Shoes can define you. And, as far as Al Bartell's concerned, they're the one thing that can't be underestimated when it comes to a man's wardrobe.
"A well-dressed man wears a nice pair of shoes," says Bartell, owner of The Shoe Box. "You can get away with an inexpensive suit, but you can't get away with cheap-looking shoes, because people start at the bottom-they go from the bottom up. It starts with the shoes."
Bartell opened The Shoe Box on the Avenue of Fashion-the bastion of black businesses along Livernois – last September. The basic idea was to provide customers the option of shopping in the neighborhood vs. going to a mall in the suburbs. He's also the owner of Times Square Custom Clothing and Kuzzo's Chicken & Waffles. His brother, Rufus Bartell, owns Simply Casual, which is less than a block from The Shoe Box.
"I see the need. I see what's happening downtown. I see what's happening in Midtown, "Bartell says. "Why not let it happen on the Avenue of Fashion? What drives me is the opportunity to provide jobs. Our family employs over 100 people. We're working hard over here at the Avenue of Fashion."