Ever since he was a little boy, Rob Kaufman has been surrounded by shoes. With a large family that moved to the San Antonio area in the late 1800s, Kaufman was basically born into the industry. In 1892, his family first established the Kaufman family business in San Antonio. Selling everything from dry goods to shoes and attire, Kaufman’s became a household name. The store even supplied uniforms to the Pearl and Lone Star Breweries. In addition to Kaufman’s, his parents opened the first Red Wing Shoe Store in San Antonio in the 1960s.
For as long as he can recall, Kaufman has also been involved in sports. Whether it was intramural leagues, softball, golf or basketball, he has always had a knack for physical activity. After receiving his accounting degree from the University of Oklahoma, Kaufman joined the family business. In the 1980s—after 13 years in the business—he sold Kaufman’s, moved into commercial real estate and then transitioned in the late ‘80s into financial planning. In 1995, Kaufman joined the family’s Red Wing Shoe Store.
Throughout his time at Red Wing Shoe Store, he always gravitated toward the idea of fitting people for the right shoes—not just selling them—and when he heard about New Balance, he immediately realized the brand’s strength and knew it was the perfect match. There was a similarity between New Balance and Red Wing in that both brands offered a broad range of size and width options, an aspect that greatly appealed to Kaufman. So in 2002, he made his New Balance dream a reality.
Now a proud business owner of New Balance San Antonio, Kaufman has made it his personal goal to make every member of the community healthier, from the feet up. His motto “When your feet feel good, your whole body feels good” fully embodies the New Balance San Antonio brand.
Introducing New Balance San Antonio
In April 2002, Kaufman opened the first New Balance San Antonio store located at I-10 at Huebner. Now, approaching its 20-year anniversary, this store remains one of the most successful New Balance stores in the country. A few years later in late 2005, Kaufman unveiled the second New Balance San Antonio store in the Forum Shopping Center at I-35 and Loop 1604. And most recently, he expanded to the Quarry Village in February 2010.
An important distinction is that Rob Kaufman is the sole licensee for New Balance in the San Antonio area. While a franchisee pays royalties equal to a percentage of sales to the franchisor as well as an upfront fee payable to the franchisor, a licensee does not pay any royalties. A licensee may pay an upfront fee and is typically bound to buy product from the brand. This description does not apply to an arrangement whereby the brand enters into a contract with the licensee.
When asked why he chose to build three stores in a span of eight years, Kaufman replied, “I liked the idea of building something significant. I’m a dreamer and I always wanted to dream big.”
Throughout his time as a business owner, Kaufman has learned three very important lessons—to be ethical, tenacious and to pay close attention to detail. Kaufman places strong priority on being ethical with both internal and external customers. To him, treating people fairly and with respect, and developing the art of service recovery (the ability to immediately make something right for a customer, including going the extra mile) are essentials to being a successful business owner.
Tenacity is also a lesson that Kaufman learned firsthand. On a day-to-day basis, he is uncompromising when it comes to core standards. Whether Kaufman is dealing with the execution of sales processes or associate coaching and professional development, his focus is firm. And in the midst of making his big dream a reality, Kaufman has always paid special attention to the finer details. Raised in a culture of being cognizant to detail, Kaufman makes this a critical component of the business model at New Balance San Antonio.
“It’s important to notice everything at every touch point that you have with a customer,” he said. “From the way the store looks to making sure there are no fingerprints on the glass to the way we answer the phones, it’s all about differentiating ourselves in the marketplace.”
Defining the Role
While Kaufman is involved in ongoing business and hiring processes at each of his three San Antonio locations, he has transitioned from a store manager and sales associate to a true brand ambassador for New Balance San Antonio. He has built a dream team of 20 associates, all of whom have a vested interest in fitness, are high energy and personable, and understand the anatomy of the foot and footwear.
“I want people to leave our store and say that this is the best retail experience they’ve ever had,” Kaufman said. “I’m competing for that space in the consumer’s mind.”
These days, much of his time is spent on strategic planning, marketing and product purchasing. Yet Kaufman tries to reinvent himself and the New Balance San Antonio business every single day, seeking new strategies, participating in various community events and programs, partnering with local organizations (including Girls on the Run), and speaking to businesses and groups on the importance of foot health and fitness.
“It’s a challenge to reinvent yourself in this dynamic business environment,” he explained. “And that’s why I enjoy it so much. Dreaming and coming up with new ideas is what keeps me going.”
The San Antonio Spirit
To Kaufman, San Antonio is much more than just the city in which he lives and works; it’s a wonderful place filled with great culture, history and uniqueness. And the New Balance San Antonio brand that he has established embodies all of these qualities. With a fervent focus on the physical well being of the city, Kaufman sees San Antonio embracing a more fit and health-conscious lifestyle—a concept that he supports in his personal life as well.
And even with his passionate business values and strong work ethic, Kaufman believes in work-life balance. Even after working a full day, Kaufman ensures that he has plenty of time to spend working out, traveling with family and catching up with good friends over a great round of golf.
“New Balance San Antonio has given me the opportunity to live my dream,” Kaufman said. “It has provided me a path that I enjoy, suits my abilities and gives me a platform from which to help others and my community. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Owner Rob Kaufman is a frequent speaker to a variety San Antonio groups, including Rotary Clubs and senior retirement centers. His “Fitness and Footwear” presentation puts the New Balance commitment to foot health front and center. In addition, Kaufman is available for lunch-and-learn events and exhibits at 12 community health fairs per year, including Valero, Security Service Federal Credit Union, Raba Kistner Engineering Consultants, Health by Design and CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System.
To schedule Kaufman to speak to your group or audience, please call 210-493-2334.