SPARTA — More than a century after a relative founded Arenz Shoe Co. in La Crosse, Mike and Cindy Arenz will start a going-out-of-business sale Aug. 21 at their Arenz Shoes and Formal Wear store — the last of the Arenz shoe stores — at 113 S. Water St. in downtown Sparta.
The store’s closing date will depend on how soon its inventory is sold. But “I’m sure we’ll be done by the first of November,” Mike Arenz said Monday.
“I’m going to retire,” said Arenz, who is 60. “My wife is a dental hygienist and will continue with that.”
Arenz said he has been planning for the past three years to retire this year. “I have a lot of hobbies” such as hiking, kayaking, skiing, fishing and traveling, that he plans to pursue.
Arenz said his daughter and her husband will buy the Arenz Shoes location and will look for tenants for the first floor. “There are five apartments upstairs,” he said.
Mike and Cindy Arenz have owned the Sparta store since 1996, when his parents, Gene and Dorothy Arenz, retired.
Joseph Arenz opened the original Arenz Shoe Co. store in 1902 at 107 N. Fourth St. in downtown La Crosse. It later moved to 323-327 Pearl St. in La Crosse. “He was my grandfather’s uncle,” Mike Arenz said of Joseph Arenz.
At its peak in the early 1970s, Arenz Shoe Co. had about eight stores in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa, including the Sparta store.
The individual stores were sold to individual members of the Arenz family in 1975, five years after the death of Joseph Arenz’s son Albert. That is when Gene and Dorothy Arenz bought the Sparta store.
The Sparta store is the last Arenz shoe store still in business. It opened in 1929 in a former variety store and in 1990 expanded into the former J.C. Penney department store.
Mike Arenz began selling shoes at his family’s store in 1976 after school and on weekends, when he was a sophomore at Sparta High School.
Store hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and closed Sunday. The store will be closed Aug. 17-20 to prepare for the going-out-of-business sale.
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