whittier college water polo D’Amicantonio’s celebrates 80 years on the Main Line
The brothers are Radnor natives “That’s our whole life born and raised here,” says Bob. You cannot think of the Wayne Business District without thinking of Lou and Bob. Their shoetrees have roots that are almost as old as the town of Radnor itself.
Their grandfather, Angelo D’Amicantonio, arrived in America from Italy 100 years ago this year. When he arrived on the Main Line, the main road, Lancaster Avenue, was unpaved.
Their grandfather was a custom shoemaker who had trained under a master shoemaker in Naples.
“He could make shoes by hand,” says Bob.
Angelo, who served in a field artillery unit during World War I, started work as a master shoemaker on what was then known as Audubon Avenue and is today South Wayne Avenue.
He started his own shoe repair business at the corner of North Wayne and East Lancaster avenues in 1932. The building was then known as the “Lyceum,” more popularly referred to as the Wayne Opera House.
Their grandfather would pass the art of shoemaking down to his son, Filomeno (or Phil), who joined the family business after his service in World War II as a gunner in the 817th Tank Destroyer Battalion that helped push the Nazis from Normandy back to Germany. He arrived in the country in 1926 at age 4.
Bob says his grandfather and other tenants of the building had to vacate the Lyceum when the building was slated for remodeling. So in about 1950 their grandfather purchased the present day 157 W. Lancaster Ave. property, land that was originally part of an estate.
In the 1950s the shop’s repair department flourished, employing a staff of five full time.
“Years ago the repair business was huge,” points out Bob.
In the 1960s their father started selling lines of children’s shoes, but ended after the repair side of the business proved too demanding.
Lou, a Radnor grad, joined his father’s business full time in 1974. Bob, also a Radnor High grad, started full time in 1979.
Up until Lou and Bob arrived on the scene, D’Amicantonio’s was largely about repairing shoes. But Lou’s arrival started a new component of the business: retail. He had studied retail management at Delaware County Community College and garnered sales management experience with Thom McAn in Plymouth Meeting. His younger brother came on board with retail experience after working at Florsheim Shoes at the King of Prussia Mall while studying accounting at Peirce Junior College.
who died in 2003, turned over the day to day operations of the business to his two sons in 1993.
Asked how the downtown has changed over the years, Lou and Bob recall the business district offering very little in the way of restaurants, unlike today’s cornucopia of food choices.
The brothers, who are in their 50s, are well known for their civic service to the community. Bob is a director on the Wayne Business Association’s board as well as on the Radnor Memorial Day Parade Committee. He is also chairman of the Radnor Design Review Board. In his role with the WBA, he coordinates the annual Windows of Wayne program, where Radnor High School students studying marketing judge downtown Wayne merchants’ holiday window displays. Last year marked the program’s 25th anniversary.
Lou is vice president of the Radnor High School Scholarship Fund and volunteers at its fundraisers.
Both are active with their high school reunion committees.
D’Amicantonio’s is a bustling shop. A steady stream of shoe shoppers kept the brothers on their toes on the day of the interview. Much of their clientele are longtime customers. They are chummy with the local letter carriers and UPS drivers. And they frequently get paid visits from other downtown merchants, such as on this day Pat the Barber from around the corner.
“They’re the nicest guys in the world,” remarks Devon resident and longtime customer Noel Boothe, who was in the store on the day of the interview to purchase a pair of Johnston and Murphy’s Chukka boots.
Boothe recalls buying his wedding shoes at D’Amicantonio’s 17 years ago. He lauds the brothers’ thorough product knowledge.
They carry men’s shoe sizes from narrow to wide wide widths, and brands include Alden (made in Middleborough, Mass., since 1884), Johnston and Murphy, Bostonian, Sebago and Rockport.
The brothers stress that customer service and product familiarity are hallmarks of D’Amicantonio’s. Although they have a website, they do not offer online mail order shoe sales. Unlike online and large chain retailers, they take pride in being a “sit and fit” shop.
“That’s what they call them, ‘sit and fits,’ and they’re not many,” says Lou. “We concentrate on getting customers into our store and spending the time to ensure the proper fit.”