LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - If you were a baby boomer growing up in Louisville, chances are pretty good at one time or another, you wore a pair of shoes from Knotts Shoes.
After a remarkable 60-plus year run, the family-owned business sold its last pair of shoes on Tuesday.
The store's closing is part of a trend of long time, family-owned retail businesses struggling to survive in the 21st century.
On the last day of Knotts Shoes, the displays were already gone and the shelves were bare inside the store. Second generation owner, John Knotts, said it was hard to compete when brands can sell their own products virtually anywhere.
"They have their own online presence and they sell to Zappos and Amazon," Knotts said. "So what happens, the pie gets cut up so small that very few people can make it."
It is an all-too-common 21st century problem among small businesses. The smaller you are, the bigger the digital squeeze.
"They have all these competitors online, they can find these products online," Deana Epperly-Karem, Vice President of Greater Louisville Inc. said. "And the mom and pop companies that we're seeing in our towns are finding that challenging."
Knotts survived the challenges through two generations and more than half a century. John Knotts grew up in the family stores, started by his father in the 1950s.
The competition from the internet was so bad for Knotts Shoes that some customers would visit the store, examine the merchandise, then buy online.
"You would be amazed at how often that happens," Knotts said. "And sometimes they even tell you or ask you can you fit me so I can buy them online. I just don't get it."
When stores like Knotts close, customers lose out on valuable service. Knotts said it wasn't unusual to spend a lot of time serving a single client.
"I took pride in trying to have some of the best brands in the world," Knotts said. "And there's a lot of effort and service that goes into having those brands. And a lot of stores are just not interested. It's nothing for us to spend an hour with a customer."