But since 1968, Larry Karpf, the bespectacled proprietor of Austin Shoes, has been referring clients at his Forest Hills footwear store back to their podiatrists for diagnoses of foot ailments that the medical professionals sometimes missed.The 63-year-old Long Island resident says the personalized attention and professional prowess are hallmarks of the venerable women's and children's shoe store he inherited from his father 37 years ago. "I don't pretend to be a physician or a doctor of any kind - I'm a footwear specialist," said Karpf, who completed a three-week course at The Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine in Manhattan decades ago to perfect his profession. "Doctors know who I am. They send their patients to me." And sometimes, Karpf said, he sends patients to them.That kind of service and the store's on-going commitment to community projects, representing more than $1 million in donations to local groups over the last six decades, are part of the reason Karpf said customers keep coming back to his tiny shop at 71-24 Austin St., despite rising competition from big-name chain retailers along the stretch once known as the "Fifth Avenue of Queens.""We serve the community," he said of the dwindling population of mom-and-pop shops that line Forest Hills' premiere commercial strip. "The big chains wouldn't do that for you. They don't give you the time of day."Karpf said Austin Shoes, which is just six months older than he is, has occupied the same spot for decades, offering normal and specially adapted footwear to generations of discerning women and children. Karpf, his dedicated staff of two - Yuda Davydov, 22, and Charlotte Hoyt, 77 - and some part-time helpers who come in on weekends, turn out arch supports, insoles and other accoutrements for clients of all shapes and sizes.At any given time, there are more than 3,000 different pairs of shoes in stock, and Karpf knows where each and every one of them is stored. When he can, he buys American, although he said more and more shoes must come from Asia, Europe and South America to keep pace with the competitio
©2005 Community News Group
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