Heart and sole: Lucy Hodson celebrates 60 years of Green’s Footwear
For six decades, Cronulla has relied on Green’s Footwear to shoe the community. But the family-run shoe store almost didn’t make it past its 50th anniversary. Second-generation owner Robert Green was all set to retire and close the business when his daughter Lucy Hodson stepped in.
“I have grown up in and around the store. In primary school I'd work the Spring Fair weekend in the stall with my sisters – we would be paid in a sausage sizzle from the butcher and a spotty dog ice cream from the New Zealand [Natural] ice cream shop,” Hodson recalls. “If you'd asked me if I'd end up running the store, I would have told you ‘absolutely not!’ I left school and worked in marketing and loved it. When I became pregnant with my son, my dad was about to retire and close the business. The timing seemed right; I’d be working close to home and be able to continue my family’s business.”
Almost 10 years later, Hodson has taken the reins from her semi-retired dad, who can’t quite seem to leave. “The plan was to retire five years ago but he loves being in-store,” she says. “I've really enjoyed working with my dad, it's really special to have a great father-daughter relationship as well as a working relationship. Working with family in a family business is special.”
It was Hodson’s paternal grandparents Louise and Alan Green who started the business at 88 Cronulla Street, and then 13 years later moved the growing business to its current premises at number 45. The building already had a history in footwear spanning back to the 1920s with Baird Shoes – owned by the grandparents of former NSW Premier Mike Baird – and Fay’s Shoes as previous tenants. Its legacy is something special for Hodson.
“We have so much history being in business for 60 years,” she notes, “for instance, the shelving in the storeroom is built by my great-great-grandfather, grandfather and dad; we have a family height chart on the wall down the back that has all my family’s measurements on it; and Grandie [Alan] used to come and deliver coffees to the staff every afternoon until his late eighties.”
She mentions that many staff members have clocked on for more than two decades for Green’s throughout its operation. “Our staff are like our family too,” says Hodson.
In 60 years, the footwear business has certainly evolved from a time when there were no shoes on display in-store – customers would indicate what colour shoe they were looking for and the occasion – to the current day where the Green’s website sells shoes 24/7, nationally and even internationally.
And while there have been some tough periods – the global financial crisis earlier this century, and the Covid pandemic – there have also been plenty of memorable moments. “Puberty Blues being filmed, the adjustment from Cronulla Street to Cronulla Mall,” says Hodson. And distinctive footwear trends too: wooden wedges of the ‘70s, pixie boots, skate shoes and “those over-the-knee long boots from the movie Pretty Woman”.
At the time of writing. Hodson is overseeing the finishing touches to the store’s renovation, “a Green’s 2.0,” she calls it. “We will have a fresh, new, warm and inviting store with the same great staff who give great service and offer comfortable and stylish shoes.”
Although the offering will change with the addition of new clothing and accessories lines, the good old-fashioned community feel won’t. It’s this local support that has contributed to the business’s success, she says. “I love hearing stories from customers who have been served by Nan and Grandie [Louise and Alan] as children and now bring their grandchildren in to be served by Rob and I. Generations serving generations of Cronulla locals – it’s pretty special.”
Lucy Hodson from Green’s Footwear lives locally with her family: her husband, two kids and dog Winnie. “On the weekends we love being outdoors – playing sports, walking our dog or having a family picnic at Lilli Pilli Point.”
Green’s Footwear (www.greensfootwear.com.au), at 45 Cronulla Street, celebrates 60 years in October 2023.