A rebirth is in the works for Ralph's Shoe Service.

Third-generation owner Bill Roase said Friday he's got a handshake deal for space near W. 66th St. and Penn Av. S. in Richfield, where he hopes to be working on shoes, belts, handbags and other leather goods by early March.

"I'm so relieved," said Roase, who also celebrated his 53rd birthday Friday. "They're all small businesses. I've never felt so welcomed."

A lease dispute over a food court expansion at Southdale Center led Roase to close the business his father opened at the mall in 1956. He'll turn out the lights at 5 p.m. on Saturday, even though more than 50 items have yet to be claimed. (The items will go to Kenny's Shoe and Leather Repair in Bloomington.)

The new site is a freestanding building owned by Southtown Plumbing, said Roase.

Industrial sewing machines, grinders and finishers that came from Rouse's grandfather's original shop at 50th and Xerxes Av. S. in Minneapolis will be moved free of charge, after the owner of Ruth Piano Movers in Crystal heard about the struggles of another family business.

Ralph's Shoe Service needed to be relocated to make way for a bigger and more modern food court on the second floor of Southdale Center, between Macy's and J.C. Penney.

Roase, who is still paying off a $65,000 loan for moving within the mall about seven years ago, said he simply couldn't afford to move two more times.

Southdale said it has a history of working with tenants but wouldn't comment on specific cases.

A Facebook page, "Save Ralph's Shoe Service," has generated more than 1,500 followers after television and newspaper stories this month.

Jackie Crosby • 612-673-7335