Here's the thing about a lot of the department store shoes: there was a time when these were very fine brands, but at some point the companies changed hands. The original owners, often families, were shoe makers. The new owners are not.
You see this a lot nowadays with private equity groups which snap brands up. Mindblowing as it seems, there was a time (long ago) when even Stacy Adams - now absolute garbage - was a good shoe brand.
I think it's fair to say that the first step in finding a quality shoe is finding a shoe which is made by an "original owner" company, where they want to establish or preserve a reputation by making a good product. If you poke around these forums you'll find a lot of recommendations for Allen Edmonds (which I find to be a shoe well on the decline) and Alden (which is okay), but frankly, I think "American made" is barking up the wrong tree when it comes to dress shoes. There are far better British and European makes (like Carmina, which gets some good traffic around here).
I'll say too that you simply aren't going to find a good dress shoe for under $200, and north of $400 is more realistic if you're really wanting to "invest" in fine shoes. FWIW, shoes do last forever (I have shoes I've worn 30 years) if you take care of them; it pays to stick to classic styles.