Shoe Store Steps Up

Fitting people with proper shoes has been the mission for this South Salina Street store

Amatullah Yamini and her husband, Hassan, owners of Salina Shoe Salon, Inc., witnessed a man walking to the bus in shoes so grungy that the heels flopped with every step.

The couple invited him into their shop, fitted him with a pair of boots and sent him on his way, free of charge.

“Only because that’s the right thing to do,” Amatullah Yamini said. “That’s the thing about a neighborhood store, too, that’s different from any place else. You see something like that, it gives you the opportunity to give a blessing.”

Salina Shoe Salon owner Hassan Yamini preparing the register to open the store.

Yamini and her husband purchased Salina Shoe Salon, Inc., located at 2809 S. Salina St., in 2005 to ensure the business remained open and to encourage other businesses to come to the area, she said.

“We’d been working in the area here on the South Side and just keeping up with the area and seeing it improve,” Yamini said. “We just didn’t want to see another store close.”

Salina Shoe Salon, Inc., specializes in selling shoes in sizes that fit people who might not be able to find properly fitting shoes at chain stores.

Before opening the store, Yamini said she worked as a real estate agent and had little entrepreneurial experience. That’s why, in 2005, she signed up for the Syracuse Entrepreneur’s Bootcamp, a six-week program that teaches attendees everything from writing a business plan to operations and logistics, she said.

The boot camp, founded in 2003 and run by the Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship in the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University, features a different business topic every Saturday, along with guest speakers who are local entrepreneurs, said Lindsay Wickham, events coordinator for the boot camp.

Hassan Yamini has owned Salina Shoe Salon, Inc., with his wife, Amatullah, since 2005.

“This is a six-week program that really goes through, start to finish, the components of being successful,” Wickham said. “Entrepreneurs are one of the driving factors of the economy, and this training session gives people an opportunity to get started.”

Attendees pair up with students working toward a master of business administration, giving them the opportunity to meet one-on-one outside of class, Wickham said. “The students help you define what you need to do to get the business up and running or help it grow.”

The program usually draws between 60 and 70 people and has trained about 400 people since it began, Wickham said. Most attendees are from the Syracuse area, but some have traveled from as far as Canada and New Jersey, she said.

Yamini said she enjoyed the boot camp because it gave her what she needed to run her business and gave the students the opportunity to put into practice the theories they learned in the classroom.

“The retail class professor offered her class to help me get open, get my stock up in the store, and help design the interior,” she said. “You know, I practically gutted the place and renovated it and the students — we had so much fun.”

A pedestrian passes by Salina Shoe Salon located at 2809 S. Salina St. in Syracuse.

She said the family-run business has survived through difficult economic times because of its customer service and niche market. “When people want a pair of

winter boots and they need size 12 double wide, where are you going to come? You don’t have a lot of choices.”

Much of the clientele from the former owner, Sid Ashkin, still shop at the store, and Yamini is building on that customer base, she said.

Some customers send letters applauding the customer service, thrilled that employees could fit them with comfortable, fashionable shoes, Yamini said.

“We’re building with the community and helping people to understand how important it is to take care of your feet. I think that’s the thing that has kept us going.”