Stepping into John Franklin Ltd. on Main Street in Mooresville is like stepping back in time. The store has been in business for decades and offers the kind of one-on-one service you'd expect to see in the '50s. But what's more - the prices take you back, well at least the prices on Johnston and Murphy shoes.
The shoemaker has been in business since the 1850s and still produces hand crafted men's shoes with a style and quality that typically demand well over $200. But at John Franklin Ltd. they sell Johnston and Murphy "seconds", these are 'refurbished' to pristine condition. But don't think of these as 'used' shoes.
Owner John Franklin Smith told me they're a lot like a car, "The minute you drive a new car off the lot, it's still new, still looks new but you can't sell it as new, same as these shoes," he told me. The shoes he sells have been in fashions shows, maybe were purchased and returned because the color wasn't right. But the company, Johnston and Murphy, polishes and 'refurbishes' the shoes to near-new condition. In fact, the soles of every pair I looked at, appeared to have never touched the ground before.
Smith gets 130 pairs of Johnston and Murphy shoes a month. And his regular clients clamor to get them. "We have 800 people on an email list, we don't send them emails every day, just when the new shipment is in, and they're lined up the next day, out the door, no kidding," salesman Eddie Wheeler said.
I found two gentlemen from Charlotte who'd driven up to Mooresville just to see the newest styles. "Oh I've bought plenty of shoes here," one said.
I found out about the store from local artist and author Cotton Ketchie while I was on a speaking trip to Mooresville. "I can't afford a $250 dollar pair of shoes, but I can afford a great pair for $54.95. And when you leave here you know you've got a good quality shoe and it's going to fit just right," Cotton told me.