Gordo, canine mascot, fetches curious customers for shoe store

August 23, 2011

By Emily Baer

FootZone’s top sales associate is a 60-pound, 11-inch-tall and 11-inch-wide bulldog named Gordo.

Though he can’t find the perfect pair of running shoes or select the right Issaquah or Skyline high school threads like his fellow associates, he can (and does) bait customers into the store and charm them all the way to the cash register.

Kyle Cross, owner of the Issaquah FootZone, holds the store’s mascot, Gordo, an English bulldog. By Emily Baer

Kyle Cross, owner of FootZone since 1999 — and of 4-year-old Gordo — bought a bulldog puppy simply because he always wanted one. Little did he know that so does half of Issaquah.

“The breed is known for being incredibly friendly,” he said. “He’s got a lot of personality — people call all the time asking if he’s here.”

Cross, who is now known in his store as “Gordo’s dad,” said his pup is an excellent conversation piece. FootZone customers can’t help but give the sturdy bulldog a pat on the head and say something like, “Oh, he’s so cute. You have a nice underbite, don’t you?” as a woman in the store did a few weeks ago. By 3 p.m. on a recent Tuesday, he had already been the subject of three photos that day. And that’s typical, Cross said.

How does Gordo work his charisma, you ask? For starters, he’s naturally very social. As soon as he hears the door beep, he lumbers up to the entering customer for a good pat on the back. He may watch as the customer then gets fitted with shoes, or he may go lie down, albeit with one eye open to make sure he does not miss another incoming customer.

As the shopper makes his or her way over to the cash register, Gordo slowly trots to the blue mat in front of the counter and nuzzles up to the customer’s leg. His purpose is not to help seal a sale though. It is far more critical. His highly important intention is to receive an affectionate scratch behind the ear.

Hearing the command “Stick ‘em up” (if you’re armed with a treat) he sits up on his hind legs and holds his paws out in front of him.

Gordo occasionally needs an outdoor break from his four-day-a-week job that requires him to look cute enough to pet. But while he is FootZone’s unofficial mascot, he is not a great running companion for the likes of the store’s exercise-oriented customer base.

At home, Cross takes Gordo on walks around the block. He brings a wagon with which to pull the sturdily built bulldog when he gets tired and simply cannot go on.

At the store, Gordo takes potty breaks in a green patch 100 yards away.

“He can get there fine, but it’s a long journey back,” Cross said.

Gordo can be tough competition among FootZone employees because he has the ability to sell in his sleep. He enjoys taking a snooze in the display window area.

“Sometimes people think he’s fake,” salesperson Bret Barkley said. “People come by and ask whether he’s real.”

“He helps pay for his food,” Cross added, laughing.

However, at the Redmond FootZone store, Gordo has incurred some debt. Cross noticed one day that Gordo had gone missing. Minutes later, he received a call from the owner of a dog and cat store two doors down. When Cross arrived at the pet store, he found one full puppy. Gordo had scarfed down the doggy treat samples.

Surprisingly, Gordo has no desire to chew on FootZone tennis shoes, thereby defying the dreaded doggy stereotype. He gnaws on the corner of a small plastic box once in a while and occasionally plays with socks that hang on a wall at his eye level. Barkley said neither of those habits has been cause for worry.

But, as astonishing as it is, the stocky bulldog does indeed have a downfall.

“Gordo has a hat fetish,” Cross said. “We had to buy a couple new Issaquah and Skyline hats to replace the ones he chewed up.”

Once he gets hold of a hat, perhaps only the Jaws of Life can tear it away from him. But first you have to catch him.

Perhaps more than hats, though, Gordo loves children. He plays with Cross’ 1- and 3-year-olds at home and at the store, he happily lets children ride on his back.

“He’d rather play with a kid than another dog,” Cross said.

Emily Baer: 392-6434 or isspress@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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