They come in almost any style, color, and configuration imaginable and serve a variety of purposes. Some lend themselves to formal occasions, while others are better suited for adventures in nature. Shoes comfort our feet, and a well-worn pair reflects the journeys we’ve been on to fill our soles. A variety of shops and services across the Madison area specialize in shoes, each with their own philosophy in offering the perfect pair to customers.
Madison Shoe Repair & Bootery
This hybrid shoe-repair and retail establishment has been a part of the Madison retail scene for a year, setting up shop along Monroe Street last November. Kaitlyn Kirby, who runs the shop with husband Michael Benters, says customers come into the shop and ask to have a variety of different types of shoes repaired.
“The most common types of shoe resoles we do in the shop are Birkenstocks, work boots, men’s dress shoes, women’s leather boots, and men’s dress boots,” Kaitlyn says. “We’ve had customers bring in Red Wing or Irish Setter boots to be resoled that they’ve had for 20 to 30 years.”
While seeing a local cobbler might conjure up images of bygone eras, Kaitlyn says investing in a good sturdy pair of shoes is as wise a decision today as it was decades ago—and the practice fortifies the pocketbook and environment alike.
“We’re very much in a throwaway society, but when you invest in great footwear, it pays to repair them versus buying a whole new pair,” Kaitlyn says. “For instance, we sell many Red Wing Heritage boots in our shop, and the costs can range from $200 to $300. Instead of buying a whole new pair at this price point, you can resole them for $99. This way, you’ll get many more years out of them, and for a fraction of the cost.”
In addition to the shoe repair business, Kaitlyn and Michael sell a variety of shoes, along with other clothing and apparel, in their shop. Danner, Irish Setter, Lems, Red Wing Heritage, and Vasque are among the brands they offer.
While Kaitlyn and Michael are new to the Madison retail scene, Kaitlyn’s extended family’s expertise runs deep in the shoe business. “We opened [Madison Shoe Repair & Bootery] with my dad, Ernie, who has 25-plus years shoe-industry experience; my step-mom, Kathy; and my two brothers, Bo and Rusko,” Kaitlin says. “They all live in Illinois, where my dad owns five Red Wing shoe stores.”
The concept of giving a car a test drive before purchasing is well known. Staffers at Madison’s venerable Movin’ Shoes store carry that mantra over to their line of athletic footwear. Before making a purchase, customers can take their prospective pair of shoes out for a run either on an indoor treadmill or, if Mother Nature cooperates, for a few blocks outside.
The “test them first” mindset is one of several unique concepts at Movin’ Shoes, which first opened its doors in 1973. “We’ve been known to be hipsterish and a little laid back in our style,” says Jered Sweeney-Demezas, general manager. “Customer service has always been number one for us. We have a very flexible return policy.”
The more than two dozen employees at Movin’ Shoes have a variety of backgrounds, including expertise in such fields as kinesiology. Jered says the employees’ skill sets are designed to help customers make the best, most-informed decision possible. “We have that personal experience. We’re very critical when it comes to shoes. We’re shoe geeks.”
While employees are on hand to provide their know-how, Jered says customers are in the driver’s seat when it comes to decision-making. “We’ll offer recommendations, but we want the customer being a part of the discussion. We have hundreds of different styles, and it’s all about what the customer likes. It’s really about getting the right shoes on the right person. As long as the community needs us, we’ll be here.”
In addition to its retail operation, Movin’ Shoes holds a range of events and services, including a running club and group run outings. Special events include a full-moon run and a subzero race series.
When it comes to shoes, Pat Blake, who runs (shoo) with his sister, Kate Blake, places three themes front and center in selecting the right pair: comfort, quality, and style. “You can have a comfortable, but fashionable, pair of shoes,” says Pat.
(shoo), which also has a retail operation in Milwaukee, boasts shoes in a variety of unique styles and colors. “We like to push the mold a bit,” Pat says. “Giving our customers a comfortable shopping experience is important to us.”
Both locations offer a mix of classic pairs and fashion-forward pieces. Pat characterizes the shops’ product lines as “thoughtful selections.” Regardless of whether they’re a nod to the past or present, the goal is to offer up the styles customers desire. For men, (shoo)’s selection includes boots, casual, dress, sandals, and sneakers. Their women’s lines also run the gamut with boots, flats, heels, loafers, and wedges.
The Blake siblings opened the Milwaukee shop in 2005 and followed suit with the Madison establishment in 2010. Pat says the Madison location has been an ideal fit for the shop. “We really wanted to be on State Street. It embodies our brand.”
Styles come and styles go, but shoes are most definitely here to stay. Regardless of where fashion trends head into the future, local merchants say they are ready and willing to help consumers find the perfect pair and fit for any occasion.
Dave Fidlin is a freelance writer who has a special affinity for Madison. Dave’s career spans nearly 20 years, and he’s grateful for the opportunity to learn something new each day through his professional pursuits.
Madison Shoe Repair & Bootery
1915 Monroe Street
Madison, WI 53711
528 S. Park Street
Madison, WI 53715
109 State Street
Madison, WI 53703