Bittersweet good-bye for iconic New Haven shoe store closing after 92 years

New Haven

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — After 92 years in business, Austin Phillips Shoe Company is closing up shop in the Elm City.

“I had planned to work forever, but those days are over,” said James Millen, 83.

“It’s the end of an era,” said his wife, Susan Millen. “A lot of the business are repeats. Three generations.”

James’ grandfather started the business selling children’s shoes on Dixwell Avenue. James studied accounting, but that wasn’t a good fit

James explained, “I never wanted that so my father offered me a job at his business which was the shoe store which had a little bit of gambling in it, a little bit of this, a little bit of adventure.”

A fire destroyed the original location. So, the city helped them relocate to a space off Ella T Grasso Boulevard in 1964.

“We had 500 stores in Connecticut alone that we used to sell to little mom and pop stores.”

Retail transformed over the last century. Now, it’s their loyal customers who kept them going. Closing up shop was really a decision made for them. James has been battling pancreatic cancer since December.

Susan said, “This illness has solidified us going out of business. It isn’t something he really wanted to do, but the choice was taken out of our hands.”

James said, “Everything is done with a purpose and hopefully we’ll get through this and we’ll live a little different life.”

For the Millens, it was never about the shoes it was about the people in them.

“That’s how we did it, one day at a time forward and we’ll do it again,” said James.

They plan to have large sales leading up to the close in the fall. What they don’t sell, they plan to donate to local charities.

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