Straight from the Sole
Kern Bro’s. Shoes Has Fitted Zionsville for More Than 40 Years
Writer / Seth Johnson
Photographer / Amy Payne
For 66-year-old Bill Kern, the shoe store has always just been part of life.
“My grandfather, William Ray Kern, started a shoe store in Frankfort in 1924,” he says. “It was long-running. I kind of grew up at the business.”
With such an early introduction to the shoe industry, Kern quickly discovered his own passion.
“From the time I was in middle school, I had made up my mind that I wanted to pursue the shoe industry,” Kern says. “It was something that I knew I wanted to do.”
After a brief post-college stint working for Brown Shoe Company in St. Louis, he eventually decided to start his own store in Zionsville, in partnership with his father.
So, in 1974, Kern Bro’s. Shoes arrived in Zionsville as part of the Boone Village Shopping Center. For Kern and his family, the Zionsville area seemed like just the right place to start a family-owned shoe store.
“We just really felt comfortable with smaller towns, and we thought it would be a great place to raise a family,” he says. “We just felt at home right away.”
Since opening in Zionsville more than four decades ago, the main change at Kern Bro’s. Shoes has been the product lines, as new fashions and trends have come and gone.
“We probably don’t even carry particular lines of shoes that we sold in the ‘70s any longer,” he says. “That’s just because the whole industry has evolved, and new lines have become more important. So, we’re ever-changing.”
With cold weather on the horizon, Uggs are always a big seller at Kern Bro’s. Shoes. Other brands that they sell include Adidas, Asics, Born, Clarks, Dansko, Florsheim, Johnston & Murphy, Keen, Lifestride, Merrell, New Balance, Nike and many more.
“Aside from the shoes, we have a sportswear section, where we sell Zionsville apparel, and that’s been good for us too, especially going into the holidays,” Kern adds.
For Kern Bro’s. Shoes, the Zionsville community has been key to such long-lasting success.
“If it wasn’t for the loyalty of our customers to give us an opportunity to service them, we wouldn’t be here at this time,” Kern says. “We just really feel blessed that we’ve had that relationship, and we just try to build on that.”
For Kern personally, it’s especially been fun to interact with generations of customers over the years.
“When we first opened, we got to know customers,” he says. “And now, a lot of those customers that were children at the time are bringing their kids into the store to buy shoes. It’s just really meaningful to have that type of relationship.”
And in a world where customer service in shoe stores may seem non-existent at times, here’s a place where it has mattered for decades.
“I’ve got to give my wife Linda a lot of credit too,” Kern says. “For years, it was just the two of us running the store. She’s retired now, but that’s been a very key element, as well as our employees. We couldn’t have done it without the tremendous employees that we’ve had over the years.”