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Thriving shoe store moves into larger space

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We’ve got sole: Podiatrist Dr Stuart McIntosh, Island Sole sales staff Randy Edwards, Linda Trott and co-owner Dr Natalie Bennett put their best foot forward with a new, bigger shoe shop specialising in style with comfort

A shoe store has taken a walk — from one end of Hamilton to the other.

Island Sole — run by two podiatrists and specialising in shoes with style and comfort — has moved from Gorham Road to near the top of Victoria Street because the firm needed space to expand.

The former store — next door to parent firm the Bermuda Podiatry Centre — moved because it had outgrown the shop it had occupied since it opened two years ago.

Co-owner of both enterprises Dr Stuart McIntosh said: “We no longer had enough storage space and we had limited display space.”

Dr McIntosh and co-owner Dr Natalie Bennett said that, while they could provide specialist shoes for people with feet problems, the store concentrated on a mainstream range that was fashionable — but easy to wear.

Dr Bennett said: “We travel away to all the trade shows — we have in mind the difficulties patients have in finding footwear and we buy with that in mind.

“We do provide orthopaedic shoes as well, but that’s not our main focus — it’s an everyday shoe store with more comfortable options.”

Dr Bennett added that Island Sole staff members Randy Edwards and Linda Trott were also fully trained in specialised fitting and were less likely to need to call next door for assistance.

The pair explained that they had opted to move to bigger premises despite the recession because they had been able to keep overheads down.

And Dr McIntosh said: “We also supply a niche market as well — it’s a need as opposed to a want.

“It’s not necessarily recession proof, but it’s allowed us to thrive in a recession because it’s a service that was needed.”

They were speaking in the new store, opened earlier this month and located in former offices at 60 Victoria Street, now with clean and modern decor, featuring light wood flooring and recycled wooden wine boxes attached to the walls as display cases for their wares.

Dr McIntosh said: “It’s still growing — people are still finding us, but did have a dedicated, loyal customer base and they have moved with us.

“We anticipate we will grow more because there is more foot traffic at this end of town.”

And Dr Bennett said the firm had retained a rear entrance to the building, which allows easy access for people with mobility difficulties.

Dr McIntosh said: “Our new building was empty for quite a while — we renovated it and opened it all up. It used to be three separate offices.”

The store was an offshoot of Bermuda Podiatry Centre because the business partners, who have a combined experience of 35 years in looking after foot problems in Bermuda and overseas, saw a gap in the market in 2012 — and took steps to fill it.

And — to help make sure the business takes off — they have both signed up for the StreetWise MBA programme run by Bermuda College, which is aimed at helping smaller businesses develop the financial planning and management skills needed to survive.

Dr McIntosh said: “The slogan of the store is ‘where fashion meets comfort’ — we bring in everything from flip flops to dressy shoes. But they all provide comfort and support.”

Sole-d!: Island Sole sales assistant Linda Trott (left) advises Island Sole customer Jean Van Der Merwe (Photo by Mark Tatem).