December 28, 2017

My dad grew up in Williamsburg, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY in the 1920s, long before Williamsburg became the uber trendy town it is today. He and his three brothers, Louis, Al, and Murray were raised in an apartment which was accessed through a small staircase, hidden behind a door in my grandfather’s shoe store.

As my grandparents aged, the store was managed by my Uncle Louis. Uncle Louis continued to live in the apartment for many years. My dad, my Uncle Al, and my Uncle Murray married and opened up retail shoe stores in the suburbs of Long Island. As you can imagine, family gatherings frequently reverted to conversations about footwear. Dad had a strong work ethic, which he instilled in my brother and myself. One way he did this was to bring us to work in the shoe store. I worked there on weekends and summers until I became a Podiatrist. As a young child, I have vivid memories of watching women excitedly try on new shoes. They would stand in front of the mirror, strutting like peacocks in their pretty heels. As I would watch them walk, it came obvious… these shoes hurt! My family’s shoe store became the incubator for my awareness about both shoes and feet. I saw the frustrations of people with foot problems. I became a Podiatrist because I saw a need and felt I could make an impact. I am now making shoes, because I have the same vision. While I can help women one at a time in my medical practice, I know I can help many thousands of women by creating comfortable heels!   I am hoping to keep them out of my office and in my shoes!

Women deserve better footwear! I am hoping to replace the mantra of #fashionoverfunction with #fashionwithfunction! Recently, I returned to my grandfather’s original store, Oloff’s Shoes in Williamsburg. A kind man, named Antonio, reached out to me with a photo of my family name in the sidewalk. “Excuse me,” he asked, “was this your family’s store?” We subsequently were able to meet at the old store. He generously shared memories of the neighborhood, including how important the shoe store was to residents there. As I looked up to the bedroom window where my dad grew up, I realized that shoes truly are in my DNA. I did not choose to be in the shoe business. It chose me!!!

xo Joan

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