Over the past 24 years, Maurice Breton has steadily built a small empire of 22 Comfort One shoe stores — a rare feat for an independently owned retailer, especially in today’s climate. With a constantly evolving product mix, careful attention to detail and top-notch service, Breton has kept customers flocking through his doors.
Here, his colleagues and brand partners reveal the savvy business instincts that have made him the king of comfort retail.
“Maurice has always been a very strong advocate for brands and was among the first to do concept shops with brands, Ecco being one of them. If he believes in a brand, he offers a wide representation of it and stands behind it. He wants to show the consumer the breadth of a brand and what it stands for.”
—Dave Quel, president, Ecco USA
“Maurice Breton’s energy and passion have made him one of the leading footwear retailers in the U.S. and a visionary when it comes to the future of retailing and product selection. He recognizes trends before most, he travels the world to find products that his loyal customers will appreciate, and he continually adapts his vision to his company’s strategic initiatives. Under Maurice’s leadership, Comfort One has developed one of the most sophisticated sales-training programs in the footwear industry, and his associates fully understand the importance of customer satisfaction.”
—Chuck Schuyler, president, National Shoe Retailers Association
“The very first show we attended as a brand was The Atlanta Shoe Market, and we were hidden away in a back corner where most folks didn’t dare venture. But Maurice was savvy enough to find us and see something in the few sandals we were doing, years before most retailers had even heard of us. He has such a great eye for product. Rather than bringing in the same old brands and styles year after year, he is always looking for what’s next or what’s fresh. That’s refreshing in the comfort space and no doubt a reason why Comfort One is successful in a very competitive retail environment.”
—Steve Mabb, EVP, Vionic Group
“Maurice’s stores are different because he searches for lines and items that nobody else has. His stores are comfort-driven but with attitude. His customers come in and expect to be surprised, and they are never disappointed. I always look forward to working with Maurice because it gives me an opportunity to learn about hidden nuggets in the comfort category. He has a knack for finding the next best thing, and those little discoveries can turn into major trends.”
—Bob Infantino, CEO, Rockport Group
“I met Maurice 25 years ago when BeautiFeel made its first steps into the U.S. market. Comfort One became one of our first retail customers. Through these many years, Maurice and I have grown our businesses together, while still finding time for dinners during the shows (with wine and lobster). As a retailer, Maurice has a strong presence and leadership. He is very unique in his business instincts, and that’s probably why his company has continued to thrive over the years.”
—Ami Bar Nahor, founder and CEO, BeautiFeel
“When I took over Birkenstock, Maurice was the first independent retailer I visited. I flew 3,000 miles, and we spent an entire day together. But first he dropped me off on a street corner in Alexandria, Va., and told me to walk the neighborhood and look at a few footwear stores. He wanted me to see for myself the difference between his operation and that of some competitors. His point was well made, and right on the spot, we agreed to expand our distribution and make Comfort One Birkenstock’s premier retail partner across the region. … I’m not sure Maurice and the word ‘cool’ have ever been used in the same sentence, but he has indeed made comfort cool.”
—David Kahan, CEO, Birkenstock Americas
“Maurice was all about comfort before comfort was cool — he owned it early on. He saw what comfort could become and presented it in-store as something very special. He was a pioneer in making [the category] about fashion. From his department store days, he saw that women want a blend of comfort and style. He was receptive to Euro-comfort brands and knew that he could grow his business by specializing in them. Maurice is incredibly dedicated to his staff, as highlighted by the exceptional education he provides them — not just product knowledge and sales skills but real customer service, which is priority No. 1 for Maurice. And it’s more than being kind and courteous. It starts there, but ascends to a higher, more meaningful level. He’s shown his staff that a career in footwear retail sales can be not only financially rewarding but emotionally rewarding because you’re solving a person’s needs and wants, whether it’s eliminating foot pain or making them look and feel like a million dollars.”
— Sam Spears, president, Ara North America
“When Maurice opened his first comfort store, he approached us. The first pair of shoes he sold was Naots. He was so excited and called us. In those early days, he would call five times a day for reorders. Every time he sold a pair, he’d fill in and sell another pair, which is what made him successful. As his business grew and he rolled out more stores, he showed a knack for picking great locations, making Comfort One the most important comfort retailer in the area.”
—Steve Lax, owner, Naot
“Maurice always had a vision that American consumers wanted comfort as the No. 1 feature of their footwear. Even when ‘ugly’ comfort shoes were introduced, Maurice bought them, and consumers gravitated to them because of their feel, if not their looks. Comfort One sets itself apart with top-notch service and selection. [As a businessman], Maurice is a straight shooter — there’s no beating around the bush.”
—Giovanni Roselli, president, Team Roselli Corp.