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Member News & Press: News & Press


Monday, November 28, 2016  
Posted by: NSRA
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TUCSON, AZ (November 21, 2016) – The National Shoe Retailers Association on November 10, 2016 inducted two former retailers into its Hall of Fame – Michael Bernard and the late Morton Brownstein – during the association’s 2016 Annual Leadership Conference in San Antonio, Texas.

Michael Bernard joined the footwear retailing community in 1974 as manager of Adam's Shoes in Jeffersonville, Indiana, and became a partner in the business before buying out the other partners, becoming sole owner of what became Acton Enterprises. By 1983, Bernard had grown the business to 13 stores, including the first Kick's concept store, a mall-based operation that sold women's fashion-forward footwear. In 1984, he opened the first Shoe Sensation, combining quality shoes, discounted prices and self-service. By 1988, Acton Enterprises owned and operated more than 100 stores, all in the Shoe Sensation format, in Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

Bernard was elected to NSRA's Board of Directors in 1995, serving the Association for 15 years. He served on its Finance, Nominations and Executive Committees, and also helped formulate the first in a series of strategic plans for the Association's second century. Another of his important contributions was negotiating contracts for the NSRA membership to provide them with low-cost credit/debit processing and shipping services. In 1998, Chain Store Age magazine named him one of its Retail Entrepreneurs of the Year. Bernard also was named Entrepreneur of the Year for both Kentucky and Southern Indiana by Ernst & Young.

Bernard's colleagues in footwear retailing treasured both his knowledge and his willingness to share it, and they loved the fact that he credited his success to three things: hard work, long hours and staying independent. As he told Chain Store Age, “A smart independent can't be extinguished. If you commit yourself, you can dance around the national chains.”

Bernard’s induction was presented by past NSRA chairman Ed Habre (Shoe Mill, Portland, Oregon) who said, “Mike Bernard benefitted our association and our channel tremendously. It’s a pleasure to announce his induction into NSRA’s Hall of Fame.”

The late Morton Brownstein was one of Canada's best known shoe-store owners and philanthropists. He entered the business as an employee of his father, who opened Browns Shoes in downtown Montreal in 1943. Within a few years, Morton became store manager. When that location was gutted by fire in 1954, Brownstein rebuilt it, turning the store into a showcase for designer goods. In 1959, he opened an additional store featuring European designer shoes, including Salvatore Ferragamo and Bruno Magli – shoes that sold for the then-staggering price of $29.95. The concept worked beautifully. Over time, the business lost its apostrophe and continued to grow to 57 Browns Shoes stores in Canada.

Brownstein received numerous honors during his lifetime, including the Order of Canada, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Award, and the Human Relations Award given by the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews. He was Canada's Entrepreneur of the Year in 1995. An active philanthropist, Brownstein raised funds for the Montreal Association of the Blind and served on its Board. He also raised millions of dollars for the Jewish General Hospital, which he served first as a Board member and then as president of the Board of Directors, and where the Emergency Department bears his and his wife Bernice's names. Both Brownsteins participated in the hospital's yearly Weekend to End Breast Cancer, a marathon walk throughout Montreal. In addition, he was active in the Club des Petits Dejueners, or Breakfast Club, which assures that Quebec school children in disadvantaged neighborhoods get a nutritious meal to start the day.

Brownstein's stores employed more than 1,200 people by 1999, when he named his son Michael as CEO, although Morton continued to be involved in general business operations until his death in 2013. In addition to his wife and son, his survivors include two daughters and five grandchildren.

Paul Muller, a past NSRA chairman, presented the Hall of Fame inductee, noting that he had worked with Brownstein as a member of NSRA's Board of Directors. Morty Brownstein stood as an example to our field,” Muller said, adding, “He excelled at footwear retailing, and built a strong company that employed thousands of people. He was also exemplary in his own community, making sure that people in need received a helping hand. It's an honor to have worked with him, and a pleasure to serve as NSRA's voice in inducting Morton Brownstein into our Hall of Fame.”

# # #

(Ed Habre, Michael Bernard)

(son-Michael Brownstein, Paul Muller)

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