A few weeks ago, I had a brief email interview with Kassie Rempel, who runs Simply Soles, a designer shoe store and online store at 1438 Park Road NW. I asked about her store, the retail climate in the neighborhood, and more. Here it is:
First off, how's business?
Well it isn’t what it was a year ago, but I’m finally hearing from my customers that they aren’t "ashamed" to be buying any more. The media really did a number on people – people who lost money in the stock market but still had disposable income essentially stopped spending because every news segment in print, on TV, or online essentially told them that "no one is shopping." So even if they wanted to, they felt that they shouldn't. No one wanted to be out there sporting a shopping bag full of shoes (or anything else for that matter) when the economy was essentially in a spending-freeze. Thankfully that moratorium has lifted. There's nothing like a great selection of sandals and bright spring colors to get people excited again about what they are wearing.
Why did you decide to move to this neighborhood, instead of say U Street or Adams Morgan?
Well I love being here. I love the location – close to the Metro, great restaurants, and yes Target and the cheapest parking garage in DC. While the road construction on Park turns a 5 min. commute home into 20, it's a great block that is going through a LOT of positive changes. All of the businesses on my block are going to be getting a face lift while the streetscape project is going on so I'm really looking forward to being one the front-end part of the impending change. I hope other independent businesses and boutiques will follow suit.
You're one of the first non-chain retail stores in the area, do you see the potential for more?
Absolutely. The community really seems excited about having choices for quality products and alternatives to the big box stores in their neighborhood. One the streetscape project is complete, I know more business will take an interest in this area. Aside from Penn Quarter, I really think there's no neighborhood in DC that offers a Metro, ample parking, and a cadre of tasty restaurants. The Pho restaurant opened [recently] right beside me, and I've already eaten there twice. I highly recommend it.
How's the foot traffic in the area?
Right now, I’m open on Saturday and during the week by appointment (because I'm in the back office space designing shoes for my lillybee collection and running my online and catalog business). Saturdays we get alot of people coming in that are curious about us. Some are excited. Some inquire as to why I think a store like mine would survive on a block like this. Thankfully, the retail component of my business is only a small fraction of it. But I have confidence in this location and know over time my retail sales will grow. For instance, my lillybee line was just featured in the March/April issue of DC Modern Luxury and we had a number of women visiting DC come specifically to my store. There’s great opportunity here!
Thanks to Kassie for talking with me. Simply Soles hosts New York City shoe designer Bettye Muller for a trunk show tomorrow, May 6, from 4-7 p.m.