Posts Tagged ‘florida’
In her 2001 book entitled Wanderlust: A History of Walking, author Rebecca Solnit notes, “walking still covers the ground between cars and buildings and the short distances within the latter, but walking as a cultural activity, as a pleasure, as travel, as a way of getting around, is fading, and with it goes an ancient and profound relationship between body, world, and imagination.” Solnit is speaking to the fact that over the past two decades, Americans are not only walking less than they ever have before, but we are also falling behind many other developed nations in the amount that we walk each day. A 2003 pedometer study that was published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that the average person in the United States took 5,117 steps per day compared to 7,168 steps for Japan, 9,650 for Switzerland, and 9,695 for citizens of western Australia. While this study is now over 11 years old, the news has not gotten much better since, and it means that the average American only takes about half of the 10,000 steps per day that is now a nearly universally accepted standard of health.
The reasons given in studies across academia and the web for the decline in American walking range from a lack of pedestrian-friendly areas in many parts of the country to an overuse of the automobile to a social stigma surrounding those who use their feet to get from place to place. On the automobile side, the National Household Travel Survey showed that the number of vehicle trips a person took and the miles they traveled per day rose from 2.32 trips and 20.64 miles in 1969 to 3.35 and 32.73 in 2001. On the social stigma side, when is the last time that you were driving down a busy, non-pedestrian friendly street, and you saw someone walking? Any stereotypes pop into your head about that person, even for a split-second? Here at our home in Pinellas County, FL, walkers in congested areas are often viewed with an air of skepticism, and there is a stigma attached to their bipedal efforts that causes many non-walkers to wonder why the pedestrians are walking in the first place. Is it because they can’t afford a car? Did they do something wrong and lose their license? And so on…
So, why walk? We have cars, taxis, ride shares, buses, and countless other less energy expending forms of transport, and many of us do live in pedestrian-unfriendly areas. In his excellent 2012 slate.com article entitled The Crisis in American Walking: How We got Off the Beaten Path, Tom Vanderbilt declares:
For walking is the ultimate “mobile app.” Here are just some of the benefits, physical, cognitive and otherwise, that it bestows: Walking six miles a week was associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s (and I’m not just talking about walking in the “Walk to End Alzheimers”); walking can help improve your child’s academic performance; make you smarter; reduce depression; lower blood pressure; even raise one’s self-esteem.” And, most important, though perhaps least appreciated in the modern age, walking is the only travel mode that gets you from Point A to Point B on your own steam, with no additional equipment or fuel required, from the wobbly threshold of toddlerhood to the wobbly cusp of senility.
Aside from the obvious physical and psychological benefits of walking, countless other authors have waxed poetic about the simple act of stepping outside of one’s box of creature comforts and discovering the world on foot. In his 1996 book A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson notes, upon the start of his planned hike of the Appalachian Trail, “To my surprise, I felt a certain springy keenness. I was ready to hike. I had waited months for this day, after all, even if it had been mostly with foreboding. I wanted to see what was out there. All over America today people would be dragging themselves to work, stuck in traffic jams, wreathed in exhaust smoke. I was going for a walk in the woods. I was more than ready for this.”
Having grown up within a couple of hours of both the Catskills and Adirondacks in upstate New York and spending days at a time in the woods, I could identify with Bryson’s sense of excitement as he set out on his great journey. But, and here’s the important part, you don’t have to grow up tramping around in nature to appreciate the simple, timeless act of walking from point A to point B. I am a middle-aged, busy, married father now, and I rarely, if ever, have time to set off down the trail in my favorite wilderness areas anymore. So I have adapted, and my walking has become more suburban in scope, but that hasn’t changed how much I love it. I still feel a sense of curiosity when leading my dog through some neighborhood that I have never explored before. And now, without all of the hills, we simply walk at a faster clip to keep the heart rate up. Walking is my time for thinking. I am away from work, out of the house, and not burdened by any real-life concerns other than simply putting one foot in front of the other and enjoying my time out under the stars (I frequently walk at night). Even better are the times when I can walk with my wife and four-year-old son, as our rambles frequently become an education in sticks, pine cones, superheroes, and the other magical stuff of boyhood dreams.
Even in Pinellas County, with its nearly one million inhabitants, we still have fine, safe places to walk: the Pinellas Trail, a few dozen local and state parks, hundreds of winding, friendly suburban neighborhoods, and of course our world-class beaches.
So, this weekend, when you’re contemplating plopping on the couch for a few more hours of TV, take a walk instead. Put on a pair of good supportive shoes (I think I may know of a place where you can find some!) and prepare yourself to feel invigorated, happier, and generally better all over. Putting one foot in front of the other may not only change your perspective on yourself, it may also change your perspective on your little corner of the world as well.
