Franchise International:

Years ago, Raymond J. Margiano, Ph.D., established a shoe-repair franchise named Heel Quik. Unfortunately, his timing was a bit off. Thanks to the availability of cheaper footwear due to manufacturing moving overseas, not to mention the casualization of American style, he notes the repair business was at the end of its lifecycle. (He compares the experience to what blacksmiths must have faced when horse-drawn buggies began disappearing in favour of modern-day cars.) Yet despite the challenges of the market, the chain has grown to more than 700 stores in at least 30 countries.

Margiano has since moved on, however, and is now CEO of Foot Solutions, the franchised wellness chain he founded in August 2000. “I’m much happier in this niche,” he laughs, noting that this time around, he’s in a business that is just beginning to take off.

A self-defined entrepreneur, Margiano views himself as an outsider to the world of footwear retailing – despite the fact that Foot Solutions has 255 locations worldwide and is adding 40 to 50 new stores per year. Regardless, he knows feet, having been involved in pedorthics since 1985 when he worked closely with the medical community. The need was growing back then, but there weren’t many places to find shoes that would suit specific injuries, special needs or hard-to-fit feet. The retailers that did answer those needs, Margiano notes, carried “medical-looking shoes”. With Foot Solutions, his idea was to bridge the pedorthic and comfort segments with product that fit properly but still managed to look good. More.