SUMMIT, NJ - While many businesses have changed throughout the years in downtown Summit, Nee Dell’s Shoes has been in town since1929.
The company was started by current owner’s Mark Needell’s grandparents, who worked there for a long time until his grandfather passed away and his father took over. As a child, he assisted his dad in the stock room and with selling shoes, but said he never dreamed of following in his footsteps.
He wanted to venture out into the business world and after finishing college at Boston University, he traveled throughout the country selling office copiers, which he said was a unique experience.
In the mid 1980s his father called him and said he needed help at the store, so he returned to New Jersey and has been the owner for the past 25 years. They sell men’s and women’s shoes and provide the latest trends in fashion and fitness footwear for their customers.
Needell said they have been able to stay in business for so long because of their customer service, for which they are well known in downtown Summit. All of the shoppers are greeted with a friendly smile and many of the employees know their customers by their first name, he said. Additionally, the staff is trained and knowledgeable in shoes and how to best serve their customers.
“When they make a purchase, we want them to be happy with it,” he said. “I don’t think you get that everywhere.”
Each day, he and his co-workers deal with a variety of different people. Some come in knowing what they want, others are very choosy, and some need help, he said. It’s important to cater to each person’s individual needs, he said.
“It’s easier to sell to people if they know what they want, but the most important thing is they walk out with a purchase or a direction to find something they are looking for,” he said.
Needell said he doesn’t regret returning to New Jersey to work in the family business, although he does miss Boston. He said he enjoys interacting with his staff and meeting new people each day as they shop in the store.
One difficult, yet fun aspect of his job is buying the shoes for the company. While there isn’t pressure to select the right ones, knowing that he chose well gives him a great deal of satisfaction when customers like them, he said. The most difficult part is navigating the economic downturn that has impacted so many businesses.
“The biggest challenge today is the amount of people walking through the door,” Needell said.
He said feels confident about the future of the business and being part of downtown Summit will definitely help them succeed.