By Matt LaBarge, 11/14/14
As we approach the busiest shopping season of the year, it is a good time to reflect on the idea of quality in consumer products. Studies in academia and across the web suggest that actual product quality and perceived quality, while closely tied, both rank near the top of the importance list, along with price, in the minds of consumers.
Over the past decade a few clothing and footwear companies have taken the idea of product quality to new levels. Some of these companies have begun offering their own in-house repair services to encourage customers to have damaged items fixed and reused instead of throwing them away. Still other companies have even gone so far as to begin to resell old, used items to encourage use by multiple people and even, in some cases, multiple generations. By setting aside traditional notions of discarding an item after it takes on a minimal amount of wear, these companies have infused their consumers with a sense of reuse/renew/recycle that speaks heavily to the product quality side of their business. The customers for these companies take pride in telling you the age of their jacket, for example, and in many cases, the older the better. As a consumer, wouldn’t you place a high value on a product that could be repaired over and over again to look and feel nearly like new?
When I began my time as a Store Manager in the spring of 2013 at our Happy Feet Plus store in Clearwater, FL, I heard a lot of talk about this mythical hand-made German brand that we carried called Finn Comfort. I had sold dozens of brands of shoes over my career to that point, but Finn had not been one of them. Then a customer walked into our store a few weeks into my time there, proudly holding his Finns and announcing that he just needed a resole, as he’d gotten his Finns from us in 1998. I was a bit skeptical, as the shoes looked to be no more than six months to a year old. The customer told me that he loved his Finns and that this would be his third resole since he purchased the shoes from us 15 years prior. He hadn’t needed to do anything else to the shoes other than just the occasional polish. Again, I was skeptical, but I tried to keep an open mind. Then, over the next few months, many more Finn Comfort owners arrived at the store proudly carrying their shoes and telling us that they’d had them for five, eight, ten years or more. All these customers needed were replacement insoles or new outsoles for their shoes, which could both be had for less money than purchasing a new pair. And every Finn customer seemed to take a special pride in how long their shoes had lasted.
Like the clothing companies noted above, at Happy Feet Plus we also offer our own in-house repair service, and we have been expertly resoling and repairing Finn Comfort shoes and Birkenstocks for over 25 years. We believe in the products that we sell, but we also take pride in being able to take a cherished 15-year-old pair of Finns and make them look and feel like new. This practice reduces consumer waste, so it’s easier on the planet, and it offers our customers the peace of mind that our hand-made German shoes last and last.
So, this holiday season, as you’re shopping for your friends and loved ones, take a moment to consider the quality of the items that you’re buying. Is it worth spending a little more for an item that may last four or five times as long? By purchasing for quality, you may just be creating another priceless experience.
-by Matt LaBarge 10/30/14
If you’re like me, and you’ve ever marveled at the multi-hued array of locally owned shopping and dining choices that accompany a walk down Main Street in Dunedin or Safety Harbor, FL or places like Austin, TX, Burlington, VT, or Bellingham, WA, for that matter, then you have at least the beginnings of an appreciation for locally-owned, independent businesses. But while many of us can attest to the unique variety that local independents offer their respective communities, a slightly deeper look at the real economic effects that locally-owned businesses have on their surroundings can provide some real insight into their true value.
Building on its earlier studies of the impacts of local businesses in Austin, Chicago, and San Francisco, in 2008 the group Civic Economics conducted a study that focused on the Grand Rapids, MI metro area. The study found that if Grand Rapids residents were to shift just 10% of their yearly spending to locally-owned independent businesses, the resulting economic effect would generate over 1600 local jobs and put over $137 million back into the local economy. The population of the area of Kent County, MI that was covered by the study was about 770,000 at the time.
Let’s stop here for a second. Many of you probably read the above statement about Grand Rapids, like I did at first, and thought, “There is no way that I can afford to spend an extra 10% every year just to support the local economy!” But, very importantly, you may notice that the study didn’t imply that residents spend an extra 10% but instead simply shift 10% of what they already spend from non-local chains to local independents.
Now, if I may, let me throw a few more numbers at you…The population of Pinellas County, FL, where our Happy Feet Plus company began 29 years ago and continues to be based today, was roughly 921,000 in 2012. If we apply the findings of the Grand Rapids study to our home here in Pinellas County, a 10% shift in spending to local businesses by the residents of our county could mean the creation of over 1900 local jobs and an influx of over $163 million into the local economy.
If we move beyond Pinellas County and apply the Grand Rapids numbers to the entire Tampa Bay area, the result is nothing short of staggering. With its population of roughly 2.8 million, the Tampa Bay metro area could see over 5800 local jobs created and an influx of nearly $500 million into the local economy from a simple 10% shift to local spending by its residents.
