Why Going to Portland Changed My Life
In August 2011, I flew into Portland, Oregon, to visit friends and family. Portland is such a cool city filled with fantastic food, vibrant music and arts scene, and really cool eclectic boutiques. At this point in time I had been working at Shoe Mill in Tempe for nine years. I am a self-professed shoe addict and love working in the comfort shoe side of footwear. So, it is no surprise that I check out other shoe stores when I travel. One day during this vacation I popped into a store called Imelda’s (cute name, right?). I had always wanted to open my own shoe store, but thought it would be too expensive to ever do. Upon walking into this store I was surprised by the layout. Minimum furniture and decorations with expensive shoes stacked on top of their shoe boxes. The selection was so much cuter than anything I had seen in Arizona. The staff was stylish and friendly and I was lucky enough to meet the owner. She was young, perhaps only five years older then me. I always pictured storeowners being older and having 20 years or more in the business. An idea began to form.
The next day while I did a beautiful hike in Silverton called Seven Falls, my brain began working overtime. I had a good job doing something I loved but there was no room for growth. If I wanted to stay working in the industry elsewhere, I only had a couple of options. I could try to go out and get a job in the corporate side and be a buyer for somewhere like Nordstrom or Macy’s. This didn’t sound too appealing because small businesses were all that I had worked for or known. I could be a rep for an individual brand, which would require being on the road for about a third of the year driving hours going from one account to another. No, thank you. Could I do it? Could I really open my own store? Does Arizona have a market for a hip, funky comfort shoe store? Where would it be located? I figured it would be a good time to write up a business plan and perhaps make it a reality three years later.
One night, after my trip was over, I was walking back to my car after dinner at San Tan Brewery. I’ve lived in Chandler most of my life and I was so impressed at how Downtown Chandler was really coming into its own. Cool restaurants, nightlife and tons of events and concerts—even a farmers market. Then I saw it: A “For Lease” sign on the Urban Tea Loft. I couldn’t believe it, there was an opening downtown. THIS would be the perfect location! Downtown Chandler was only going to grow and get more popular. I called the landlord, got the details and arranged a meeting. Two others had already turned in business plans. I wrote mine in 48 hours and showed up for the meeting. The other two applying for the spot were restaurants, something that Chandler has plenty of already. The landlord happened to cross his legs and he was wearing a shoe brand that I was very familiar with. I informed him that if I got the spot he would have the best selection of that brand two miles from him. Two days later, I received a text message. They had accepted my business plan. Less than 60 days later, I opened Shoe Thrill, not long after I turned 30 years old. It was that trip to Portland that was the driving force that gave me the confidence needed to achieve my dream. Best vacation ever.
Go shopping at ShoeThrill.com.