A subtle floral aroma and the warmth of handcrafted accents embrace shoppers upon walking into the light-infused Charleston Shoe Company shop on Orange Avenue. Splashes of mint-teal and peach-orange add to the positive ambiance, which is accompanied by upbeat music that immediately draws you in toward the colorful, neatly arranged lines of women’s shoes. Meander closer and you realize that each section highlights an individual footwear style, all lined up in varied sizes and patterns. Now turn in a circle and take a look around; bright and beachy accessories like scarves, hats and purses highlight the decor, a kaleidoscope of temptations just waiting to be tried on and discovered.
And discover you them will, with the help of the knowledgeable, enthusiastic staff members, all modeling a different type of shoe on each foot to show off the brand’s attractiveness and wearability. Often on hand and sporting dual footwear is site manager Jordana Torrisi, a former Bloomingdale’s retail expert with 14 years in the industry, who says Charleston Shoe Company is the best businesses she’s ever been a part of, both for utilizing her professional skills and for personally feeling like she’s an integral part of its future.
“The CEO handles everything, she’s in contact every day. It’s very much a ‘family’ company,” she explains. “And it’s a small company, one that really cares for you. It’s what I love best about it.”
Shoes, of course, are the central features of Charleston Shoe Company, eight years ago a small startup out of Charleston, South Carolina under the guidance of CEO Neely Powell. It’s a unique backstory, the idea of creating comfortable, sustainable, beautiful footwear that blossomed from her childhood market expeditions along the cobblestone streets of central Mexico. A decade later, after earning her degree in design, Powell worked with cobblers in Mexico to release her own chic “cobblestones-to-cocktails” shoe designs. Her first brick-and-mortar shops opened in 2010 in Charleston and Savannah, with CSC footwear ultimately expanding into more than 150 U.S. boutiques, and CSC stores dotting the map from Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard and New Orleans to Carmel and Del Mar. The paint on the walls is barely dry at the company’s newest site in Coronado, which opened August 4.
“The space wasn’t available until August 1, so we flipped it in three days,” recalls Torrisi. She adds that CEO Powell sketches out the unique decor and color themes of each shop, and that her furniture-designer mother created each piece there with a specific Coronado vibe.
What makes CSC shoes different is more than the flexible microfiber sole bedding, the high-quality hand-stitching by more than 70 cobblers in Mexico, the walkable blown-rubber soles and the 100-plus patterns, each named after an inspiring person in Neely Powell’s life. Even more important to customers is the individual fit that transforms to the wearer’s feet, Torrisi explains, as well as the machine-washable fabrics. That and the ultimate stylishness that defines every shoe in the CSC brand, which can go right from shopping or the beach to drinks with the girls or a night dancing.
“My goal is to make comfortable, versatile, great looking, and affordable shoes,” Powell says of her mission on the company website. “There are so many women who want to look fabulous but have constant issues with their feet. I want to remedy that. Shoes do not have to look bad to feel good!”
Torrisi agrees, adding that roughly 75% of the women she has served in the shop have had some type of issue with their feet, everything from bunions to hammertoes to plantar fasciitis. The most popular style, the Cannon, is available in upwards of 50 patterns and can solve many major foot issues, she says — and there are dozens of other designs, including flats, short boots, rain boots, sandals, wedges and sexy heels.
“It’s exciting for us when a person comes in and doesn’t think we can help them, when they say ‘Oh, there’s probably nothing here for me because I can never find shoes to fit my feet,'” she explains. “I love it when we see customers smile, when we find them a shoe that works, and they realize we can actually help them. We’re doing that every day.”
Price points for the shoes run from about $90 to $220; with good care they can last more than five years. Accessories are generally $30 to $80 for the company’s carefully chosen collection of outsourced scarves, tunics, purses, hats, reading glasses, umbrellas and other items.
But it’s the shoes that ultimately bring joy to Charleston Shoe Company customers, Torrisi says. Hence, she strongly advises shoppers and even casual browsers ambling into the store to plan for plenty of time to try on a few pairs.
“I have seen women brought to tears because they finally found an attractive shoe that’s comfortable for their feet,” she summarizes. “This shoe is incredible because it’s making thousands of women happy. We’re not just selling shoes — we’re changing a life.”
Charleston Shoe Company
1009 Orange Avenue
858-996-7463 ext. 416.
Monday to Saturday 10 – 7, Sunday 11 – 7