Ryan Downey knows shoes. He should — he owns more than 100 pairs himself. But his passion for shoes carries itself over to his work at When The Shoe Fits, where he helps customers when they have a foot ailment or special fitting situation — or if they just want to make a great-looking, trendy fashion statement. “We have the ability to change someone’s day and improve quality of life with proper footwear and fitting experience,” says Downey. “We can recommend footwear to get them back on their feet, back into daily life.”
Name: Ryan Downey
Residence neighborhood: Salmon Creek
Employer name: When The Shoe Fits, 819 S.E. 160th Ave., Suite 100, 360-882-8962, www.whentheshoefits.com
Educational/professional background: I’ve lived and grown up in this very community I work in. I’ve been working in footwear for more than 15 years in management. from The Athlete’s Foot to Nordstrom, and now as general manager at When The Shoe Fits.
How — and when — you got started in your business: I started out just selling sneakers at Vancouver Mall, worked my way into sales and management at Nordstrom, but found myself getting further and further from home. I came to When The Shoe Fits eight years ago looking for a more community-based experience and an opportunity to help grow and develop an independent business. I had been working for a large corporation and I wanted to help grow something that I could call my own, a grass-roots kind of business, and found it at When The Shoe Fits, which now has four locations, three in Vancouver and one in Beaverton, Ore. I feel like I’ve been a part of its growth, and feel tied to the community. We have a loyal customer base, and we sponsor community activities like the Girlfriends Run for a Cure Half Marathon, health fairs. Our hands are out there in the community; we feel the pulse of what’s happening out there.
Personal/business philosophy: Create an experience — not only for yourself but for those around you.
Most rewarding part of job: Working for an independent retailer deeply entrenched in the community it services, as well as servicing our strong, loyal community following. We have the ability to change someone’s day and improve quality of life with proper footwear and fitting experience. Lots of customers come to us with ailments or referrals from doctors or podiatrists. With the training we’ve received and the knowledge we have, we can recommend footwear to get them back on their feet, back into daily life, training, or whatever they’re into.
Most challenging part of job: Climbing the obstacles of dealing with insurance claims and benefits for customers and patients who don’t always qualify for coverage of footwear and orthotics.
One surprise about your work: We’re known for our focus on comfort and fit, but some customers are surprised by the high fashion and trend lines we carry, along with some of the industry’s most elite running shoes,
Best feature of my Clark County community: It’s constantly changing and looking to grow and get better.
What would make your community a better place: A new I-5 Bridge plan approval.
Your favorite travel destination and type: I find it’s always great to take trips — whether it’s the beautiful Oregon Coast, up to Seattle to see the Emerald City or cross-country to New York — but there is always something special to be said about coming home.
Favorite restaurant/pub/coffee shop/store: I’m a fan of the new Feral Public House downtown and always like the coffee at Thatcher’s.
Hobbies: Family and weightlifting and sneakers are my passion and my hobbies. I probably have more than 100 pairs of shoes of all different brands. It’s a good day when I get a new pair of shoes.
Most enjoyable movie in past 12 months: Probably “Mad Max.” It was very reminiscent of the early movies I had seen when I was a kid and I was able to share in it with my son. I’m also looking forward to seeing the new “Star Wars,” as I have a feeling that will top my list.
Something you’d like to do this year/within five years: Successfully get my son graduated from high school and on to college.
One word to describe yourself: Passionate.
Person you’d most like to meet: Michael Jordan. It would be great to meet and have a conversation with the person you grew up watching and one of the more polarizing figures in sports who changed the landscape and way the game of basketball was played and the way we look at athletic footwear.