7.27.2005

Old School: The Barn Shoes

Long-time residents of Newton know that when you want quality shoes or sneakers sold for reasonable prices, you don't head to the mall or shopping center.

You head to The Barn.

The Barn is an invisible institution. It's in a nondescript, old red brick warehouse in a back lot off Washington Street in West Newton that you can't even see from the street. Yet anyone who lives in Newton for a few years years seems to find out about the store, through word of mouth or local advertising. I've been going to the Barn since the 1970s, and my mother, father, and now my wife swear by it. I know I will take my kids there for sneakers or skates when they get old enough to start sports.

You get to the Barn by driving down Washington Street, and looking for the sign about 100 feet west of the National Guard Armory. Once you walk past the front doors into the air-conditioned interior, it's a clean shoe store that smells of leather and new clothes. Women's shoes are off to the right, men's to the left, and children's goods and athletic gear in a separate one-story building. The shoes are all established manufacturers, not no-brand Chinese knockoffs (although they do have a good clearance section, which my wife loves to peruse).

Besides price and quality, there is also the service issue. Ask a question about foot width a mall shoe shop and you'll most likely get a shrug. Not at the Barn: staff there really know their stuff. They can answer questions about the best pair of leather work shoes for winter, or what type of jogging sneakers you should get if you are flat-footed. I asked just such a question last night when shopping for running shoes, and the two people that helped me correctly pointed me to stability shoes and motion-control shoes. When I was at the Discount Show Warehouse in Shopper's World three days earlier, I couldn't even find a salesperson.

If you haven't been to the Barn before, make a point of going there the next time you want to buy shoes. It's located at 25 Kempton Place, West Newton (near the Armory on Washington Street), and is open from 9 to 9 on weekdays. Telephone: 617 332-6300.

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