Alec's Shoes' founder built Nashua business the old-fashioned way
NASHUA — While some city residents may not recognize the name Alexander Koutsos, it would be difficult to locate anyone in Nashua who hasn't stepped inside Koutsos' popular downtown shoe store at least once in their lifetime.
Koutsos, the patriarch of Alec's Shoes, died this past weekend at the age of 96 after an illness that began last month, according to Koutsos' son, John Koutsos.
"Honestly, he had a great life — a true immigrant American story," John Koutsos said of his father. "He had to learn the language, which he did, and then he started a business from the ground up."
The Nashua businessman, known simply as Alec, was able to build a successful family shoe store based on principles, values, honesty and customer service, according to his son.
"My father was really obsessed with customer service and delivering a valuable product. He never very much cared about money at all," said the younger Koutsos, one of Alec's three children. "He wanted to please everyone, and that was the basis of his business."Described as a compassionate and generous man, Alec launched a shoe club program during a time when many customers couldn't often afford a new pair of shoes.
"Those personal charges would sometimes run on forever, and people didn't pay. But you know, he was okay with that," said Koutsos, who lives in Nashua with his wife, Diane.
Alec was born in Greece, but immigrated to America when he was 17. He began working with his father and brother at their family shoe shop in Manchester, Charles K Shoes. After learning the ropes of the business, Alec ultimately branched off in 1938 to create his own shoe store in Nashua.
It was history in the making at that point, according to Koutsos, who credits his father's perseverance and work ethic in making Alec's Shoes a place where customers still return to time and again.
"I can remember walking over to the store after school and starting to sweep the floors and stock the shelves," said Koutsos, who eventually took over the downtown Nashua business from his father in the late 1980s.
It can be a taxing profession, admits Koutsos, explaining his father instilled in him the importance of a quality experience for each customer the first time and every visit thereafter.
In addition to Alec's passion for the retail industry, he was also talented with a camera. During his service in World War II, Alec was an aerial reconnaissance photographer who had a great love for traveling.
Koutsos has no doubt that his father's legacy will continue to live on through Alec's Shoes.
"I expect we will continue to thrive. I know the world is changing, but we are still thriving, and as long as customers still believe in the personal touch, I think we will do well," he said. "The principles that my father taught me are really tried and true, and should withstand the test of time."
Alec's Shoes will be closed Wednesday for the funeral. Visiting hours will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. today at the Anctil-Rochette and Son Funeral Home, 21 Kinsley St. The funeral service will take place at 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. Philip Greek Orthodox Church, 500 W. Hollis St.