EDINA, Minn. - At a time of year built around traditions, the people who run Southdale Center are about to break with one of theirs.
Ralph's Shoe Service is the last remaining original tenant in the first indoor shopping mall in America. But not, it appears, for much longer.
"It really hurts," says Bill Roase, Ralph's third generation owner. "I just do not know what to do, you know. All I know is it all comes to an end Christmas Eve."
Ralph's Shoe Service is in the way of a planned new food court.
Roase says Southdale Center initially indicated it would help him with a move to a new location in the mall. More recently, he says, mall managers let him know he'd be paying for a move himself... twice.
The first move would take him to the mall's largely vacant third floor followed a few months later by a move to another space.
Roase's equipment is large and his ventilation system expensive and he's still paying off the loan for the $60,000 move he was forced to make by the mall six years ago.
Another $120,000 for two moves? Roase says that's just not feasible for his mom and pop shop. "At this point I feel like I've lost the family business because I've been shut down."
Bill's dad, Ron Roase, 77, struggled to contain his emotions as he worked in the shop Wednesday. "It's hard for me because he's my son. I feel for him," he said.
Ron Roase ran the shop he took over from his father, Ralph, who opened Ralph's Shoe Service in the brand new Southdale mall in 1956. Other tenants have closed or changed hands, but Ralph's has remained a fixture in the mall through good times and bad.
Southdale Center would not comment when contacted by KARE 11. "It's our policy to not comment on landlord-tenant business relationships because we consider them private," said Southdale spokesperson Lauren Carpenter.
Once a week, Ron Roase and his wife Kay still help out at the shop, as well as assisting Bill with his books.
The shop's only other employee, Jesse Engelen, has worked for the Roases for 26 years.
Bill Roase has tried to keep Engelen informed of the developments, just letting him know this week that he'll probably be losing his job. "And I'm laying it on him at Christmas, you know, the time of the year you shouldn't be doing that."
The Roases are also notifying longtime customers of the closing.
They plan to close the store on Christmas Eve and spend the next week moving out their inventory and equipment, possibly to Bill Roase's garage while he considers his options.
"Fifty-five years in this center," Bill pondered. "It just doesn't make sense to me."
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