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Downtown store owners will retire


As the saying goes, if the shoe fits, wear it.

For Karl and Deborah Schmidtberger, taking over her father's shoe repair business was a good fit for more than 30 years.

But beginning April 1, the couple will begin a new chapter in their lives -- retirement. A longtime downtown fixture, Pedorthic Specialists LLC, 709 Main, will be closing its doors.

"Hopefully, we're going to get the summer off," Karl Schmidtberger said. "We're just hopefully going to travel and goof around."

The couple purchased the shoe-repair business from Deborah's father in 1981. In the late 1990s, Karl decided to pursue an interest in pedorthics, which is a specialized type of foot care.

Offering arch lifts, wedges and custom-made orthotic shoes, Schmidtberger helped many northwest Kansas residents alleviate foot pain and other symptoms.

"I was starting to have trouble with my feet and legs, and I started experimenting a little bit and had some favorable results," he said of his decision to switch trades. "We looked in a magazine, and I had seen where there was a school that taught more about (pedorthics)."

He signed up for a six-month program at an Oklahoma college, and the rest is history.

Deborah also has worked at the business for approximately 32 years as office manager.

"I enjoyed the management part of it," she said. "I wouldn't do what Karl did, and he wouldn't do what I did, so it was a good match between the both of us."

Pedorthic Specialists also offered retail shoes, such as the popular Birkenstock brand.

Business remained steady through the years, she said, noting the couple received many referrals from doctors in western Kansas.

Health concerns contributed largely to Karl's decision to retire, he said, noting the job was becoming more physically challenging.

A liquidation sale is continuing until remaining merchandise is sold. The couple hopes to close the business' doors by April 1.

They decided, however, it would be too difficult to part with the building that has been part of Deborah's family for so long.

The space will be available for lease, Karl said, noting there already have been some inquiries.

But for now, the Schmidtbergers eagerly are awaiting the relaxation and adventure of retirement. They are planning to spend the summer traveling -- likely to Florida -- and will spend more time with their children and grandchildren in Kansas City.

"We've been doing this for so long," Karl said of the business. "It's going to be nice just to not have to worry about something."