Monday, December 13, 2010
Mahlon Haines Shoe House York, Pennsylvania
When driving along the Lincoln Highway near the Hellam exit outside of York, Pennsylvania, you'll pass a home sure to attract your attention. There is no little old woman with too many kids living here, but the kids are sure to love it. The fact it acts as an ice cream shop doesn't hurt either.
The Shoe House was built in 1949 for a gentleman named Mahlon Haines. Haines was quite a savvy businessman and a self-starter. In 1905, upon splitting up with his fiance, Haines traveled from Ohio to York, Pennsylvania... on his bicycle, where he than pawned the engagement ring. He used the money to buy shoes. He sold those immediately and bought as many more pairs as he could with his profits. Soon he was able to open a store in downtown York.
Haines was very creative and was known to use various antics and marketing gimmicks to attract business to his shoe store, including paying people on the street if they knew who he was. One day he had an ingenious idea to build a shoe house. He would use the home to help further promote his shoe business. In the beginning the home's intention was to be used by young newlywed couples. The recently married couples could stay there free of charge, and would have servants to help them during their stay. I'm guessing this was his way of acquiring a customer for life. After all, if someone paid for my honeymoon, I'd be likely to buy shoes from him - for myself and my family - for the rest of my life.
On Outta the Way's visit, we toured the Shoe House, and, for a small fee you can as well. The Shoe House is much bigger on the inside than the outside lets on. The owners of the Shoe House are very friendly and outgoing. They have shoe memorabilia that they have collected, or have had donated to them throughout the rooms of the house. Some of these items are quite rare and rather valuable. Even the windows in the home have shoes painted on them.
While on the tour you'll get a visit to every room, though no photographs are allowed. In our opinion this just helps to add to the mystery and gives you more of a reason to visit.
On the way out, be sure to grab an ice cream cone and check out the shoe-shaped doghouse as well. What dog wouldn't love a giant shoe to sleep and play in!