In 1914, Charlie Lamey, a shoe buyer, and Dan Wellehan, a window trimmer, left their respective jobs at Peck’s department store in Lewiston, Maine to open up their own shoe store. At the grand opening on St. Patrick’s Day on March 17, 1914, friends and guests were given shamrocks as they congratulated the two young men on their new venture, Lamey Wellehan Shoes. Inside the store, Charlie and Dan placed a sign that made clear their customer-focused philosophy:
“Welcome to Lamey-Wellehan, Maine’s most modern family shoe store. Charles A. Lamey and Daniel J. Wellehan, the boys from home, invite you to view their stylish collection of footwear. They employ the most modern fitting techniques to ensure your comfort from the daintiest to the most virile foot. It will be the pleasure of the boys from home to serve you for years to come in their store…where you are always a guest before you are a customer.”
From day one of business to today, many traditions have been passed down–but none have been more important than that of unparalleled customer service. Charlie and Dan long held the belief that inside their store you are always a guest before you are a customer. More than a century later, this ideology remains at the foundation of Lamey Wellehan’s powerful mission of service.
Dan Wellehan had two sons, Dan Jr. and Jim, who both went on to become part of the family legacy. In 1946, Dan Jr. turned to the manufacturing end of the family business, which was created after WWII when there was a shortage of hand-sewn footwear in America. This brand was named Sebago and helped Lamey Wellehan weather the supply challenges that many retailers were facing at the time. The brand grew to be an industry leader, offering a vast array of styles, sizes, and widths. Jim, the younger son, involved himself in the retail stores after spending time in the army, teaching in South Africa, and graduating college with his MBA. Under Jim’s leadership, the company continued to grow its retail footprint. Business continued to be strong for both of the Wellehan operations. Sebago was rapidly growing to become an international name in the boat shoe market, and Lamey Wellehan continued to expand, leasing the shoe department by request of Mr. Stern at Stern’s Department Store in Waterville, Maine in 1974.
The end of an era came in June of 1976 with the death of Dan Wellehan, Sr. The next generation of Lamey Wellehan fell on the shoulders of Jim, who picked up where his father left off. A few months after his father’s death, the company expanded into the growing retail markets of South Portland and Brunswick. In 1978, the Lawrence, Massachusetts store closed, but Jim rebounded a year later by opening a store in the Auburn Mall. In the 1990s an emphasis was placed on staff education, including offering associates the opportunity to become board-certified pedorthists, taking customer service to the next level.
Into the new millennium, a new location was opened in Bangor, Maine in 2002, followed by a relocation of the Auburn store in 2005 into a larger building, built with environmentally friendly features like enhanced insulation, carpeting made of recycled plastics, and a rooftop solar array. A few years later, the Augusta location was relocated into a larger building, and in 2009 a new store was opened in Scarborough, replacing the Maine Mall store. In designing and building this store, great effort was made to increase energy efficiency and reduce the carbon footprint.
In 2011 Lamey Wellehan was honored to be named Retailer of the Year by B.S.T.A., the New England trade group of footwear suppliers.
The company is proud of its commitment to the communities it serves. For decades, Lamey Wellehan has collected donated shoes to help local Mainers in need. To date, tens of thousands of shoes have been distributed. In addition, the company offers a scholarship program to help Maine students attend college. The program tripled in size in 2015 when the company eliminated all shopping bags from its stores and diverted the savings into the scholarship fund. Working to help protect the environment, Lamey Wellehan set a goal to reduce its carbon emissions by 50%, a goal that was proudly achieved in 2020. Work continues to reduce emissions even further.
While the company has changed over the decades and will continue to evolve with the times, the motto from its founders from that store sign on day one remains the same: Lamey Wellehan, where you are always a guest before you are a customer.