STOUT'S FOOTWEAR SINCE 1886
History of the oldest shoe store in USA
In 1886, Harry Stout and William Bristor established Harry Stout & company, a boot and shoe store at 318 Massachusetts Avenue in Indianapolis. In a time of hand-cobbled shoes, an off-the-shelf shoe store was a new concept. Stout's father, Benjamin, who died is 1875, ran a grocery and dry goods business. Harry's widowed mother, Elizabeth, ran the growing business while he finished his engineering degree at Purdue. Edward Stout, Harry's brother, replaced Bristor as partner in 1891. Harry Stout attracted customers by selling name-brand shoes at a discount, and by stocking a wide variety of sizes and widths.
Stout's had four locations by 1900. The Massachusetts Avenue location was fitted with a Baldwin Flyer system of wire baskets attached to wires and a pulley system. In the early 20th century, each salesperson hand-wrapped all items purchased in-store. The Baldwin Flyer system was intended to centralize the wrapping process. After each purchase was complete, the money was placed into the baldwin flyer and sent up to the mezzanine office where the shoes were wrapped and change was made. In a basket, the wrapped shoes were sent to the front desk where an attendant would hand the shoes and change to the customer. On a busy Saturday, in addition to the salesperson, two package wrappers, a cashier, and a front desk attendant were required to run the system.
Harry Stout died in 1912 at which time his brother, Edward, assumed full control of the business. Harry's three sons, Oliver, Sidney, and Dick, fought in World War I. Dick was awarded the French Croix De Guerre for rescuing wounded soldiers under fire. After Dick Stout's death in a airplane accident, Stout
Field in Indianapolis was named in his honor.
In the early 20th century, Stout's operated under different names and locations in downtown Indianapolis. A bicycle delivery boy shuttled stock between stores. Three stores closed during the Great Depression and the original store survived. After Oliver and Sidney returned from World War II, Edward Stout retired and the two brothers along with Oliver's son, Harry, ran the business. In addition to helping run the shoes business, Oliver assisted in founding The Indiana Air National Guard and served as its first commanding general.
During the 1950s, Stout's continued to boast a wide selection of sizes and widths. Business thrived by purchasing factory-seconds and repairing them to be sold at a discount to the customer. In addition to the x-ray foot machine, Sidney kept a pet monkey and parrot in the store. Sidney died in 1967, leaving Oliver and his son Harry to run the store. In the sixties, the city grew outward. New shopping malls sprouted in the suburbs as the downtown area was left to decay. The once vibrant shopping area of Massachusetts Avenue was replaced by run-down store fronts and the homeless; except Stout's. Stout's continued to thrive and operated much in the same way it had in the early part of the century. In 1972, Oliver died and Harry was left to run the store by himself.
In 1982 Harry's son Brad joined the business. Harry started the revival of Massachusetts Avenue in 1984 when he renovated a small building next to Stout's. The following year, Harry continued the revival by renovating the facade of Stout's Shoes.
Stout's began to expand in the 1980s, opening the Carmel store in 1985 and the Greenwood branch in 1991. In 1999, the Greenwood store was converted into a New Balance athletic store, owned by Stout's Footwear. Stephanie Stout, Brad Stout's wife, joined the company in 2001, and together they opened the Brownsburg Stout's store in 2002. In 2003 Brady Stout began working as the 5th generation Stout to be a part of the company.
As business for the independent shoe retailer has changed over the years, Stout's has evolved into a mecca of high-end, quality footwear accompanied by an environment of full-service, custom fitting. Each customer is still individually measured and fit according to their footwear needs. We offer a wide range of sizes and an abundant selection of quality footwear.
Today, in addition to shopping our multiple Stout's Footwear loactions, Stout's customers can shop a vast selection of sizes and widths, and experience family owned-and-operated customer service, online at ShoeStores.com. Brady Stout and his wife, Anna Stout, launched ShoeStores.com in 2009 and continue to grow the business today. The e-commerce business has quickly become a major piece of the Stout's business as the retail sector evolves further into the 21st Century.
Source: Indiana Historical Society and Stout family.