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Not the Right Fit, Shoe Store Closes Doors

Mazzez Shoes closes today, eight months after it opened. The owner says Haddonfield isn't friendly to business.

Today is the last day of business for Mazzez Shoes.

Eight months after opening its doors at 228 Kings Highway East and just six months after a with balloons, town officials and hoopla, it's over.

"LIQUIDATION SALE" is spelled out in individual block letters in the large, multi-paned, picture window. Ferne Williams, the owner of the high-end, spiky-heeled woman's shoe shop, noted the irony this week of the sign in the window.

"We had WOMEN'S SHOES in letters in the window and the borough sent us a letter telling us we had to take it down," she said. "That was the last straw. When we got the letter, we said enough is enough. We're out of here."

Williams said she was frustrated with borough officials, especially code enforcement officer Steve Walko. Walko had previous ordered her to condense her awning, she said. It made a shop that was already hard to find less visible.

The store is north of Haddon Avenue. Most of the retail businesses on the Kings Highway corridor are south of Haddon Avenue. The borough also rejected a request to put a sandwich board on the sidewalk to draw in customers, she said.

"No one knew we were here," Williams said. "It's frustrating, very frustrating."

A common complaint

Her lament is a familiar one for some businesses in Haddonfield.

"You're treated like crap if you're a business owner in this town," said Dave Welsh, owner of the Haddonfield Running Company shoe and apparel store on Kings Highway East. He made the comments "I don't think this town helps any stores. Instead we get harassed about things like signs in our windows."

Welsh has since received a $12,000 retention and expansion grant from the PfH, but he still says it needs to do more for local businesses.

But Gary Coleman, co-owner of the and the gift shop, both on Kings Highway East, said business owners need to speak up when they have a problem.

"There's too much whispering down the lane, too much innuendo," said Coleman, who is also an alternate member of the PfH board. "You've got to be open seven days a week to be successful in Haddonfield. I've seen a lot of businesses come and go because they're not open for enough hours."

Williams said she was open seven days a week during the holiday season and six days a week at other times. She had three part-time workers, but had to let them go because she wasn't making money.

"We thought we would at least make enough money to pay the lease," she said. "We lost money here."

Williams owned a ceramic art shop before opening her shoe store. She managed investment portfolios before that. Her background in business and finance gave her confidence her first full-time business venture would succeed.

"I put my heart and soul into this," she said.

Customers flowed into the store earlier this week, apparently drawn in by the 50 percent discount and liquidation-sale signs. Williams said, in hindsight, she could have done more to succeed.

"I should have been outside telling people every day that we're here."

But she also thinks the borough's tight rules and strict enforcement of regulations didn't make things any easier.

"They need to take a course in public relations," Williams said.

She described Walko as "rude" and "unfriendly."

Welsh said a borough code enforcement officer once came into his store and dropped a piece of trash on his counter. He said the piece of paper with his store info on it was blowing around the street and the official tersely told him it needed to be cleaned up. Welsh said the action was inappropriate and he had a customer in the store at the time.

He did not identify the code enforcement officer.

Walko insisted this week that he is not rude to anyone. He said he has a balancing act in his job of informing businesses and residents of borough regulations and helping them comply.

"The goal is to get happy, viable business in town," Walko said. "At times you're the person they come to get the process started and at times you're the enforcement guy. You're stuck in the middle trying to work with them and at the same time the guy saying, 'No, you can't do it.'"

Williams, a Springfield, PA, native, insists she's not walking away bitter.

"I'll come back and patronize the shops here," she said. "I met a lot of nice people here. But when God closes one door, he opens another one for you. I'm looking forward to the next chapter in my life."

Wendy Kates March 31, 2012 at 12:15 AM
Not only is Steve Walko rude and unfriendly, my sign permit sat on his desk for weeks waiting for his signature and delaying my opening, while he told me I had to wait another month and go before the dreaded sign comittee. It is torture to open a business in Haddonfield but it is even worse dealing with antiquated and stupid ordinances. My shop "Stardust Memories" at 25 Tanner St. is closing tomorrow. I have had enough. When the beautiful tree in front of my store is in bloom any day now, the store will be vacant, but the fact that the tree got to bloom again has very special significance to those that know the story.

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