Date added: 05/03/2013 Hawks 360 Q&A
A Hawks 360 Q&A with the man who’s filled some very large shoes in Atlanta, BRUCE TEILHABER Friedman’s Shoes in Atlanta was founded in 1929 by Teilhaber’s father-in-law Phillip Friedman and sells shoes from size 8 to 22. Since many of their customers are professional athletes, sports jerseys and memorabila cover nearly every inch of the store walls.
Q: Who’s the first Hawks player that shopped with you?
A: Jumpin’ Joe Caldwell.
Q: What’s the most anyone’s spent in one visit?
A: Don King spent $64,000 on 110 pair of shoes.
Q: What’s your favorite pair of shoes?
A: Mezlan & Bacco Bucci with soft sole and uppers.
Q: What’s the most expensive pair of shoes you’ve ever sold?
A: $1,200 mink-lined alligator boots.
Q: Can you recall the most expensive pair of shoes you sold your first year?
A: $11 in 1958.
Q: Any good Shaq stories?
A: Once he came in with a wig and fake teeth — not a customer stopped him on the street or in the store!
Date added: 12/01/2005 These players are at the height of fashion
Date added: 02/10/2005 Shoe Biz - Big Foot Sighting!
Sports Illustrated Article - By Sarah Thurmond
Shaquille O'Neal (size 22D) has been a customer since he was 14. Don King spent $64,100 on a spree in 1995, and Oprah has done three segments on the store. For more than 30 years Friedman's Shoes in downtown Atlanta has catered to the large-footed man. The nondescript, three-level store features designer brands such as Steve Madden and Cole Haan, and Friedman's own line. There's also a "skins room," for shoes made from alligator, lizard, snake and ostrich. Many shoes go for as little as $50 (when you buy two pairs), but a snazzy gator skin, size 17, will set you back $895.
When Phillip Friedman opened the store in 1929, it sold used shoes. In 1958 Bruce Teilhaber, Friedman's son-in-law, who eventually took over the store in '72, began buying odd lots of shoes, which included "oversizers." He discovered a huge demand for loafers as big as the Santa Maria, and word spread to pro athletes from many sports. These days Friedman's clients include Willie McGinest, Lennox Lewis, Gary Sheffield and Chris Webber. In 1982 Friedman's opened a women's store down the block, where WNBA players -- and Shaq's mom, Lucille (size 13) -- shop.
Though you can often see superstars prowling the aisles, nearly 50% of Friedman's annual sales comes through the store's website, www.largefeet.com. However they shop, athletes are Friedman's best customers. When the Celtics played the Hawks on Jan. 22, forward Ricky Davis spent more than $600 on six pairs of shoes, including Steve Maddens and Mezlans. "I knew what I wanted to get, and I knew they would have it," he said. And before Shaq got married in 2002 he bought all his groomsmen $1,000 black Fa Cri King Tail alligator shoes and a pair for himself. "When I was 14 I couldn't afford their shoes so Friedman's gave me them for free," says Shaq. "The only promise [Teilhaber] made me make was if I ever made it to the pros, I would come to him to get my shoes."
Date added: 01/30/2003 Tall Orders Are No Problem
Date added: 01/25/2000 If the Shoe Fits, it's Friedman's
Date added: 12/31/1999 Fitting Athlete's Feet
Date added: 05/01/1999 A Perfect Fit
Date added: 04/12/1999 Ga. Emporium takes size 22s in its stride
The Boston Globe - Cross Country Journal, by Tom Watson
Date added: 12/29/1998 At Friedman's, fewer big dogs amble in during NBA Lockout
The Atlanta Journal Constitution, by Pattie Bond
An NBA lockout can really foul up the sales of $850 alligator skins, especially in size 17.
This season, like most in recent memory, could have been larger-than-life for Atlanta-based Friedman's Shoes, a modern-day cobbler to the flashy tastes of pro basketball players and other high rolling athletes.
But thanks to a National Basketball Association lockout that's putting the squeeze on spending by the loafer-loving players, the shoe shop's order list has been short.
"We're usually on our sixth reorder of the top shoes by now, but we stopped at two shipments this year,' said Brett Teilhaber, holding up a camel-and-bone mule he helped design based on the fancies of Shaquille O'Neal, Charles Barkley and Dennis Rodman.
Just counting the missed home games of the Atlanta Hawks, Friedman's is more than a dozen major sales shy of a regular year. Every Hawks game brings a towering crowd of big spenders from the visiting team, and sometimes they'll drop $50,000 in a single shopping spree.
