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Unger#039;s store earns recognition

Step foot inside Unger's Shoe Store on Third Street and you'll likely stumble onto one excited man.

Joe Unger, the second-generation owner, is always exuberant and excited as longtime customers can attest, but lately he's had something extra in which to take pride, a little extra spring in his step, as it were.

The downtown business icon for more than 57 years recently earned two distinct honors making it unique among shoe retailers in the Tri-State.

Unger's was named a Birkenstock Concept Store and a New Balance Core Dealer.

"We were just thrilled to pieces," Unger said.

"Not only for the recognition but for our city as well. As a city we're pretty lucky to have such a small downtown and have such premier businesses in it."

The two distinctions each come with special benefits for Unger's and its customers.

In both brand lines, Unger's will now be first to receive new products from the manufacturer, some of which is only available to stores with the special designation.

"We'll be able to offer the latest products in Birkenstock, for example, sooner than everybody else, in styles nobody else has and absolutely ensure that they are perfectly fitted."

You might need a new pair if you want to find another shoe seller as tickled by the special distinctions as Unger - the nearest similar dealers are in Charleston, W.Va., and Lexington, Ky., Unger said.

"These are major hitters. This was like hitting back-to-back homeruns," he said. "We were competing with places like New York and Chicago."

Unger, a certified pedorthist or therapeutic shoe specialist, said he especially likes that both product lines have broad appeal.

"They are mainstream but we fit them on 3-year-olds and on 93-year-olds," he said. "Pedorthically speaking, (Birkenstocks) are a perfectly adaptable shoe.

Unger's father, the late Gene Unger, founded the business in 1946.

In addition to the latest two honors, Unger's was also featured in last year's 90th anniversary edition of "Shoe Retailing Today," a trade publication of the shoe industry.

"It was quite an honor," he said.

"We couldn't have done this without our wonderful customers whose loyalty we so appreciate," Unger said. "And our staff."

Unger's staff includes Mary Meehan, Teresa Hamilton, Sarah Howell, Betty Zuercher, Sarah Beth McClelland, Lori Cunningham, Annie Delaughter, Rian Unger and LaVerne Unger.