Boot shop steps into downtown retail scene

Rider Boot Company has leased the 1,900-square-foot former Renovation Resources space at 18 W. Broad St. (Kieran McQuilkin)

Rider Boot Company has leased the 1,900-square-foot former Renovation Resources space at 18 W. Broad St. (Kieran McQuilkin)

In the latest addition to what may be the beginnings of a retail revival downtown, a locally based boot maker has chosen the West Broad Street stretch of Jackson Ward for its first storefront.

Rider Boot Company has leased the 1,900-square-foot former Renovation Resources space at 18 W. Broad St.

Founded in 2008 by entrepreneurs Ron and Lisa Rider, Rider Boot sells its own brand of leather boots and shoes for men and women that are all manufactured by small tanneries in Italy.

The company, until now, has mainly been a web-based operation.

“Owning a store has always been the next step for us,” said Ron Rider. “In this line of business you need a physical location, and to lease that space in Jackson Ward gave us that opportunity.”

The Riders’ son, Jeff, a senior at VCU who helped find and secure the Jackson Ward location, will manage the store once it opens. Lisa Rider will oversee the women’s shoe selection and other managerial duties.

“We are truly a family of merchants,” Ron Rider said. “As a family we insist on learning on our own.”

Rider said he plans to invest about $15,000 to outfit the space. (Courtesy Rider Boot)

Ron Rider said he plans to invest about $15,000 to outfit the space. (Courtesy Rider Boot)

He said the company’s web presence will continue to be an integral part of the business.

“The retail store is to work hand-in-hand with the website,” Rider said. “The goal is for the store and the website to grow business for the brand and the family.”   

Brokers Cheryl Hamm and Kerry Riley from Joyner Commercial represented the landlord during the summer transaction.

Rider said he plans to pump about $15,000 to outfit the space. Pending permitting from the city, Rider said he hopes to have the shop up-in-running by early November – just in time for holiday shopping.

He said the company’s web presence will continue to be an integral part of the business.

“The retail store is to work hand-in-hand with the website,” Rider said. “The goal is for the store and the website to grow business for the brand and the family.”   

In addition to boots and loafers, the store will sell goose down vests from Seattle-based Crescent Down Works and Ireland-made Donegal wool socks.

Prices for a pair of Rider Boot shoes range from $285 to $850 a pair. The company also carries Silvano Sassetti shoes and Montemario loafers – both brands manufactured in Italy.

Rider Boot joins a growing base of retailers – particularly those in the fashion segment – setting up shop in the surrounding downtown neighborhood.

Richmond-based men’s shirt maker Ledbury opened its new store and headquarters at 315 W. Broad St. last week, on a block that is also home to women’s clothing stores Verdalina at 325 W. Broad St. and Mod & Soul at 323 W. Broad St. Further back in Jackson Ward, Styletress, a women’s clothing and hair extension boutique opened at 212 E. Clay St. this summer.

Launching Rider Boot’s retail operation is a business goal that has brought Ron Rider full circle.

A native of southwest Baltimore, Rider’s father worked in the shoe industry for nearly 50 years– giving him a first-hand look at the ins and outs of wholesaling and ordering footwear that appealed to the masses.

Rider would follow in his father’s footsteps, working his way through the shoe industry first as a shoe salesman for Hess Shoes in downtown Baltimore, before moving on to national men’s retailer Johnston & Murphy in downtown Washington, D.C.

Rider Boot sells leather boots and shoes manufactured by small tanneries in Italy. (Courtesy Rider Boot)

Rider Boot sells leather boots and shoes manufactured by small tanneries in Italy. (Courtesy Rider Boot)

In search of new opportunities, Rider said he packed up his family and moved to Richmond about 20 years ago, where he began working for Richmond-based retailer Franco’s Fine Clothiers.

It was at Franco’s where Rider’s skills were put to the test – becoming the retailer’s buyer for men and women shoes. That gave him the chance to travel on behalf of Franco’s to manufacturing facilities and tanneries in Italy, allowing an up-close glimpse at where and how the shoes were produced.

“Being there and seeing where it all came from was important for me,” Rider said.

In 2008, Rider launched his first line of products under the Rider Boot brand at Franco’s. He would later launch similar product lines of his brands in independent stores in major cities around the U.S., including New York, Austin and San Francisco, Rider said.

The company also operated a warehouse in Manquin to keep up with orders being distributed across the country.

“We were doing very well,” Rider said.

But then the Great Recession hit, forcing him to shift his business model from the sole distribution of sales for Rider Boot, to helping other companies – many high-end retailers – build their shoe brands.

“Basically, I would build your line for you,” Rider said. “When other independent retailers stopped paying their bills…and things got bad for us, that’s what got us through.”

Now, with many of the projects coming to an end, Rider said he can focus on preparing his flagship store for business.

“We’re just excited to be adding our business to the area,” Rider said, adding that the firm now has its warehouse operation to Ashland. “Jackson Ward is such a great neighborhood, there are a lot of good things happening, and I’m glad that we can be a part of it.”

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Kaye W. Mathews

A developer remarked about the small footprint of the city of Richmond. I suggest the city begin to think of future commercial buildings being at least 2 stories. Also, the Richmond Historical tax credits are wonderful and the organization is as well. Sometimes I think they go too far. If they want all replaced windows to look like original why don’t they work with manufacturers of vinyl to match the designs? It is much more economical in building costs and future savings. Just saying.