"If they don't bus them over, I send a van over to the Omni and pick them up," said Bruce Teilhaber, Brett's father and owner of Friedman's which has adjacent stores for men and women on Mitchell Street downtown and a third store in Buckhead.
The elder Teilhaber has been courting the oversized needs of pro ballplayers since the 1960s, around the time Joe Namath was getting ready to hit pro football and long before big-footed guys had any fashion choices beyond wingtips and clunky cap toes.
Bruce Teilhaber's father-in-law, Phillip Friedman, founded the business in 1929 as a used shoe store and repair shop. About 25 years ago, Teilhaber said he realized men's feet were getting larger, and he talked manufacturers into making bigger shoes.
His break in the pro sports circuit came in the late 1960s when football players dropped by after a game between the Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers. "Big guys know other big guys," Teilhaber said. "From there, we got some hockey players and then it spread to basketball."
Friedman's was filling a huge niche by carrying shoes up to size 13, which was large in those days. "But then John Havlicek of the Boston Celtics came in and needed a size 14 narrow," said Teilhaber, who's still lamenting 20-odd years later that he couldn't fill the order. "It killed me. I couldn't sleep that night."
Friedman's would be hard-pressed not to find a fit today. Three floors of the downtown men's store bulge with big shoes in all styles and widths, including lime, orange and olive tones popular with NBA stars. Shoes that fit Shaq's size 22 foot alone stand 15 boxes high and almost as wide.
Despite the so-far aborted season, stars like O'Neal are still ordering shoes from Friedman's said Teilhaber, who estimates sales to NBA players make up 15 percent of his business. The sales that are suffering are those to the lesser-known players and the first-round draft picks, he said. But even the big stars could cut back on their shoe budget, with recent endorsement cancellations by Nike and Fila USA.
Teilhaber is staying upbeat, though, counting on catalog sales and a new Web site to reach those players that aren't in town this season. And there are always celebrities like Don King, who once dropped $65,000 at Friedman's on 110 pairs of shoes. "This NBA thing is hurting us, but we're still doing fine," he said. "There are plenty of big people out there."
Date added: 01/01/1998 A Perfect Fit
Date added: 11/06/1995 Is It the Shoes?
Sports Illustrated, by Franz Lidz
In the '30s, A JAZZMAN FROM New York crooned Your Feet's Too Big: "Up in Harlem at a table for two, there were four of us -- me, your big feet and you. From your ankles up, I'll say you sure look sweet. From there down, there's just too much feet."
In the '90s, Jazzmen from Utah, Magicians from Orlando and Warriors from Golden State swoon in an Atlanta shoe store for big feet people. They come to Friedman's on Mitchell Street to gape at the burgundy lizard loafers in 14E and goggle at the tobacco-colored ostrich sandals in 17D. "I spend a lot of money here, but it's worth it," says Terry Davis, a Maverick from Dallas. "After all, I do make a living with my feet."
Today thousands of oversized Mauris, Karl Kanis and Paolo de Marcos crowd tongue-to-heel in ceiling-high stacks in the huge store. Davis eases his size 16M's into a pair of black Martiganis with gold studs on the vamps. "How do they feel?" asks Bruce Teilhaber, the store's president.
"They feel sweet."
"How do they fit?"
"They fit cool. But for 900 bucks, this had better be the whole gator."
Teilhaber is a sort of latter-day Gene Shoe. The Phoenix Suns' Charles Barkley (size 16M) calls him Uncle Bruce. The Magic's Shaquille O'Neal -- he of the 22D's -- has been shod at Friedman's since college. "Nine out of 10 pros buy dress shoes from me," Teilhaber says. "They call when they get to town, and I send a van to their hotel."
The Houston Rockets' Hakeem Olajuwon phoned Teilhaber at home one Sunday. "Bruce," Dream said breathlessly, "I need shoes."
"You don't need shoes," corrected Teilhaber, "I send them to you by the case."
"You're right," said Olajuwon. "I want shoes." So Teilhaber picked up Olajuwon (size 17M) at his hotel, opened the shop and sold him 32 pairs.
Sports figures tend to buy shoes in bulk. Vancouver Grizzly center Benoit Benjamin (size 17M) purchased two dozen on his first visit. This summer boxing impresario Don King footed a $65,000 bill for 110 pairs. And what's the big-ticket item for big NBA feet? "A pair of $1,200 Davanzati boots," says Teilhaber. "Alligator with mink inside."
