Craig Jarrard, owner of Brown’s Shoe Fit Co., knows shoes. Through his time running the Fort Dodge Brown’s Shoe Fit Co., Jarrard has successfully grown the store and served the community for more than 20 years now.
He began his journey in the shoe business when he was very young. His father ran a Brown’s Shoe Fit store in Charles City, where he grew up. He worked there through junior high and high school and through one year of college with his dad.
Jarrard went to college for one year at North Iowa Area Community College in Mason City, but then jumped back into the shoe business full time in 1988.
He then transferred to a Brown’s Shoe Fit in Cheyenne, Wyoming, as their assistant manager. While there, he married his current wife, Raquel.
Then in 1992, he bought into his first Brown’s Shoe Fit Co. store in Alva, Oklahoma. A year later the couple had their first son, Cole in 1993. For another four years he ran that store until the Brown’s Shoe Fit Co. corporation offered to him to open up a Brown’s Shoe Fit in Fort Dodge.
“We had the desire to get back to Iowa after being away for seven years,” Jarrard said.
So in 1996, with Raquel being six months pregnant, they up and moved to Fort Dodge and started up a brand new Brown’s Shoe Fit store, which opened on July 5th of 1996. Soon after, their daughter Carson was born and they became a family of four.
Ever since the beginning, Jarrard said there has been steady and consistent growth in Brown’s Shoe Fit Fort Dodge.
“We, of course opening from scratch in ’96, we’ve grown every year but four years with growth in sales,” Jarrard said. “The years we didn’t grow, we were pretty much even to single digits down.”
Not only did they grow in sales, but they also grew in square feet. Twice they expanded the store. Once in 2006 they expanded straight back and gained another 1,500 square feet. Then again in 2015 they were able to once again gain another 2,500 square feet to the North. This caused them to have to redo the front of the store. The renovation got them to a total of 7,000 square feet of store space.
“I think that’s helped give us the consistent growth pattern too,” Jarrad said. “It’s been great. The support from the whole area. You know Fort Dodge is such a retail hub that we’ve expanded our customer base over to Rockwell City and of course up to Humboldt, Algona, a lot of folks from Webster City. We do a lot of business from folks outside of Fort Dodge, but of course Fort Dodge is our biggest populated area. It’s been awesome. It’s been very good to me and my family and we’ve raised both of our kids here and it’s been good.”
Jarrard also started a program in May of 2014 called ‘Third Thursday Fit Night,’ where Brown’s Shoe Fit Co. invites the community to go on a five mile run, walk or any exercise on a route around town. They start in the Brown’s Shoe Fit parking lot around 5:30 p.m. and then go down Fifth Avenue South and then down to 32nd Street to go on the new sidewalks.
“That’s why we started it. We wanted to get folks on the sidewalks,” Jarrard said.
The program goes from April to October each year. It’s free and open t the public. Jarrard also works to get other companies to join him in sponsoring the event.
“It gives companies and businesses an opportunity to be part of a community event that’s around health and wellness that everybody is excited about at a pretty minimal cost,” Jarrard said.
Since April of 2014, the program has grown from about 25 participants per walk to about 200.
“I hope that it can grow to where it averages 300 to 500,” Jarrard said. “I really don’t see an end to it.”
“Fort Dodge has been great to work with,” Jarrard said. “From working with the Growth Alliance, working with the schools and some of the coaches, we work with the baseball team, we work with Blake Utley close, we work with Blake Utley’s Marathon class, which is a fantastic program he has going. Then it ties right into our shoes.”
While in Fort Dodge, Jarrard’s wife Raquel got her R.N. at Iowa Central and now works at UnityPoint Home right next to Brown’s Shoe Fit in Fort Dodge. Their son Cole is now getting his Doctorate in physical therapy at Saint Ambrose College in Davenport. Their daughter Carson, just graduated from Iowa State University in Ames with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and will now be working at UnityPoint in Fort Dodge.