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Member News & Press: Past News


Wednesday, November 7, 2018  
Posted by: NSRA
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Tucson, AZ (November 5, 2018) – The National Shoe Retailers Association (NSRA) honored Jim Wellehan as its 2018 Retailer of the Year during NSRA's Annual Leadership Conference, held October 31-November 1 in National Harbor, MD.

Wellehan, whose six Lamey Wellehan (LW) shoe stores are in Maine, is a second-generation retailer; the company was founded by Wellehan's father Dan (Wellehan) and uncle Charlie Lamey in 1914. Wellehan himself entered shoe retailing as a teenager, working part-time in high school and college. After a teaching stint in Africa, he worked full-time in his father's store before fulfilling a service obligation in the U.S. Army; later, he earned a master's in business administration before returning to LW. Wellehan ran the business until retirement in January 2018, when he was succeeded by Don Stowell, who continues to tap Wellehan's knowledge as a consultant.

In addition to building the LW chain, Wellehan earned widespread appreciation for the company's many contributions to the communities it serves. “Delight in the outdoors is an easy thing to acquire in Maine,” Wellehan says, and that delight spurred him to become a strong conservationist. He first undertook a recycling program which today recycles 95% of the solid waste that comes into LW properties; later, he created a carbon reduction program, committing to a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020; as of 2017, the company was nearly 75% of the way toward the overall goal. LW also reduced its energy costs from 1.7% of sales to 0.7% over the past 15 years.

Wellehan next switched from plastic to paper shopping bags and eventually eliminated bags altogether, so that LW “waste” couldn't clog Maine's waterways. To help customers understand and accept the move, he used the $8,000 per year the company saved on packaging to open a scholarship fund which annually supports three Maine students to attend a Maine college with the goal of improving the state's economy and/or environment. LW rewards all scholarship applicants with a $100 “thank you” gift certificate. Finally, LW began collecting gently-used shoes for redistribution to people in need; currently, LW gives away more than 10,000 pairs a year.

In presenting the award, past NSRA chairman Alan Miklofsky (Alan's Shoes, Tucson, AZ) said, “Jim is passionate about his causes, which keep him involved in his community. Instead of simply running a business, he provides a shining example of leadership for his employees, his customers, his state, the Northeast and the nation. He is an inspiration of unquestioned integrity.”

Wellehan, accepting, said, “Our culture is that people should be treated kindly and respectfully. When everyone around has high expectations, that culture spreads easily. Much of the success Lamey Wellehan has achieved [is due to] the long-time and knowledgeable, committed work of its associates, from the first day in 1914. Although the retail game changes over 50 years, our business is strong and our crews are happy.” Wellehan is now working with president/men's buyer Don Stowell and senior managers Chris Stanley, Erica Dube, Ben Fletcher, Lucie Hill, and Scott Heidrich to create an Employee Stock Ownership Plan. “We believe an ESOP will help keep this company strong in the future. I love this business – and I am humbled and honored to receive this Award.”

NSRA president Chuck Schuyler said, “Jim Wellehan is a special businessman, one we should all be proud to emulate. His company helps keep Maine communities economically strong and vital; his charitable work benefits both individuals and the state of Maine; and his personal integrity reflects a man who, with his wife Kathy, believes in leading by example. It's a genuine pleasure to know him.”


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