worked for us.”
Setting themselves apart from other big-box, chain shoe stores in town has never been a problem, said the Bouchers. For Ernestine, the shoe store’s defining characteristic is its service, while Ken added that Boucher’s has always provided the community with comfort.
“Customers tell us it’s so hard to find someone to help them that knows how to fit shoes and will measure your foot; we still do that because we’re old school,” said Ernestine. “We’ll tell them exactly what we feel they should wear.”
Ken and Ernestine take pride in talking with each customer who walks through their doors, and that has led to the couple developing a special relationship with their clientele that can only come after 50 years of sales.
“Turlock people are wonderful, and we have so many wonderful customers,” said Ernestine. “We have quite a few that have followed us and have been with us through it all.”
Local shoppers have helped Boucher’s Comfort Shoes stay in business for 50 years, helping the Turlock community in the process. Ernestine estimated that since 1967, the shoe store has generated over $1 million in sales tax revenue for the city, emphasizing the importance of shopping in town at locally-owned stores.
“It helps our community when you stay local,” she said. “Our sales tax money stays in the town, and we’ve helped Turlock with our roads, schools and other things thanks to that.”
To celebrate their 50th anniversary, Boucher’s Comfort Shoes will hold an event at their store on a date to be announced, complete with raffles for four pairs of free shoes, desserts and balloons.
“We thought, ‘What else could people want besides free shoes?’” said Ken.
As for the future? Ken and Ernestine plan to operate the shoe shop as long as possible and continue to provide the community with comfort they can trust.
“The reward is helping so many people have comfortable shoes and making their feet feel good,” said Ernestine. “We have people come back and thank us for selling them a shoe that helps them get through their day a little easier.”