Northern California’s picturesque Napa Valley is home to Shoes on First, a 2,600-square-foot, independent retailer with a diverse brand list and an even more unique clientele. Regular customers include David and Victoria Beckham, Nicholas Cage, tourists in search of shoes (and wine) and upper-crust locals. “We have a large and faithful following across the U.S. and Canada,” says owner Phil Aved of his 12-year-old business. “I even have some repeat customers in Japan that I send shoes to.”
What makes your store unique? Along with our unique brand list, there are 265 restaurants within five miles of our store so offering the right comfort shoes is extremely important to our clientele of restaurant workers.
Current top-selling brands: Sanita, Fidji, Everybody, Cushe and Rieker.
Are boots once again reigning supreme this fall? We’ve been selling boots for more than two months already. I do a lot of direct importing of boots, and we offer a wide variety, including a zebra print suede ankle boot by Helle Comfort that’s been popular. In addition, our Western boots by Rieker experienced dramatic sales, and another big trend is military flavored boots, especially by Eric Michael.
Is toning and shaping footwear still an important segment of your business? Yes and no. I buy a few of those shoes because of their quality. But people took what was an item and decided to make it a category, and that’s not what it is. I don’t see these items as a necessity to run my business. Although, we do carry Gravity Defyer shoes and the brand has become our No. 1 seller in men’s.
Is the natural motion a growing segment in your business? Not really, but I’ve got friends who are selling thousands of shoes with the fingers in them (laughs). I hope everyone enjoys those Vibram FiveFingers, but let’s hope they don’t find someone with six toes.
What do customers seek from you first: brands, price or service? Service first and sometimes fashion advice. We have close relationships with Pedorthic specialists who recommend patients to us to get fit properly. It’s part of the success behind the sales of our Fidelio orthotic shoes. —Melissa D’Agnese