Steve Madden has been free again for a little over two weeks now, after serving 41 months in a minimum-security prison facility in Florida. Steve wasted little time getting back into working mode as creative and design chief at the company that bears his name, Steve Madden (NASDAQ:SHOO).

But can Steve help? The company released first-quarter earnings yesterday and the results weren't so pretty. It's not so much the creative side of the company that's in trouble: It's the wholesale business. The brands that appear to be causing the company the most problems at wholesale are l.e.i and Candies. Of course, Fools have heard about the ongoing problems in the wholesale side of the business before.

The good news is that overall sales were up almost 6%, and same-store-sales were up a solid 5.5%. Unfortunately, in an attempt to clean up the wholesale business, the company had to write off inventory, which dragged gross margins down more than 5%. The company blamed the Sarbanes-Oxley increased-cost bogeyman, as many small-caps have done.

For all these ills, though, the company doesn't look so bad. There's a pile of cash on the balance sheet, and the company has been free-cash-flow positive over the past few years. We'll have to wait a bit for the 10-Q, because the company's press release is light on balance-sheet details and contains no statement regarding free cash flow. The company has even decreased its share count slightly in the past the year.

Steve Madden has competition in Deckers Outdoor (NASDAQ:DECK), Sketchers (NYSE:SKX) and my personal favorite, Kenneth Cole (NYSE:KCP). Nevertheless, it looks like this debt-free company has an enterprise value-to-free cash flow ratio of around 20 -- just an eyeball estimate from the end of 2004. So, if shares were to fall a bit, I just might consider trying on a little Steve Madden myself, because all today's problems are curable, especially now that the founder has returned. We know Steve has the ability to create styles that won't sit in inventory. Hopefully, he has the determination to help make a name for himself again, at his own company, to boot.

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Fool contributor Nathan Parmelee wonders why minimum-security prisons always sound rather posh. He thinks the next one should be built in the Adirondacks or some other chilly and remote location. He has no financial interest in any of the companies mentioned.