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Tubandt leaving shoe biz: 58 years was long enough for boxing hall of famer

Bob Tubandt has sold Lyle's Shoe Store in Wadena after working there for 58 years. He's owned the store 40 years and said quality staff providing quality customer service have kept people coming back all these years. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal1 / 2
Bob Tubandt (left) is pictured with the new owners of Lyle's Shoes wife and husband Lisa Baymler and Brian Koons. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal2 / 2

For 63 years, people in need of shoes have stopped at Lyle's Shoes in Wadena, and the new owners hope that tradition continues, under the same name.

Bob Tubandt handed over the business to new owners Lisa Baymler and Brian Koons Friday, Oct. 25 after owning the business 40 years. Tubandts history in the shoe business goes back 58 years, when he drove off the family farm at age 17 and started as a trainee at Lyle's Ready-to-Wear, working for Lyle Goodrich. He said milking cows by hand was not his cup of tea, he prefered not to be tied down by such a profession.

So he went to work for Goodrich who taught him about customer service over the course of 18 years. Greeting customers, fitting them for shoes, making sure they were walking on quality footwear were all part of the job and helped him earn a living at 75 cents an hour. And he continued on those basics and added in his own skills, including making people laugh.

"I like people," Tubandt said. "If they don't have a smile, give them yours."

A shoe business like Lyle's has made it so long in downtown Wadena because of the customer service and quality staff, Tubandt said. He believes no matter how bad the times are, people always want quality shoes to wear. He just had to be there to sell them some.

"A good pair of shoes and a good mattress," were the two things Tubandt said everyone needs as they spend most of their time in those.

Right now, as Tubandt walks out of the shoe business, he said what he really needs is to focus more on his physical fitness. He's no longer the 120-pound boxer he was in his youth, the boy that earned five state championships. Tubandt has kept fit over the years due to his desire to remain active and involved in boxing. The 75-year-old said he plans to get back into a gym on a regular basis. He is used to a daily regimen of pushups and situps and said when he can no longer do that, he might as well be pushing up daisies.

Tubandt was inducted into the National Golden Gloves Boxing Hall of Fame in Omaha, Neb., in May of 2018. He started boxing in 1959 and finished with 47 wins in 55 fights over seven years. He was a five-time region champion before becoming a coach.

In 1969, he took over the Wadena program and served as its head coach for 51 years, retiring in 2016.

In 1985 and 2010, Tubandt was named Upper Midwest Coach of the Year. During his career, he coached 15 boxers in national tournaments.

Those that know Tubandt know he is passionate about a good pair of shoes, but other than around the boxing ring, he's rarely seen in anything but cowboy boots, which are sold at Lyle's. He's got at least 20 pairs himself and is always trying out new ones. According to Tubandt, his wife of 40 years, Jan, said he just wears them to make him taller.

He can't remember how many pairs of shoes he's sold but he knows he's been selling to some people for over 50 years. And even though Lyle has not been working at the store for nearly 40 years, Bob still gets pegged as Lyle. Being the white-haired fellow at Lyle's, it seems to make sense.

"Thanks again, Lyle," Tubandt laughed as he recalled what many people have said over the years. He just takes it in stride knowing it's a name that's kept him working and supporting his family his entire adult life. It's a name that will continue to be a symbol of old-fashioned service in downtown Wadena.

New owners

Baymler and Koons have been living in Wadena about a month since officially taking over the business. While they were living in Baldwin, Wisc., they have family connections to Wadena and being closer to family played a part in helping them decide this would be a good move for them. Lisa's parents, Jim and Jeanette Baymler, were very involved in the community and cared about Wadena. Lisa Baymler is happy to be coming back to the store she said she visited back when she was a wrestling cheerleader looking to buy cheerleading shoes.

"We kind of fell into it," Baymler said.

Baymler has a connection to the store through her good friend Bonnie, the daughter of Sandy Baker, who has been working at Lyle's Shoes for 29 years. Oddly enough, Baymler helped set up the Lyle's Shoes Facebook page five years ago, to help bring the store into a new era of social media. Now that page is hers to maintain.

When Baymler heard that Tubandt was looking to sell, she and her husband talked it over and eventually felt it was a good move for them.

"It would be sad to see this store go away," she said. As the stars aligned, it just made sense.

The couple knew that Tubandt helped create a place where people don't just buy shoes. It's a place many come to chat—and "Oh by the way, I need to get some shoes," Baymler said.

Baymler will be at the store most of the time, while Koons works for Canadian Pacific Railroad and will help as he is able.

You'll also continue to see the store name stay the same, longtime employees Sandy and her daughter in-law Tammy will keep selling you shoes and they'll even keep using the 100-year-old cash register. It's basically Lyle's Shoes minus Bob.

Baymler said while they want to keep the store familiar, she does hope to add her own touch to the store soon.

Goodbye to Bob

If you were hoping to wish Bob well in his retirement but missed him at Lyle's Shoe Store, consider coming out to a party in his honor.

A public gathering is planned from 4-8 p.m., Nov. 14, at the Elks Lodge. This is a chance to wish him well and enjoy a snack bar while sharing a conversation.