Deer Friends Talk Industry Outreach

Michael and Rick Muskat, are familiar faces when it comes to industry causes. It’s a legacy the brothers have passed on to their children, now involved in the 50-year-old family business.

EVP Rick Muskat leads the way as an active member of associations such as Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, Two Ten Footwear Foundation and Fashion Footwear Association of New York. And the company has been a prominent sponsor of FDRA, Two Ten and FFANY.

Danny Muskat, national sales manager at Deer Stags, is following in his father’s footsteps. He serves as the youngest-ever Two Ten board member and was instrumental in launching Young Professionals for Two Ten (YP210), created to build awareness about the industry among 20- to 40-year-olds.

“All these organizations have a lot of synergies,” said Rick Muskat. “There’s an understanding that by being active and working together, even with competitors, the industry will be well-served.”

Muskat first joined FDRA as chairman of the membership committee. Since then, he’s served as treasurer and vice chairman, and is readying to take over in June 2015 as chairman.

For FFANY, he serves as a board member — and one of its standout exhibitors. Ron Fromm, FFANY president and CEO, said, “We’re thankful for [the Muskats’] support because they’re one of the companies that has [its own] showroom, [yet] has used the FFANY exhibition space on multiple occasions to reach a new customer base.”

Muskat is also active in NSRA and USRA, which provide benefits such as insurance and networking opportunities to its member independent shoe retailers.

Due to his involvement in multiple groups, Muskat advises on areas where organizations have similar goals and can collaborate. He also encourages more independent retailers to participate in FDRA and FFANY.

At Two Ten, Rick Muskat has worked to fundraise for the Footwear Warriors Fund that benefits army veterans formerly in the footwear industry. Son Danny has also made a significant contribution to the organization.

Danny and fellow third-generation Muskats were inspired to create YP210 when they realized that, even having grown up in the footwear industry, they did not know much about Two Ten. They pitched the idea for the initiative, emphasizing increased engagement among younger constituents, greater West Coast representation and, above all, ensuring that industry players know about the resources Two Ten has to offer.

“The idea of community groups is very important,” said Danny Muskat. “The ability to interact with peers in the industry, to share ideas and for mentorship might not be available otherwise.”

That positive effect was felt right at home. Rick Muskat said three employees approached him within six months of YP210’s creation, noting the group had led them to discover resources that changed their lives. One was a victim of domestic violence, one a single mother whose son was graduating high school, and another was suffering from substance abuse. All were able to use Two Ten to get the counseling and financial help they needed.

Association leaders praised the Muskats for their hard work and contributions to footwear-related causes.

“[The Muskats] see the industry as a community of like-minded people who care about service to their customers and also want to make a difference in the world,” Two Ten President Neal Newman said. “[They embody] the sort of philosophy that’s so deeply part of the footwear DNA: that shoe people care about each other.”

Matt Priest, president of the FDRA, who called Rick Muskat a “dear friend,” added, “As a family-owned business, Deer Stags has a multigenerational commitment to the things we work on as an industry association. It’s refreshing to see this approach both on the business and the nonprofit industry initiatives side.”

The Muskats’ need to get involved has trickled down to its workers. More than half the staff participates in the employee giving program, whereby the company matches contributions each makes to a cause of his or her choice. Staffers also participate in charities such as Two Ten’s Footwear Cares.

“Our employees love the feeling of working together to give back,” Danny Muskat said. “Happy employees who are included tend to be the best employees.”

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