A staple of the city

Published 8:36 am Thursday, December 21, 2017

This year, a family-owned business in Ironton marks eight decades of operation.

Unger’s Shoes was started in 1937 by Gene Unger in a corner of Gabler’s Department Store downtown.

Gene Unger stopped the business temporarily when he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942.

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Following the war’s end three years later, he opted, rather than return to his corner space, to open his own shop on the corner of Third and Vernon Street.

The business, run by Gene and his wife Bonnie, prospered. Their son, Joe, said his father likely fit a quarter of a million people for shoes while in business.

These days, Joe runs the store, which expanded into the adjacent shop in the 1980s. He said they have been in business so long that they have served four and five generations of the same families in the region.

Unger’s has been a familiar site, outlasting many larger businesses, and a pillar of downtown Ironton. The Unger family has also been a vital part of the community, involved in activities downtown and contributing to civic groups, school athletic fundraising and other initiatives.

In an era of chain conglomerates and corporate box stores, many of America’s small town businesses have disappeared.

It is a testament to the contribution that Unger’s has made to Ironton and the service they provide to residents here that not only have they survived the changing economy, but are a strong business to this day.

We wish the Unger family continued success and hope they celebrate many more decades as a part of Ironton’s downtown.