A family business spans three generations offering fashion-forward trends at Yarid’s.
It’s the quintessential American story—an immigrant comes to America searching for prosperity and, with a little luck, starts a business that can provide for his family for many years to come. It’s also the story of Yarid’s, a store that was first established in Lewisburg in 1918. Samuel Yarid was an immigrant from Lebanon when he moved to the Greenbrier Valley with his wife, Dora, in the early 1900s. The clothing store they founded would go on to become a popular department store, expanded by Samuel’s sons Eddie and Manir in the 1960s. Now Yarid’s is a highly successful retailer of women’s shoes, handbags, makeup, and accessories, run by Eddie’s daughters, Katherine and Emilie.
“Well, it wasn’t what any of us wanted to do—I will tell you that—growing up in a retail family,” Katherine says of joining the family business. “For me, going back to the big store with Dad and Uncle Manir, that was really difficult because they had their customers established, and it was an older business. So someone younger coming in—it wasn’t as welcoming as you would have hoped it would have been at 25 years old,” she says. Luckily, things got better. Emilie soon took over the management of a Yarid’s in Charleston that sold shoes exclusively. Then another store opened at The Greenbrier, which Katherine took on as manager. Eventually their father and grandfather retired, and Katherine and Emilie felt it was time for a change. “We said it was an opportunity for us to be our own bosses and do our own thing—to have our own concept of what we wanted Yarid’s to be,” Katherine says. The sisters transitioned the business to shoe retail, building off the success of the stores in Charleston and at The Greenbrier. The big department store closed, and Yarid’s was absent from downtown Lewisburg for around six years before reopening in a new location on Washington Street, one with the distinct air of a quaint boutique. “Honestly, it was the best move we could have made, because it’s been a really good ride,” Katherine says. “I think the community has appreciated the uniqueness of the business.”
The current Yarid’s in Lewisburg is a mecca for shoe shoppers. “We have about 5,000 pairs of shoes in stock,” Store Manager Nina Blankenship says. Stacks of boxes line the brightly colored walls, and it seems impossible for so many shoes to fit in the cozy quarters of the store. A large table is piled high with shoes on sale. “One thing our customers love is the selection,” Katherine says. The Lewisburg store also carries Brighton handbags and accessories. Customers love the personal attention given by the staff, not to mention their fashion-forward approach. Katherine and Emilie go to market four to six times a year to make purchases, bringing big-city fashion back to Yarid’s. Katherine says their New York trips are always the most productive—they pick up more information on trends and get a good vibe from the city. “It’s more of an educational experience as opposed to just a market,” she says. Those experiences result in bringing back a healthy dose of funky designer brands like Frye and UGG, mixed in with the store’s more classic styles. “There’s a lot—for every different style of person,” Nina says.
Yarid’s has expanded beyond its West Virginia roots with stores in Roanoke, Virginia, and Colorado Springs, Colorado. The sisters even have plans to open a sixth Yarid’s within the next few years. With an ever-growing empire of shoes, you might expect Emilie and Katherine to have quite the shoe addiction, but Katherine says they look at the company like any other business. “We love shoes,” Katherine says, “but we’re not as passionate about them as our customers are.” Emilie has become the point person for vendors—“She’s the paper-pusher,” says Katherine—while Katherine moves between the Lewisburg, Greenbrier, and Roanoke stores, overseeing merchandising. Other family members keep close ties to the business, and Katherine and Emilie’s parents come into the Lewisburg store frequently—their father stops by every day, Nina says.
As for the rest of the family, only time will tell. “We’re hoping one of our kids will jump on the bandwagon,” Katherine says. “I have a daughter who’s interested, but she wants to do her own thing first, so we’ll see.” Another option the sisters have considered is selling the store to its employees. Nina, who has been with Yarid’s since the current Lewisburg store opened 11 years ago, says some employees have been with the company as long as 30 years. “It’s a family of its own,” she says. No matter what happens when the time comes to pass the torch, the history and values of the store as a family-owned business will remain. “I think the story of the business is the best story,” Nina says. “That’s the thing we brag about a lot with customers—where we came from.”
Yarid’s, 202 West Washington Street, Lewisburg, WV 24901 304.647.5000, yarids.com
written and photographed by ELIZABETH ROTH