Date added: 08/07/1995 How to Reach the Major Leagues of Shoe Shopping
FORTUNE, by A.E.S
As a journalist, you get to walk with giants, which leads to the question: Where do giants buy their shoes? It seems they go to Friedman's Shoes, hidden away on a backwater block in downtown Atlanta. Rundown inside and out, it is nevertheless one great place to buy shoes, especially if you wear, say, an 18EEE.
The real attraction here is the customers, not including me. Step onto the third floor, and you may think it's one of those sports dream camps where you fork over a couple of grand to run around the ex-jocks. The place teams with pro athletes. There sits New York Mets shortstop Jose Vizcaino, slipping into a pair of Mezlan woven loafers. Marco Coleman, defensive end for the Miami Dolphins, eyes some bad-looking boots. A couple of European basketball players study a James Worthy poster. Now the employees are staring at me, asking themselves, What is a fellow under 6 feet tall doing here?
Coleman, informed of the intruder's identity, squints down at me: "FORTUNE magazine, huh? Give me some of them stocks and bonds," Left ëem at home, Marco. Hey, nice shoes! Coleman's been coming here since his days at Georgia Tech. "All the players do," he says. "This place has the best selection of big shoes anywhere."
Top of the line, $1,000, Italian-made, alligator, anteater, up to size whatever you want. We check out a pair of Shaquille O'Neal's Marteganis. Size 22. "Damn, they must have used the whole crocodile for these suckers," says the 6-foot-3 Coleman, a size 15. But Shaq isn't the big guy here. The king is El Gigante, a 7-foot 7-inch, 435-pound Argentine wrestler who buys his size 23s at Friedman's.
Stories abound. Just ask owner Bruce Teilhaber. "One season Rico Carty bought every size 13 we had," he says of the former Braves great. Pitcher Dwight Gooden once tried on 57 pairs: he then thoughtfully pulled four aside. "Those the ones you want, Doc?" asked Teilhaber. "Those are the ones I don't want," he replied.
And then there is Don King. Last month the Einstein-haired boxing promoter selected 110 pairs. Tab: $64,100. Top that Imelda.
Me, I slip into a pair of brown $250 Fratelli lizard loafers. Not me. "They look better than the shoes you came in on, " chuckles Vizcaino. "Uh, oh," interrupts Teilhaber, "the boys are here." In roll slugger Bobby Bonilla, relief ace John Franco, Ryan Thompson, and a few other New York Mets, in town to battle the Braves.
So, whatcha like, Bobby Bo? "I'm very conservative. I don't go for the stuff in the skins room," he says, gesturing to a back chamber full of ostrich, lizard, and croc footwear. "That's the Deion room," somebody yells. Bonilla, who makes about $4.6 million, tries a pair of black leather $110 Kenneth Cole Moccathons. Then he slips on some $80 Birkenstocks. "No way I'd wear those," says Franco.
By now the salesmen have surrounded us with stacks of boxes. It's a feeding frenzy. Thompson is particularly pleased with a pair of Marteganis. "Sweet," he puckers. There's a little baseball talk, but mostly this is serious shoe time. Franco and Thompson get four, Bobby Bo has five. How many pairs have they bought here over the years? "Hundreds," says Franco. "Over a hundred," says Bonilla.
And me? I'm tempted by the $850 Davanzati alligator desert boots, but it would be easier getting a hanging curveball by Bonilla than getting this past the bean counters. So I follow Bobby Bo's lead and buy the Birkentstocks. Not high concept, but my speed.
Date added: 06/04/1995 King Foots $64,100 Bill at Shore Store
The Atlanta Constitution, by Jeff Schultz
At least Don King will have nice shoes to wear in court.
Before leaving Atlanta, the flashy boxing promoter, who faces nine counts of wire and insurance fraud in New York, stopped by renowned Friedman's shoes store to shop for himself, his son and his top client, Mike Tyson. Two hours later, King left with a receipt for 110 pairs of shoes, amounting to $64,100. Tax included.
"That's a record," said store manager Brett Teilhaber. "The only person who came close to him was Magic Johnson. He spent $35,000 for he and his dad. But [King is] the title holder."
King's most expensive purchase was an $850 pair of alligator loafers.
He was here for the just-concluded IBF convention but never attended the general session.