But how does this happen? How does a shift to more local spending really generate more money in the local economy? The answer is simple. Dozens of local, regional, and state-level business studies conducted around the country over the past ten years have shown that, on average, for every $100 spent at a non-local chain, about $43 stays in the local economy, while for every $100 spent at a locally-owned, independent business, about $73 stays in the local economy.
The definition of “local” can vary based on the size and scope of the municipality in question, but most of the independent business organizations around the country define a “local” business as the following:
1) A business that has its headquarters within the given local area and
2) A business whose owners and employees reside in the given local area.
The Grand Rapids survey, notably, did not include publicly held firms whose headquarters were in the Grand Rapids area. In many cases, the shareholders of publicly held firms live in other cities, states, or even other countries, thus making it less likely for them to directly contribute to the local economies where their businesses are headquartered.
While there are obvious economic benefits to buying local, many other benefits exist as well. Those additional benefits include things like the tendency of local businesses to offer more diversity of selection and their tendency to put less strain on local infrastructure and ecosystems. The case for buying local is summed up nicely in this document from Local First Vermont.
So, why do we care so much about local, independent businesses at Happy Feet Plus? Well, quite simply, we are, and always have been one.
If you’ve been on the “about us” page on our website at happyfeet.com, you may already know that our business started with a little kiosk in Tyrone Square Mall in St. Pete in 1985, and that we continue to run our business under the same ownership and just 20 minutes up the road from Tyrone Square in Largo, FL today. In keeping with another typical trait of local independents, our owners are quite easily accessible, as their desks sit exactly 50 feet from where I am typing this in our corporate offices. Our nine (soon to be ten) stores are all located within about an hour of the Tampa Bay area, and every year we participate in many community-based activities from fun runs to health benefit galas to the Pride Parade. In 2004, our Clearwater store, with its solar panels, native plants, and cistern for collecting water for irrigation and sewer use, became the first retail space in the country to receive LEED Gold Certification. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a nationally recognized building program administered by the U.S. Green Building Council that recognizes achievements and innovation in eco-friendly architectural design. All of these things, from location and accessibility to community involvement to eco friendly store designs, we hope, contribute in some way to richer choices and richer lives for our employees, our customers, and our community.
And finally, if you’re one of our many online customers, and you’re reading this from, say, North Platte, Nebraska and wondering why if I am arguing in favor of local businesses you should care about a small footwear company from Largo, Florida, please remember that at some point you’re fairly likely to be one of the 84 million visitors that Florida receives each year. When that day comes, rest assured that this local independent, like thousands of others in our area, is doing what it can to make its corner of the Sunshine State a little brighter.
Interesting Birkenstock Fact:
Birkenstock Madrid Sandals – The original that started it all. Known as the Birkenstock Fitness Sandal in Europe, this design tones the foot and calf muscles while improving circulation. This timeless one strap features the famous Birkenstock contoured footbed, fully adjustable strap and shock absorbing EVA sole.
Not to mention when you purchase them online not only do you get $10.00 Off your getting FREE SHIPPING as well, you can’t beat it!!!
Celebration starts April 18, 2013 and ends on April 28, 2013. Come in to a local store to take advantage of this great offer and “Walk the Earth with Happy Feet!”
Also don’t forget our stores are also still running the Select 2 of any style, any size any brand and get $20 off until April 21, 2013. So hurry up and get inside for your 2 pair deal!
Interesting Birkenstock Fact: 1996: Birkenstock USA celebrates its 30th anniversary. Birkenstock offers almost 300 style/color combinations, and the footwear is distributed to millions of people throughout the United States.
Three select Birkenstock sandal styles for only $49.99. Save $30 off our normal retail price for a very limited time, but only at one of our 9 Florida retail locations.
For men, the Milano Mocha Birkibuc is an exceptional sandal at an exceptional price. The backstrap helps keep your foot snuggly in place. The classic Birkenstock footbed makes you feel comfortable.
For women we have two sandals to choose from – The Florida Blue Birko-Flor and the Florida Khaki Birkibuc. Both feature the classic Birkenstock footbed and the adjustability of their three-strap design.
Hurry, quantities are limited. At this price they won’t last long.
While at Happy Feet Plus stores ask for a FREE digital foot analysis. The analysis identifies “hot” spots on the soles of your feet and helps the Healthy Footwear Specialist select footwear to help you feel better.
Also make sure you take the opportunity to try on a pair of the Kenkoh Massage Sandals. The Kenkoh Sandals stimulate and support your feet to provide a great feeling with every step.
“Improving people’s lives with superior footwear” is the Mission Statement of Happy Feet Plus.
