Maine shoe store offers 'pay what you can' rack for customers in need

A nearly 200-year-old shoe store in Maine is hoping to help residents in the community facing hard times by offering a shoe rack in which customers can pay any dollar amount they can afford.

Colburn Shoe Store, located in Belfast, Maine, first opened its doors in 1832 and proudly calls itself “the oldest shoe store in America.” 

The store was holding its annual February sale, which typically brings in hundreds of customers from miles around seeking half-priced shoes, according to the Bangor Daily News.

Colby Horne, the fifth-generation owner of the store, said the idea to create a “pay what you can rack” came to him on Tuesday morning as the sale was wrapping up.

“I was watching TV and having a coffee. We had just finished a big sale and had some stock that had been stale and just sitting on the shelf,” Horne explained. “I figured that instead of having these shoes sit, let’s give them a purpose.”

Customers who find a pair of shoes in their size on the rack can pay whatever they feel comfortable with and leave the money in a provided deposit box at Colburn Shoe Store in Belfast, Maine. (Photo credit: Colburn Shoe Store)

Horne set up the rack, and posted about it on the store’s Facebook page.

“We understand tough times hit everyone. Today we are introducing the PAY WHAT YOU CAN RACK,” the post reads. “I will do my best to keep it stocked with stuff for men women and kids. Leave nothing or leave $100 bucks, it’s up to you. Hopefully this helps some folks out.”

Those who find a pair of shoes in their size can discreetly leave cash in a provided deposit box. Customers are simply asked to let an employee know they are taking a pair of shoes from the rack on their way out.

Horne said his goal is to always have something available on the rack.

“It may not be much but it will be something,” he said. “I always have loose or leftover stock. It might as well get put to good use.” 

Since setting up the rack, located in the basement of the store, Horne said the support from the community “has been outstanding.”

“It’s been a real humbling and heartwarming 24 hours,” he added.

This story was reported from Cincinnati.