Bill’s Men’s Shop on Telegraph Avenue to close after almost 60 years

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Bill’s Men’s Shop, an independent footwear shop on Telegraph Avenue, is closing in March or April as owner Marty Berg prepares to retire.

Bill’s Men’s Shop boasts various types of footwear for all genders, and currently, about 40% of the store’s customers are female, according to Berg. He added that the store changed its inventory in the 1970s and 1980s when many businesses, such as Gap and Miller’s Outpost, began selling clothing. Berg said because of this competition, Bill’s Men’s Shop found its “niche” in selling shoes.

“I just turned 71 this week (and) I have been working at Bill’s since I was 18,” Berg said. “I just think it’s time to go somewhere … my wife, Judy, and I want to be more spontaneous and travel more.”

Berg noted that closing the store had nothing to do with lease issues and added that if he decides to sell the shop, he wouldn’t want to sell it to someone who would “do a formula store.”

According to store manager Stan James, the store provides a unique experience for the customers that visit it.

“We measure your feet (and) we help you with the size (because) we need to know how the shoes fit to give you direction,” James said. “Retail has changed; when you go in most department stores, they have an area cash stand, and you can’t get anybody to wait on you or answer questions.”

While Berg has worked at Bill’s Men’s Shop for 53 years, the shop itself has been open since 1961. Having worked at his family’s store when he was younger, Berg decided to work at Bill’s Men’s Shop when he was a student at UC Berkeley.

When the store’s founder William Platt died, Berg bought 50% of the store and co-owned it with Platt’s widow. In 1979, Berg became the sole owner.

Berg said his favorite thing about owning the store was the customers who visited the store time and time again, describing how their parents — and sometimes their grandparents — frequented Bill’s Men’s Shop.

Cynthia Wang, a UC Berkeley alumna, called the shop a “staple,” and recalled that the last time she went to Bill’s Men’s Shop she had left her jacket in the shop. Wang returned a few days later, and an employee immediately recognized her and gave her the jacket.

“It’s a small incident, but I really appreciated the gesture and the kind service,” Wang said. “I’m pretty sad that they’re closing … I was looking forward to coming back to Bill’s if I ever needed to re-purchase any shoes. … However, I’m wishing the store owner the best and hoping that he has a very happy retirement.”

Contact Megha Krishnan at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @_meghakrishnan_.