Montreal institution Tony Shoes set to close after 83 years: ‘I will miss the customers’

A Montreal retail institution announced this weekend it will soon close its doors.

Tony Shoes has been a Westmount staple for nearly a century. But after serving thousands of customers, president Tony Fargnoli is now ready to walk away.

“My wife and I have decided that we’re going to retire,” Fargnoli told Global News.

“It’s not a sad thing. It’s actually a celebration.”

The store now has a large banner outside thanking customers for 83 years. Fargnoli has provided his trademark personalized service to countless loyal clients, celebrities like Peter Falk and Celine Dion and multiple prime ministers.

“I was very fortunate to serve Mr. Trudeau, Mr. and Mrs. Mulroney, Prime Minister Chretien, also Prime Minister Martin,” Fargnoli recounted.

“I will miss the customers. I love them. I do. I’ll miss them,” he said through tears.

The three-generation legend of Tony Shoes began on Greene in 1937 with Tony Fargnoli’s Italian immigrant grandfather Giantonio Fargnoli. Back then, the business was mainly making and repairing shoes.

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“During the 50s and 60s we did repairs for the Montreal Canadiens,” Fargnoli said. He told Global News his grandfather made shoes for famous surgeon Dr. Arthur Vineberg.

Tony’s father Eddie came next, expanding the business.

“He started bringing in footwear, rubber products, skates,” Fargnoli explained.

Finally, alongside his wife Kathy, Tony carried the torch all the way to 2020. He started working at the store on Greene when he was just 10 years old.

“If I cut myself, I’m going to bleed shoe polish. You know what I mean?” Fargnoli joked.

Kathy will miss the store, but recognizes the shutdown will be harder for her husband.

“I’ll be sad a bit more for my husband than myself, because it’s his family’s business and there were great big footsteps to follow,” she said.

While the story of Tony Shoes has reached its final chapter, it’s a decision Tony says was made even before COVID-19.

“The COVID, it had nothing to do with it. This was a plan already. The COVID only delayed it, because it probably would have happened earlier in the year,” he explained.

Tony and Kathy’s kids are not taking over, and both want to spend more time with their grand children and on the golf course.

“It’s like an athlete. At some point, you’ve got to leave the game. You know, do you want to go out on your termsm or do you want to be thrown out?” he said.

When asked the biggest lesson he learned in all his years of working at the store, Fargnoli shared one particular piece of advice.

“It definitely teaches you whatever you put into it, you’ll get out of it. So if you put your heart and soul into it, you get it back,” he said through tears.

The liquidation sale begins Thursday. Fargnoli expects the store to be open through the end of summer.

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