That simple sentence also summarizes a singular overriding objective that underlies all operations and the founding partners’ personal motto. Happy Feet’s virtual platform and ground stores reflect a strong commitment by co-owners Jacob Wurtz and Jane Strong to disseminating accurate information about the immense advantages of high-quality footwear to the public.
Jacob Wurtz wears it well
Reared just beyond the borders of Ottawa, Canada, Jacob brings the benefit of first-hand exposure to the enormous benefits of healthful living to business tables. Jacob’s rural background provided the ideal backdrop for imparting such concepts since his early childhood.
Jacob’s strong advocacy for achieving optimal personal well-being by naturalistic means since 1975 is an important adjunctive personal attribute. To glean further details of his fascinating story, click here
Paving the way toward greater public good
Unlike most competitors, Jacob pays far more than mere “lip service” to environmental friendliness. All Happy Feet Plus physical retail outlets rest upon foundations made exclusively of environmentally friendly materials.
In 1998, Jacob and Jane opened their first full-fledged store after several years of serving customers from a small kiosk.
Then in 2004 this ambitious entrepreneurial pair opened the very first Retail storefront in the nation to be Certified GOLD by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (“LEED”). This event marked a major personal milestone for them in addition to being a historical moment. Thus, Jacob and Jane clearly “walk the walk” by doing what is best for the general welfare – rather than merely “talking the talk” while looking out only for immediate personal gain.
Business partner Jane Strong’s personal history likewise reflects strong entrepreneurial undertones since early childhood. While yet youngsters, Jane and her sister began a business that offered horseback riding on a nearby tourist resort.
Jane’s determination to maintaining the highest levels of business ethics and professionalism is demonstrated by her active membership and past tenure as President of the St. Petersburg, Florida chapter of the world-renowned Toastmasters Club. She also holds an active membership in the American Businesswomen’s Association. In addition, the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce recently nominated Jane as its Businesswoman of the Year.
Jacob and Jane reunite
Sometime after a self-induced Florida exile, Jacob joined forces with his long-time friend Jane. After putting their heads and resources together, they launched the grand opening of the very first Happy Feet Plus kiosk in 1985. Two innovative massage sandal models and a German shoe brand named “Birkenstock” comprised the backbone of their fledgling commercial concern.
Their collective foresight paid off; the firm currently operates nine ground storefronts and maintains a vital virtual presence online.
Two justifiably proud “peas” in the podiatric “pod”
Jacob and Jane’s stated agenda is helping people obtain “relief from foot, leg, knee, hip and back pain via footwear that features intelligent design.” Over three-quarters of recurrent pain in these regions can be traced to improperly fitting or inadequately supportive footwear. Thus, Happy Feet’s high-grade, anatomically correct shoes enhance customers’ overall well-being and quality of life by relieving such deleterious symptoms and discomfort.
Their superior product offerings can be summed up by their SSR Philosophy, which clearly demonstrate this dynamic duo’s dedication to Revitalize, Strengthen, and Support customers’ bodies from the ground up.
Consumers in West Central Florida, who suffer from spinal, lower back, leg, thigh, or foot pain are thus well advised to visit happyfeetplus.com to see a list of their local shoe stores. The firm also operates retail outlets in Baywalk (St. Petersburg), Brandon, Carrollwood (North Tampa) , Clearwater, Ellenton, Ft. Myers, Largo, Sarasota, and the Tyrone area in St. Petersburg in addition to its vast virtual platform.
Cost-conscious visitors to either Happy Feet venue will be well-pleased with the full lines of Euro-comfort shoes, clogs, orthotic innersoles and massage sandals they find. After experiencing the benefits of optimal spinal-foot alignment, proper body posture, and better weight balance, customers never want to wear anything else.
Yes, they’re mostly odd lots, odd sizes, and some odd shoes but you CAN save bundles.
If you live near one of the nine Happy Feet Plus stores in the greater Tampa Bay area you can take advantage of this big sale. (Click here for a list of store locations and hours of operation.) Almost every brand we carry has some style or size marked down. With over 4000 items on sale you’re sure to find something in a style and size that will make your feet, and your wallet, very happy.
When you stop by, one of our foot health specialists can perform a digital foot analysis to ensure that you get the right shoe, sandal, or clog to help you feel better. We do things the old fashioned way. We take time to discuss your foot (or leg, or back, or general health) problems. We will help you select several styles and brands of footwear that will help relieve your pain and discomfort. (Oh, and by-the-way, if the foot health specialist doesn’t explain our “SSR” concept of total foot health be sure to ask how SSR can help you get all-day relief from your discomfort.)
Great footwear at great prices. What a great deal! Stop by a Happy Feet Plus store near you and save.