The store has operated at 316 Ward Parkway since 1999, and the owners still have four years left on their lease.
“It’s cheaper to close it and just to pay the rent,” said Ed Geller, a partner with his wife, Gretchen, in E.G. Geller. “There’s no anchor on the Plaza, and I think the mall is obligated to make sure it is merchandised properly. As soon as Halls left, traffic on the Plaza — for our business — went down very quickly.”
In a statement, Glenn Stephenson, vice president and division manager of Highwoods Properties in Kansas City, said: “It is our corporate policy not to discuss current or prospective lease negotiations; therefore we cannot comment on E.G. Geller’s possible closing.”
Ed Geller is the third generation to be in the shoe business. His grandfather owned a shoe store near Madison Square Garden in New York City in the 1930s and early 1940s. His father later went out on his own, opening a New York children’s wellness shoe store in the 1950s with a partner.
Ed Geller started working there when he was 7 or 8 years old — cleaning the chairs, putting arch supports in shoes and blowing up balloons as a free gift for the young clients. He later worked in the wholesale footwear business for Brown Shoe Co. in St. Louis. Ed met Gretchen, a native of St. Joseph, on the Plaza in 1973 while he visiting from St. Louis.
“That was back in the good old days on the Plaza, with Woolf Brothers, Swanson’s. Those days are gone — here and everywhere,” Ed Geller said. “It’s sad for us, sad for the city.”
The couple opened a Mephisto shoe store in Dallas in 1992 and a second location in Houston in 1994. But as they traveled to trade shows in Europe, they took note of comfort footwear lines that were also stylish. In 1995, they changed the name of their stores to E.G. Geller, combining the initials of their first names with their last name, and offered more European lines.
The Plaza store is currently having a closing sale with items up to 80 percent off. Once it closes, the Gellers plan to concentrate on their two brick-and-mortar stores and online store, offering more than 40 different brands of mostly “Euro comfort” footwear.