Don & Leslie Nottberg are Kansas City natives. They met at the University of Kansas more than 40 years ago – in a Human Relations class. No joke. After marrying, the couple moved to Arizona to further pursue their educations at Arizona State University. Don, planning to become a psychologist, attended grad school. Leslie completed two undergraduate degrees – in Juvenile Justice and Paralegal Law – while deciding whether to go on to law school.
A Passion for Fitness
In Phoenix, Don discovered Leslie’s culinary talents. That was the good news – and the bad. Once an enthusiastic tennis player, Don stopped working out and started enjoying Leslie’s wonderful cooking. By their first anniversary, Don had gained 50 pounds and lost his athletic form.
Unhappy, feeling overweight and out of shape, Don took up walking – then running. By the time the “Newlywed 50” had melted away, he was hooked on these increasingly popular forms of exercise. Leslie, a pack-a-day smoker, gave up cigarettes and joined Don when he walked. Soon the couple had developed a real enthusiasm for their daily workouts.
Finding the Right Fit
In the late 1970’s, Don ran across a Wall Street Journal article on the first chain of running/walking shoe specialty stores in the US. It had operated in Atlanta since 1974 with a unique business plan: “Stock a store with the best gear, then staff it with runners trained in the science of fitting shoes.” As the 1980s approached, the stores’ customers included not just seasoned athletes, but increasing numbers of beginners who, like Don & Leslie, were finding their way back to health with regular workouts – or even braving their first road races.
The article piqued the Nottberg’s interest. The chain’s franchisees were required to complete a comprehensive and intensive training program covering everything from anatomy to biomechanics to sports injuries. They were taught to find just the right shoe for a customer rather than to simply make a sale. Don & Leslie had found their fit; they purchased the franchise for Kansas City and opened a store in June 1980.
Matching People With Shoes
By 1997, the Nottbergs were operating their shoe store as an independent business with a new name and a new location: Elite Feet, in Hawthorne Plaza Shopping Center, Overland Park, KS. Just one year later, they expanded their mission of matching people to shoes: they began looking for a good home for the gently worn shoes their customers were replacing. Don & Leslie founded Shoe Kansas City out of a desire to provide those less fortunate with one of life’s basic necessities – the one that had become central to their own lives. The rest is history – at least Our History