(Teague Hatfield | Photo by Kelsey Swenson)
It’s hard enough to run a successful business, but to be the center of a community is a different kind of feat. There is no doubt that Footzone, a shoe store in downtown Bend, is the embodiment of the character of Bend and the center of all things active in the community.
Footzone owner Teague Hatfield says he is “incredibly fortunate for the position Footzone is in.” Hatfield has owned his business for 20 years, after opening it in 1995.
A wide variety of people walk through his doors — searching for shoes to work in, walk in or run in. The challenge is finding the right fit for every person, to “reach people where they are,” he says. He tries to relate to all his customers, knowing that being a running geek won’t help him and his staff connect with all their customers. “Lots of people know what they do really, really well,” he says. “What’s more rare is that they relate to you.”
Hatfield didn’t gain this perspective immediately upon taking ownership of the business. He admits that when he was younger, his own insecurities interfered with his ability to relate to others. He realizes now that “we would all like some authenticity,” maybe even more than shoes.
His staff reflect this ideal. Almost all of them are involved in the community outside of Footzone. They are active people who host events and take part in local activities. Hatfield says his staff are “doing it because they love running, love Bend and want to be a part of that. People of that mindset gravitate toward places where community is front and center.”
Beyond the walls of the store, Footzone is an integral part of making Bend a better place. At Footzone’s annual Dirty Half Marathon in early June, each of the staff reflected on their experience. A similar thread emerged. Jared Bassett, who works at Footzone and as a high school coach, described the event as “a celebration of Bend’s running community.” Mark Stockamp, on staff at Footzone and new to Bend, says he “felt that wonderful feeling of belonging in a community.”
Over the past 20 years, Bend’s rapid growth has required Hatfield to respond by increasing inventory, staff and making other changes to accommodate increasing demand. On a personal level, he says, “I’ve had to challenge myself to be a more dynamic person.” Even with years of business experience, he recognizes the value in learning to be more dynamic from young people, who he says “have a lot of expectations” in a changing world.
The motivations local retailers like Hatfield live by are different than what motivates nationwide chains. He enjoys the “practicalities” of running a business and has always taken inspiration from his staff. But Footzone takes inspiration from the community they serve as well. Hatfield says, “I get filled up by all the little micro-interactions each day.”
If you ever think about buying shoes online to get them at your doorstep in a couple days, think again. As stated by Hatfield, “People crave humanity.” He says, “If you love things in your community, you should support them. I can’t deny that’s something I’m passionate about.”