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When the shoe fits, wear it

Jessica McMillan is the fourth generation of family to operate Kennell's Shoes in Kamloops, taking over the 75-year-old shoe store from her father

Kennell's Shoes celebrated 75 years of business this month. The venerable Victoria Street store with the classic neon sign on the storefront has now seen four generations of Kennell family at the helm.

Originally located at 223 Victoria St., the store was founded in 1948 by Robert Kennell.

That same year, Memorial Arena opened just a few blocks down Victoria Street.

It was the era where you could grab a quick shoe shine on a downtown city sidewalk — a tradition long since gone.

Ten years later, the store moved location to 249 Victoria St., and later, saw Robert Kennell's son Bob take over the shop with his wife Rita Cordonier in 1976.

In 1982, their daughter Beverly and son Steven began working in the store, eventually taking over full responsibilities of running the store in 2000 and marking the third generation to do so.

Fast forward 23 years, the newest family member is now carrying on the family tradition, daughter McMillan.

While shoe styles have changed over the years, some things have remained the same.

Hardwood floors, brick walls and the scent of fine leather greet you upon arrival, McMillan said.

The level of customer service that people have come to know also continues.

"I'm excited to carry on our family store's long-standing tradition," McMillan said.

Her impact is already evident, as the store recently launched their website, which features a variety of footwear for men and women, children's shoes and casual to high end dress and work shoes.

McMillan said she is hoping to bring their traditional touch to modern retail.

She said they are able to hand pick everything they bring in to the store.

"We do like to have our core products and the styles within them, year after year, because those are our top selling things," McMillan said.

McMillan said the store has recently seen more younger families coming in to buy baby and children's shoes.

"One family that's come in, I started waiting on the them when they had just started dating," McMillan said.

"Then she came in looking for wedding shoes and the next thing you know, she comes in and she's pregnant. Then she comes in again, she has her baby and her husband's coming in looking for her new Birkenstocks.

"I realized I've been seeing them over the course of nine years, as their life has progressively changed and they're still coming in."

Having worked in the store over the past nine years, McMillan said the timing was right for her father to retire.

"I always told my dad I was interested," McMillan said.

McMillan said her dad is still coming in once a week to do the bookkeeping, keeping him a part of their storied family business.