Bud Ungar, founder of Mar-Lou Shoes in Lyndhurst, Ohio, died on Jan. 29 after a brief illness. He was 81.
Mar-Lou Shoes has been catering to size-and-width customers in the greater Cleveland area since 1958. Ungar, who launched his footwear career at St. Louis-based Wohl Shoe Co., opened the store — named for his wife, Marcia Lou — after the family made a move to the area. Ungar decided to focus on unusual sizes to help Marcia find shoes to fit her size 10 1/2 narrow feet.
“Bud learned the business from the ground up,” Marcia Ungar said about her husband’s retail expertise. “I was always in the wings watching the store grow.”
By 1994, the company had evolved into a four-unit chain. The stores were eventually folded into one mega location in Lyndhurst, where it continues to serve generations of customers.
Ungar was joined at Mar-Lou in 1999 by his son Daniel, who now serves as president. According to Daniel, the two turned the business into one of the largest independent shoe stores in the state while continuing to serve the size-and-width customer. “My dad would never mince words about a line,” the executive said about his father’s no-nonsense approach when dealing with vendors, earning him their respect.
Mark Lemp Jr., president of Mark Lemp Footwear, agreed. “Bud was a straight shooter,” he said, noting that Mar-Lou Shoes placed an early order with the brand when it launched in 1992. “Bud did what he said.”
In addition to his career in the shoe business, Ungar was active in civic affairs, serving as a councilman in the city of South Euclid. He also volunteered as a reading tutor.
He is survived by his wife, Marcia; children Daniel and Michael Ungar, and Edie Ungar-Shafron; and seven grandchildren.
Contributions in Ungar’s honor can be made to the Abe and Bertha Kipperman Aquatic Fund, c/o Menorah Park, 27100 Cedar Rd., Beachwood, OH, 44122.