AUBURN — For its first 100 years, Lamey-Wellehan was run by a Wellehan, first Dan, then Jim, a rare, long father-son streak.

As the high-end shoe store celebrates its century anniversary next week, President Jim Wellehan, 75, a frequently-lauded businessman, witty and fiercely environmental — he walks through the office shutting out lights, showing off recycling bins — said he’s nearly ready to let employees take over.

As Wellehan transitions into retirement, he’ll pursue an employee stock option plan and slowly have workers buy the company.

“I think we’re starting the end of the P.J. period now — Post Jim,” he said.

His father, a young Dan Wellehan, left school in the ninth grade to work at the Dingley-Foss Shoe Company in Auburn, his first introduction to the industry.

On March 17, 1914, by then a window dresser at Peck’s department store, he partnered with Charlie Lamey, a buyer in the shoe department there, to open Lamey-Wellehan on Lisbon Street in Lewiston. A photo from opening day shows serious young men in white shirts and ties leaning against walls lined with stock.

“Right after he opened the store, World War I broke out,” Jim Wellehan said. “Charlie was here, Dad was in the Navy.”

Lamey, who later married Wellehan’s sister, died young, leaving Wellehan to head the business. Wellehan married his future wife, a pianist, at age 44.

“Dad heard her and looked at her, ‘She’s kind of cute,'” Jim Wellehan said. “My mom thought he was kind of stuck up and she stood him up the first date.”

But there was a second date, and when his dad was 50, their second son, Jim, was born.

Jim Wellehan started working in a shoe store stock room in high school.

“I’d like to tell you I was really good but I think they put up with me,” he said.

He started on his own path to take over from his father about 50 years ago after ditching plans to be a college professor.

It used to be that just by looking at a shoe you knew where it was made, Wellehan said, but no more. “We’ve become much more one world.”

He’s watched styles come and go, feet get a little larger.

Over 100 years, Lamey-Wellehan has grown from a single location to six stores with 100 associates, half working full-time, and to two store brands sold wholesale to other retailers, Ice Boaters and Foresiders.

Wellehan is open to growing larger still: “We’d love to find a spot in the Marginal Way area in Portland. We look at lots of places.”

Starting this weekend, the company is going bag-free, part of Wellehan’s environmental commitment. Lamey-Wellehan has spent years reducing its carbon footprint, increasing its use of solar energy and recycling up to 96 percent of the solid waste that comes through the door.

Bothered by all the plastic debris in the world’s oceans, he’d like to see stronger emphasis on recycling and stronger fines for littering.

“I’ve got answers for everything, me and Putin,” Wellehan quipped.

His father never formally retired, staying active with the company until his death in 1976 at age 87. Wellehan doesn’t have a date in mind for his own retirement but does have certainty he’s leaving everything in good hands. It’s a great team with a great variety of skills, he said.

“I’ve had a nice life,” Wellehan said. “I want good things for the people who come along — isn’t that what we should want?”

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